Glassbox Barbershop’s Peter Gosling on the Value of Craft and the Best Way to Enjoy a Fine Single Malt Like The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet & Sharp

Peter Gosling started Glassbox Barbershop in 2015 with a vision for creating a new kind of men’s grooming experience. There were plenty of barbershops around, but as a veteran of the hairdressing business, he knew that men’s experience could be vastly improved upon. His formula of salon-like service, precision work and high attention to detail has been a success, and Glassbox now has four Toronto locations and a fifth in Victoria, B.C. We spoke to Peter about the value of craft, breaking stereotypes and the best way to enjoy a fine single malt.

How is Glassbox different from your typical barbershop?
Everyone else’s haircut looks good when you leave, but Glassbox haircuts look good when you come back. That’s the difference between barbering and modern men’s hairdressing, and that’s what Glassbox is about. We were one of the first in Canada to do cutting-edge men’s hairdressing, and we brought in more of a pampering aspect to it, focusing more on quality, with 45 minute haircuts, because we really wanted people to see there’s a craft behind the chair. In layman’s terms, I’d put it this way: At the end of the day I’m trying to be a Michelin-starred barbershop compared to casual fine dining. You could say it’s the difference between a standard bar rail whisky and a single malt whisky like The Glenlivet. We pride ourselves in the care and quality behind every step of what we do.

How are you breaking stereotypes in your work?
A lot of barbershops make you feel like they’re doing you a favour by cutting your hair, and that’s the opposite of what we’re about. The result has been that in addition to a loyal clientele of men, we also cut a lot of women’s hair. We have a massive LGBTQ+ customer base who didn’t feel comfortable going to the other barbershops, and we also have a lot of women who were going to salons, but they couldn’t take the hair short enough for them because they don’t work with clippers. We’ve even started doing hair colour last year and that’s exploded.

The Glenlivet

What’s one preconception about barbering you’re working to change?
I think a lot of people think that we’re not educated, but it’s not just a haircut. It’s a trade like anything else and we take it very seriously. It takes longer to go to cosmetology school than it does to become a police officer, so it’s a big deal, and we deserve to be highly respected for what we do. Especially in these times when we are putting our health on the line, working clean and taking extra care to keep our clients safe. If you think about how much work, tradition and refinement goes into making something like The Glenlivet, it’s not that different. And we think it’s worth appreciating.

What’s your favourite way to drink The Glenlivet?
I like The Glenlivet 15 year old neat ​for its nutty spiciness and lingering finish. In other words: it’s exotic and spicy. It’s like men’s fashion and men’s hair styles, if you look at guys like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, the classics always come back around. The Glenlivet is one of those things. Even though it’s been around for 200 years it’s still timeless.

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Photography: Renata Kaveh