Lewis Lim, founder of Sultans of Shave and Abdel Allah Ameen, barber
A question for the men—when was the last time you truly pampered yourself and indulged in a good haircut, wash, and shave, not at a salon, but at a barbershop? If you’re struggling to relate the terms pampering and barbershops, you’re not alone.
When we think of barbers, images of old, hole-in-the-wall neighbourhood shops that do a quick 30 minute cut and wash come to mind. But in recent years, more upscale barbershops have sprung up locally, as more men are easing into the notion of self-care and investing in premium grooming services. Some of these modern barbershops even offer complementary services like hair tattoos and manicures and pedicures. At Sultans of Shave, you can get a facial and massage to round off your haircut and shave.
In the next part of our series with Singapore Tourism Board, we’re introducing Lewis Lim, founder of the modern gentleman’s barbershop, Sultans of Shave. Founded in 2013, Sultans of Shave has grown to become one of the most well-loved modern barbershops in Singapore, known for their luxurious service and consistency in their craft. Recently, they’ve elevated the brand and branched out a little further by incorporating The Mezz, a bar and lounge complete with both coffee and alcohol, into their flagship space at North Canal Road. We speak to Lewis about this new concept, and his future plans for Sultans of Shave.
What sets Sultans of Shave apart from other barbershops in Singapore?
We focus more on the experience of going to a barber shop versus a salon. We really want to push the gents into the barbershop experience, which is very different from what you get in a salon: it’s more catered towards men, and it’s just about taking care of yourself, which is important.
What is one service you offer that you’d recommend everyone to try?
If they’ve never visited Sultans of Shave, or a barbershop for the matter, go for the signature cut. That’s always our starting point, and then you can see whether you enjoy the experience, and if it’s something that suits your needs, you can slowly progress upwards. There’re also customised treatments that you can choose to add on during the cut itself. Begin from the starting point that you’re most comfortable with, and slowly explore. That’s how a lot of our customers grow.
Apart from haircuts and treatments, you also offer shaves, facials, and massages. How did this service offering grow over the years? Are there plans to include more services in the future?
We started mainly with haircuts and shaves—your traditional barbershop offerings—but just last year, we brought in trained facialists to come and do aesthetic facials for men. We also do hair colouring with scalp treatments, so it’s really just a holistic outlook on grooming in general. I would say, for the future, we’re definitely looking to develop it as as a lifestyle to include more elements like interests and hobbies on top of the grooming that we already offer.
You recently incorporated a bar called The Mezz into your flagship outlet at North Canal Road, which is a very unconventional venture for a barbershop. Where did the idea for The Mezz come from?
Even before launching The Mezz, a lot of our clients used come for drinks, and we would allow them to open bottles without charging them. Even if they don’t get a haircut, they’d sometimes come by for a drink in between meetings or after work. That was how our friendships were built. When it came time to launch a new concept, we thought “How do we elevate the experience for our clients?” and the answer was obvious. The Mezz is unconventional, but to us, it was very organic.
What is the biggest challenge in running both a barbershop and a bar and lounge?
Keeping the team not just happy, but motivated and engaged. By doing so, the clients feel it too. It’s not just us selling something to our clients; the barbers build the experience for our clients to feel at home. With a lot more members coming on board, there’s another challenge: how to integrate new people into the team and the culture to work together.
How do you reach out to different audiences to spread the barbershop experience?
Pre-COVID, we would do pop-ups at events like Boutique Fairs, and have barbers there so that people could experience the barbershop. Since COVID, that has kind of diminished. Now, we’ve been doing a lot of partnerships with platforms like ClassPass just to get the word out and grab a new group of customers who are not used to coming to barbershops.
Male grooming is gaining popularity in Singapore. As a barber shop, what role do you see yourselves play in promoting such habits?
Grooming used to be this very exclusive thing, you know, like an exclusive club where only a certain group of people will choose to go to barber shops to be groomed. But now that people are far more educated, they’re more willing to take on additional grooming steps in their routine. As a company, we’ve also tried to expand this across the board. So we don’t just have Sultans of Shave, but also a starter barbershop called Sultans where the price point is slightly lower, so you can start and then gradually move up the ranks to the Mezz or Truefitt & Hill. There’s something for everyone at every price point.
What does the future look like for Sultans of Shave and The Mezz? Are you coming out with new concepts of bringing people together?
The number one goal is and will always be to elevate the barbering experience, be it by training of staff, or coming up with new concepts or brands. Across all our barbering brands, the goal is always to keep our clients happy by focusing on the barbering and hospitality.
This series was produced with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board’s SG Stories Content Fund Season 2. View more stories here.