Retro is back in style at the Black Amber Barber Shop and Social Club in Thonglor.
by Christopher Scott Dixon.
As the saying goes ‘You’re only as good as your last haircut.’ Well, judging by the sharp and trendy look of the youthful Black Amber owner Chavin (Kwan) Tantaterm, he is a great advert for the quality of his establishment.
Tucked away between soi five and seven on Thonglor in the city, the Barber Shop is set on two floors and is an unashamed shrine to masculinity, with its strong and dark colors, simple cemented wall, a bar-type counter, shelves with various male hair pomades, and barber chairs. There is even a selection of ‘men’s magazines for patrons to browse and a display of silk ties for sale. Despite the ‘macho’ ambience, it is stressed that women are welcome to hang out too and there is even a female barber.
It offers far more than a snip and go service, however, the aim is to provide a return to a relaxed gentleman’s lifestyle where pleasures are savored. Kwan explained the concept: “Both the barber shop and the club reflect my interests. I like cigars, whiskey, good tailoring, tattoos, barbering and jazz, so I incorporate all these here. I want Black Amber to be a place where people can share their passions.”
The social element is crucial with people meeting in the shop, then being informed about the social club’s facilities and attractions and at their leisure they can head over there later.
Forming a boutique complex and covering both premises, are also handmade accessories, tailoring, jewelry, and vintage clothing for sale.
The grooming services include a hot towel shave, cut and shampoo, pedicure, manicure and beard trim. There are also the ‘fringe’ benefits of a complimentary glass of whiskey with a haircut and the occasional free shoe shine.
From the soothing New York jazz sounds to the genuine warmth in the greeting of the customers, the ambience is that of a return to a golden age, when activities were not meant to be rushed. The composition of patrons is fairly evenly split between locals and expats.
Crossing the street to the social club secreted away in a back alley just off soi 6, we zigzagged nervously through the busy traffic, while Kwan moved with a languid grace, emphasizing again his unhurried philosophy. Step through the door and you enter a dark-themed waiting room with an interior similar to that of a multi-storey building, which was a former “naughty” massage parlor.
Take a look at the ostrich skeleton, the chandeliered ceiling and the black and white chequered floor. There are display cabinets containing a gloriously eclectic mix of taxidermy and exhibits such as masks, books, and old photos; and with a nod to modernity; a small TV showing horror movies – all paying homage to the macabre and mysterious. I half expected Dorian Gray or Edgar Allan Poe to stumble out of the shadows, glass of absinthe in hand.
Climb the short set of marble steps, pass through the iron gate and blackout curtain and you see a splendid subterranean speakeasy, cigar bar setting. The furniture consists of tables, two counters, small sofas and a piano, and more intriguing memorabilia on the walls.
Low-lit and seductive, the club is kept deliberately quiet, although there is live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
As if on some pre-arranged cue, we heard the sudden rumble of thunder and rain lashing down outside – perfectly apt for this gothic venue.
The bar boasts a fine selection of whiskeys said to be the largest in Thonglor. Some might say the food menu is small but I would prefer to describe it as select and well-crafted.
Two venues combining classic style with quirkiness, exceptional personalized services, and great food and drinks, make Black Amber Thonglor a cut above the rest.