Alexandra Kometovna

Russel Manly. Owner of Tommy Guns

Alexandra Kometovna
Russel Manly. Owner of Tommy Guns

Written by ERIK RASMUSSEN
Photograpy by DIKAYL RIMMASCH

Tommy Guns  138 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002, USA 85 N. 3rd Street, Brooklyn NY 11249

Tommy Guns
138 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002, USA 85 N. 3rd Street, Brooklyn NY 11249

People once made stuff. Men wearing thick denim, hair oiled back and out of the way, labored with tool in hand, turning simple things into complicated things, inutile material into objects of beauty and utility. They were men in possession of high sets of skill, for they had to make not only a thing, but also the things it was composed of. Then came the assembly line and with it the division of labor. Prod-ucts were made faster, cheaper. Industrialization brought forth products of incredible complexity and enormous ability, miraculous machines like cars, radios, microwaves, and cell phones. It made them affordable to nearly everyone. It made equals of us.

Russell Manley, who apprenticed as a hairstylist for three years in Europe, says he created Tommy Guns “from a love of all things beautifully crafted. From the real onset of production in the late 50’s and 60’s, an element of care, skill and aesthetic design has been lost, replaced by functionality, a blandness of mass-production for mass consumerism.”

“Many other crafts have seen a huge rise in popularity. My own son makes hand-made umbrellas in London and can’t keep up with demand. It helps it rains there all the time I guess!”

In the middle ages the Fellowship Of Surgeons trained by apprenticeship rather than academically. When they joined with the Company Of Barbers, barbershops became places where, besides a shave and a hair cut, you could have a tooth yanked or a cold cured by blood sucking leaches. Barbers had always been highly trained craftsmen, and after dis-banding from the Fellowship, who fell victim to the enlightenment of the medical sciences, their shops continued as enclaves for men of style and refinement.

The barbershop has long been a province of indi-viduation, where men came to congregate nearly as often as they frequented saloons. From the late 1800’s through the first half of last century they were in their golden era. Opulent, wood paneled, fragranced by apple, or cherry scented pipe tobacco, pomades, tonics and oils, it was luxurious as it was utilitarian.

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Stepping into Tommy Guns’ newest location in Williamsburg is like dissolving into the past. Mr. Manley is “particularly interested in that turn-of-the-century to 1960; that 70 year period window” in hairstyles and, as it appears, interiors as well. Tommy Guns’ is a classic representation of the golden era bar-bershop, which Mr. Manley designed himself. Aside from the arches that hold up the ceiling, “we put in everything: the nickel cabinets; the hand-made wall tiles. I’d been collecting pieces for about three years.” The original 1870’s American drugstore cabinets and Cuban mahogany display cases were put in during “an aggressive ten-week fit out.” The aesthetics has at its heart, in the apothecary drawers and cubbyholes, those barbershops that doubled as medieval surger-ies, an era of fine craftsmanship for sure.

The assembly line has been applied to everything from sneakers to cereal, from farms to French-fries. It has created the wealth of nations and made our com-plicated goods and services possible. In recent years, however, there’s been a return to the DIY mentality of the frontiersman, artisans and entrepreneurs. As much as the economy has forced new homeowners to lop off sums from their mortgage and rather renovate prewar studios themselves, especially in places like Williams-burg, an appreciation for unique and crafted ephemera has emerged from the homogenization of much of our culture. The barbershop has endured, here in Tommy Guns, as a paragon to individuality and irreplaceable craftsmanship.

“Many other crafts have seen a huge rise in popularity. My own son makes hand-made umbrellas in London and can’t keep up with demand. It helps it rains there all the time I guess!”