When Henry Franco opened Members Only Barber Shop in 1995, he wanted it to be different from the shops and salons he worked in over his 59-year career. After working in the industry since he was 18 years old, he knew what clients he wanted.
“I wanted people who care about their hair, that’s who I wanted to work with. People who care about their hair, their skin, their health,” Mr. Franco told the News-Press.
His reasoning was pretty simple.
“If your client isn’t healthy, he’s not going to be your client for very long!”
Now in its second location at 2005 State Street, M.O.B.S. is home to the finest of men’s hairstyling and grooming traditions. The shop is outfitted in a classic 1800’s style, giving clients the perfect old school environment for straight razor shaves, haircuts, beard trims, facials and more.
With M.O.B.S., Mr. Franco wanted to preserve a tradition and education that he saw was lacking in the hairstyling industry.
Recently, he saw a study that said the highest education for 57 percent of barbers is a couple years of barber college, where instructors only need a few years experience. On top of that 80% of professional leave the industry after five years, he said.
When Mr. Franco saw that, he couldn’t believe it.
“Just to master a shave, to master it, it’d take you about five years. It’s been proven, to master anything, five years. To master the piano, five years. To master the guitar, five years. So it takes you five years just to master one aspect of the industry. So how many master degrees do you want to have?”
And that’s what Mr. Franco brings to the table, mastery.
Ask him if he calls himself a barber or a hairstylist, and Mr. Franco will tell you, “I’m a Tonsorial Artist. Someone who can do it all, and not just do it all, but has mastered it. There’s a difference.”
Ever since he opened his first shop along with a partner at the age 20 in 1962, Mr. Franco, who was born in Santa Barbara and raised in Carpinteria, had a long view for his career and dedicated himself to education.
Early on, he realized he needed to not only be a barber, he also needed to learn how to style.
“Besides men’s haircuts, men’s hairstyling was coming into vogue. Here’s a guy in the 60s getting $50 for a haircut. I mean, think about that. That was a lot of money for a haircut! So I could see, if this guy could make $50 dollars a haircut, someday I would be too. I could see that the education was very important,” said Mr. Franco.
Over his decades long career, Mr. Franco has never stopped learning the craft. Others saw styles as passing fads, but he saw each as an opportunity to master a new aspect of the industry.
In the 60’s he would go to seminars taught by legendary hairstylist Jay Sebring and attended classes taught by the Barber’s Supply House in Los Angeles. He entrenched himself in the industry’s education system, and joined the Associated Master Barbers of America’s Santa Barbara Chapter, eventually becoming a board member for the State of California.
His education continues to this day. In the next couple months, Mr. Franco will visit Long Beach to learn about new perm techniques as a way to break texture for difficult hair and get a variety of styles. He’s always looking for what’s trendy and innovative, something he has seen a lot of barber shops miss over the years.
“How many barber shops do you see and they all look like the same hamburger coming out of them? Everyone looks the same, and it’s kind of sad because they’re not into the education that requires you to get to that level,” said Mr. Franco.
Over the years, Mr. Franco also learned how deceptive the hair care product industry can be. He worked for a time as an educator for Nexxus in west Texas in the 80s, and for a women’s hair salon back Santa Barbara in the 90s. Mr. Franco started getting sick from all the chemicals he came in contact with every day at the salon, and realized the industry wasn’t as conscious about what was best for one’s skin as they were about moving product.
“It’s not just a haircut, it’s your health. If you look at a lot of these products it says beauty, wellness, health. Why is health at the end? If you think about it, it should be first,” said Mr. Franco.
Now Mr. Franco wants to pass that knowledge onto his clients. He doesn’t just give them a cut, a shave and send them out the door, he asks what kind of work they do, how they usually take care of their hair and skin, and helps clients learn the best way to maintain a healthy head.
Along with the services he offers, Mr. Franco teaches shaving and skin care classes at M.O.B.S. He claims he can even show you how to get 10 to 20 percent more shaves out of a razor.
Right now it’s just Mr. Franco and Steve Hirata cutting hair at M.O.B.S., but they are on the lookout for the next generation to carry on the tradition.
“We’re looking for some young kid who really has the passion and wants to learn to do this type of work. Learn the trade, really learn the craft,” said Mr. Franco.
Clients who want to the full M.O.B.S. experience can become members for a $500 entry fee and $100 a year. Members receive a personal mug, fine bristle shaving brush, “Feather” straight razor and a place of Honor in the shop.They are also entitled to a complimentary Skin Care, Shaving and Hair Care Class as well as a personal Pamper Day. Additionally, members receive a discount on services and products and wet bar privileges.
For unparalleled service with a level of craftsmanship rarely seen today, give M.O.B.S. a call at 805-965-1845.