Sharp & Timberland
Jon Roth: Barber
Any barber can give you a high-and-tight, but no one can make that ’50s side-part look as simultaneously punk rock as Jon Roth. The 32-year-old owner of Crow’s Nest Barbershop in Toronto has trimmed a niche for himself by taking aesthetic cues from mid-20th century motifs and fusing them with modern influences, from biker metal to ’90s skate culture. The result? A loyal following of the city’s most stylish men and a shop that’s jam-packed on any given evening. Rammed as it gets, though, patrons remain loyal to Crow’s Nest for its friendly, relaxed atmosphere and unparalleled dedication to the trade.
How would you describe your particular style?
I think my style is staying traditional but blending current elements of fashion or style in there. We’re definitely well-versed in old-school styles of haircuts. I love the old aesthetic of everything—cars, bikes, dress, haircuts, everything. But we’re trying to stay current while tipping our hat to where it all came from.
What sets you apart from others in your field?
Dedication to the trade, quality and customer experience. I think those are things that definitely set us apart from our peers. Everyone in the shop is really passionate about being the best barber they can be—and changing people’s days or moods or lives. I’m not saying there aren’t amazing barbers out there, but I just think there are people spending less time trying to learn properly and caring about the experience they’re projecting. If you’re passionate, it translates into your work. It pisses me of when people aren’t. I think it’s a real problem as this trade becomes more popular by the minute. There are people who aren’t in it for the right reasons. They couldn’t be a tattoo artist or musician, so they’re a barber. Whereas I still check out barber blogs and YouTube videos. I’m still a nerd about it. It’s not just an accessory to my life. It’s what I do and love.
Some critics argue “nothing is original and everything is a remix.” Do you agree?
I agree with that 100 per cent. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I just love old things and barber shops and cutting hair. And I’m not the first guy to open a barber shop who liked to slick his hair back. There have been lots of people before me who are in the same age bracket around the world who have done this. It was just my turn at the right time in the right city. So it isn’t an original idea, but I think you can take it and add some original flare to it. I think our particular approach to it is unique.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Well I just opened up a shop in Hamilton, so we’ll see how that goes (laughs). No, I think the biggest risk might’ve been opening up that first shop. It gets riskier and riskier as you start having employees and everyone’s livelihood revolves around the decisions you’re making. Little things ripple effect into bigger things. Then trying to expand gracefully is a risk; you don’t want to lose what it was in the beginning, but you also want to keep up with demand and allow more people to be able to experience it. I’ll never hire barbers just for the sake of having bodies. I’d rather hire the right people with a similar vision.
What does “making your mark” mean to you?
I don’t like when it’s about me. Making my mark is more in the fact that people leave the barber shop really happy. To me, that’s my mark. I know a lot of people talk about leaving behind legacies. That’s not necessarily important to me. It’s more about making people happy every day. It’s more nearsighted.