Everything great usually begins as a simple idea with a few serendipitous twists thrown in for good measure, and House of Barbaard is no different. When Dutchman Guido de Leeuw visited Hanoi in 2015, he noticed how difficult it was to buy a nice dress shirt despite being in the “Land of Tailors”. Smitten with the idea of establishing a clothing line in Vietnam featuring European aesthetics, Guido went home and tapped best friend and graphic/product designer Tom Goedhart. The fashion-forward duo sat down to create a business plan, but soon decided on a softer entry into the world of style and fashion—by distributing Dutch hair products suitable for Vietnamese hair, sourced from their favorite barber shop back in the Netherlands. Fast forward a year, and the two noticed another gap in the Vietnamese market—high-end haircuts for men. “When we first arrived in Vietnam and asked for a pompadour, the barbers didn’t know what we were talking about. We’d come back two days later, and they’d be there with a TV set up, ready to cut our hair while watching a YouTube tutorial,” laughs Tom. So it was that the distribution business became an Old School barbershop loosely modeled after Schorem, a men’s only barbershop in Rotterdam specializing in classic cuts like pomps and quiffs.
Originally intended as a low-key storefront barbershop in Hanoi, a lastminute snag in leasing led the duo to renting a colonial-era villa instead (hence the “House” in “House of Barbaard”). Without the lure of a storefront setting and now needing to fill up the much larger space, the two added a small bar and seating area to the shop. “We soon found that the guys liked it so much, they didn’t want to leave,” recalls Tom. “They’d stay for drinks, have a cigar, and chat. It was standing room only on weekends.”They also found that some customers were actually flying in from Saigon, desperate to get a decent haircut from barbers personally trained by Tom and Guido’s favorite barber brought over from the Netherlands.
The Saigon location opened in early 2018 as a more fleshed out version of the House of Barbaard, complete with a gorgeous ground floor lounge done up in tufted leather sofas, dark wood, and vintage lighting. Its distinguished Man Cave feel makes it the perfect place to sip on a scotch or smoke a Cuban after your haircut, while also hosting weekly live music events and other social events.
With the Saigon version of House of Barbaard now more than a year old, the duo have turned their creative energy back to their first love, launching their clothing line this past May with five gorgeous ready-to-wear dress shirts and a whimsical collection of dress socks. “We wanted to make a line of stylish dress shirts available to everyone. We found that in Vietnam, it was either shirts for the bottom-end market or super-expensive, imported shirts, and nothing in between.” The House of Barbaard aesthetic is for “gentlemen with attitude”, sharp dressers who buck convention while remaining tastefully classy. There’s an expression that “God is in the details”, and if that’s true, you’ll find only believers clad in House of Barbaard. Made from fine Italian or Indian fabrics, Barbaard shirts incorporate a myriad of sumptuous details, all cleverly designed to be revealed only as much as the wearer wants to show. The buttoned side gussets are a throwback to when gentlemen wore sock suspenders while the ornate embroidered logo is only seen when unbuttoning the second button. “Sometimes, you just don’t want to see a logo on the chest pocket and the placement of our logo encourages people to loosen up a bit,” explains Tom. Look closely and you’ll see that the all-important second button, known as the “Barbaard button”, is also patterned to match a specific pair of Barbaard socks in eye-catching shades with Art Deco or Victorian motifs. “Gone are the days when a man’s socks are supposed to match his trousers,” says Tom. “You can be neat and sharp but still play around with your socks.” He advises clients to have a whiskey in the lounge while the customizable button is sewn on to match the accompanying pair of socks.
The five styles currently available reflect a wide range of aesthetics. The Cheeky Italian comes in a soft shade of pink with striking blue floral lining on the collar and cuffs while the Seductive Mariner sports a unique one-piece collar for extra volume and height, a throwback to the fashion of the roaring 1920s.
Impressive as House of Barbaard’s foray into fashion has been, the duo promise much more is to come, including more shirt models, shoes, pants and cologne already in the works. Gentlemen with attitude, prepare yourselves for the rise of the House of Barbaard.
Barbaard socks (VND180,000 per pair)
Barbaard shirt and socks (VND2,600,000 per set, or VND 6,500,000 for 3 sets)
Ho Chi Minh City: 12/4b Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1
Hanoi: 36 Hang Chao, Dong Da
Images by Davide Dredge and Hoang Kim Quy