Mother and daughter duo Susan and Teresa Shaheen have sculpted hair and groomed beards for a decade on Main Street. At the two-chair Deluxe Barbers & Styling Shop, the Shaheens are challenging the boys club attitude of the barbershop industry and the stigma around male pampering.
Both mother and daughter worked as cosmetologists at high-end hair salons before switching gears to the barbershop industry. Susan has worked with hair for nearly 40 years, at one salon in Indiana for most of her career. Teresa studied graphic design, but after years of interacting with computers more than people she needed a change. Watching her mother’s passion for her job inspired her to go to cosmetology school.
“I just came to a point where I was like, I want to do something more,” Teresa said. “Mom's always enjoyed her job. She's always looked nice when she's gone to work and come home. When she runs into clients out in public, they've always been happy to see her and she's always been happy to see them. And so from an outsider point of view, I thought, well, that sounds like a pretty good job.”
Teresa moved to Colorado with her sister in 2005. She got her cosmetology license and worked at chic hair salons in Denver and Thornton. After her sister got pregnant with her youngest, Susan moved to Colorado to be close to her first grandchild.
For the first time in Susan’s work history, she wasn’t at the same salon. She gave a barbershop in Boulder a go and realized that barbering was the next step in her career.
“I felt like barbering was a change for me without actually having an all-new career,” Susan said.
At this time, Teresa had snipped locks for seven years. Also interested in a change of pace, she enrolled in Advanced Barbering Academy with her mom. Some popular men’s haircuts require both scissors and clippers work, so they combine their cosmetology and barber knowledge. The women give themselves the title of “barberologists.”
Susan eventually opened up her own barbershop at 459 Main Street, which has housed several other barber establishments, she said. Deluxe Barbers celebrated its 10 anniversary this month. Teresa took over the second chair in the small shop three years after opening, becoming part owner.
Susan and Teresa’s mother-daughter bond is a driving factor for their business. They often get teased for how inseparable they are — they spend all day working three feet apart, hang out often and live separately in two parts of a duplex. But their closeness benefits their services.
Their regulars enjoy their mother-daughter dynamic and endearingly call Teresa “kiddo” and “brat,” despite her being in her late thirties. They often check each other's work, even helping cut or groom each other's clients.
“She's a lefty, and I'm a righty, and so when you cut hair, you have a dominant side and a non-dominant side,” Teresa said. “So we joke that if both of us cut your hair you've gotten a perfect haircut.”
There’s a stigma surrounding men getting pampered, Teresa said, so Deluxe Barbers serves as a place for self-care without judgment. Along with custom haircuts, they offer hot lather shaves — though some services are not permitted at the time with Boulder County’s COVID-19 mask requirements — with complimentary hot towels.
“There's not a lot of places where men can be pampered without a stigma attached to it,” Teresa said. “Like a pedicure, it's a really nice service that a lot of men enjoy. But going into a nail salon, there's a stigma attached if you go get regular pedicures, whereas if you come to the barbershop and you let us pamper you, there's no stigma attached.”
Susan and Teresa added that they see their regulars as an extension of their own family. Many clients are Colorado transplants, like themselves, and don’t have a lot of family in the area. One of their favorite aspects of the job is lending an ear to their clients’ personal challenges.
The pandemic helped Susan and Teresa realize how important their role is to build community, they said, after clients started returning from the more than nine-week closure last year.
“I think that the pandemic made us realize just how important we really are. And what we're offering is more than the haircut. It's family for a lot of people, Teresa said.
To recognize that bond, they created a Deluxe Barbers bandana that’s exclusive to clients. Susan and Teresa gave out hot dogs behind their shop for their anniversary on April 1 to anyone who wanted one, but only the Deluxe bandana wearers received a bonus gift. They hope to host more community events in the summer and said the bandanas help other clients recognize each other and form their own relationships.
Though Deluxe Barbers has an emphasis on men’s grooming, they also work with children, women and non-binary conforming individuals. Teresa said in her experience barbershops don’t always take women clients. Part of that reason is she has a longer haircut that’s more appropriate for a cosmetologist to cut. Being “barberologists,” a wide range of hairstyles can be accommodated at Deluxe.
“There's a barber and there's a chair out there for everyone. But anybody that wants to come here, we want them to be able to come in,” Teresa said.
Throughout the years, Susan has seen a shift for more women to get into the barber game. Even when her and Teresa were just starting out, they had several women in their barber classes. Some of those barriers are breaking down, she said.
“When I came here on Main Street, it was tough for me because it was the old boys club,” Susan said. “And most of the barbers had been here forever, decades and decades. And so they're like, ‘You're not even a barber.’”
They still encounter stigma surrounding being women barbers. Teresa said she’s had numerous men walk through Deluxe doors asking for a shave and leaving when they realized she was the barber.
But Teresa and Susan have many devoted customers and are often fully booked. Thanks to the nomination from regulars, Deluxe Barbers won the Best of Boulder East County 2020 best barbershop in Longmont from Boulder Weekly. Susan and Teresa said that the city was the perfect place to build their Deluxe Barbers family. For the two Indiana transplants, Longmont’s personality — a sense of community — reminds them of the midwest.
They have customers who have stayed with them for the last 10 years, with some longer than that. Teresa added that some of her clients followed her since beauty school.
“That's a flattering compliment to have somebody that stays with you for 10 years because they love what you do,” she said.