Dzenad Bicic — better known as Geno — is one of New York’s most talented and respected barbers. But if you talk to him, you might think he’s also an amateur philosopher or village elder, dispensing hard-earned wisdom with the greatest of ease.
He has cut the hair of everyone from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey to actor Daniel Day-Lewis, but if you ask him how he became so successful, he’ll respond with just one piece of advice.
“If you’re patient, everything will come,” Geno tells me as we sit in his barbershop on Greenwich Avenue in New York City’s West Village. Looking around at everything he’s built for himself, it’s hard not to believe him.
We spoke with the Montenegrin owner, operator, and (still) full-time barber of Geno’s Barberia to see what it takes to cut the hair of New York’s elite. (Hint: it’s a lot of skill and a super-positive attitude).
To call this neighbourhood a hair-cutting hot spot would be an understatement. Greenwich Avenue is lined with high-end barbershops, as well as restaurants and boutiques that are frequented by a moneyed clientele. If you're a barber, you dream of setting up shop in the West Village.
After 10 years cutting hair in a shop owned by friend Franco di Maggio (and 27 years of barbering total), Geno decided to strike it out on his own. He leased a space down the street from where he had previously worked, and, with the help of Franco, opened Geno's Barberia in 2010.
At the time, all Geno had was a client list, a lease, and a dream. A New York Times mention soon followed, and Geno was forced to add a fourth chair. The rest, as is so commonly said, is history.
Geno says he has a two-week backlog of appointments, which can sometimes affect his business.
'Guys don't want to wait,' he told us.
Oftentimes, guys will book their next appointment immediately after getting their hair cut, as if it were a doctor's office. Geno now employs four other barbers at his shop, but the man himself is still the one in the highest demand.
'I think I cut everybody,' Geno says before rattling off a long list of Broadway actors, photographers, musicians, sportsmen, magazine editors, and stylists. Geno says he cuts the hair of legendary stylist Nick Wooster, former Rangers left wing Sean Avery, and even actor Daniel Day-Lewis.
But Geno will make exceptions for some of his most loyal and dedicated -- not to mention famous -- clients. He often opens the shop early for Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, so he can squeeze him in before his other appointments.
And boast Geno should. Geno's shop's reputation is built entirely by referral and word-of-mouth. Dorsey frequently plugs Geno's shop on his social media accounts, which Geno says he has nothing to do with.
'Jack does it himself, believe it or not,' Geno told us. 'I don't even have a website.'
As for next steps, Geno says he used to want to stay small, avoiding the complications of expanding.
'That was before,' Geno told us. 'Now I have three kids.'
Now he's considering launching a line of hair products, and even expanding to a newer, bigger shop when his lease is up.
I needed to see Geno in action. Even though it was his day off, Geno sat me down in the chair.
Before he started cutting my hair, Geno commented on how thick it is -- a comment I'm used to receiving from barbers.
Geno asked me what I wanted, and I told him to do whatever he thought would look best. I wanted to see his expertise in action.
It's a neat, clean-cut style that leaves enough length to be styled on the top without a severe part.
Geno said it would be the perfect cut for the holiday season, as it will still look great even when given some time to grow out. I needed it to still be in good shape by Christmas and New Year's.
Geno told me that he needed to use a special fading technique on my hair because it was so thick. He cut a gradual fade, and told me that if he didn't, it would have the dreaded mushroom look when it grew out.
I admired Geno's astounding knowledge of the art and was thankful for how his knowledge materialised in a fantastic haircut.
As he cut my hair, Geno regaled me with a story of his youth in Montenegro. As a young child, he was always drawn to barbering tools and would play with them in lieu of toys. He eventually grew into them and learned how to use them at an early age. He still has the same set, though he's upgraded to modern tools these days.
Geno used a straight-edged razor to trim the nape of my neck -- a technique I've had done at other barbershops as well.
As Geno held the mirror to my neck, you could see the approval on my face. This was one of the best haircuts I've ever had. Geno evaluated my hair and knew exactly what to do to give me the best haircut for my hair type and face shape -- the mark of a true professional.
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