The Iron Society is not just a barber shop. Part of it is, sure, but most of it is Chris DeSanty’s total idée fixe about men’s aesthetics. I first heard about the Iron Society, as many do, through the hubbub around its homemade “grooming aid”—a traditionally brewed pomade that has some of the best hold and scent out there—but after talking with DeSanty, it’s difficult to atomize the Iron Society into anything particular. He does make his own pomade, and he also has a barber chair, but he hasn’t taken on any new clients in months, and has no plans to do so. He also doesn’t want anything to do with the aesthetics of throw-back barber shops. “I don’t want the brand to look like I have anything to do with tattoos, cars, or Social Distortion, but I’d like to represent the grown man’s version of it” DeSanty said. “I mean, things that get my gears turning are things like this, ”DeSanty said, eagerly stepping over to an early 20th-century dentist’s chair that moonlights as a barber’s seat, “something was wrong with this thing. But it’s got hydraulics in it, so it wasn’t beyond fixing. It’s so primitive. It still works.” He walked over to the tool tray. “How much do you think a tray of dental tools weighs? I mean, you could stand on this thing.”
After growing up in the machine shops of New Hampshire, DeSanty eventually went to cosmetology school and, after working in those “three first names” types of salons, found himself at a barber shop as an intermediary gig. “After the first of day of working there I was like, ‘This? This cannot be real. Guys would come in and be like, ‘Yeah man, I look like an idiot. I need a haircut.’” A clean haircut was an easy fix for that.
DeSanty’s priorities are consistency and craft, but it’s really just about working with his hands. DeSanty was careful not to link machining and barbering together, but he approaches a skull just like he approaches a machine or raw material—hair and parts don’t talk back, they behave the way they behave. And the products he makes receive no less attention. “Everyone’s got a different texture, growth pattern, and skull size. That’s what I liked about machining, and that’s what I liked about hair: I saw a problem, and I wanted to fix it.”
I’d go as far to say that the Iron Society is not only DeSanty’s project, but his obsession. The creative innovation DeSanty sees in Brooklyn is the main gear of the Iron Society. “I can’t stop thinking, like, ‘what’s next, what’s next,’ and if I want something, I need it now.” The Iron Society is a balance between indulgence and sustenance, though heavily leans towards the former. He often goes broke in service to his ideas: in the middle of the interview, a UPS agent wailed bloody murder on DeSanty’s door to deliver a vat of lanolin, a key ingredient in most traditional pomades. “It nearly breaks the bank every time.”
DeSanty has soaps and a stainless steel comb in the works for The Iron Society, and could be making anything he thinks need to be made, not limited to hair products. But the main takeaway he wants you to have is “Be easy, friend. Like, simple, decent, and honest.” DeSanty is putting forth that effort for the rest of us.
The Iron Society; theironsociety.com
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