A LOT HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT FIGARO’S BARBERSHOP. Since it opened in Lisbon in 2014, it’s been dedicated to preserving the art of traditional men’s grooming. It specialises in classic cuts from the ’40s and ’50s, such as pompadours and slick backs, and the shop doubles as a safe haven for men who’ll enjoy a refuge with some beer or whisky.
Like a moth to a flame, it’s become a destination barbershop that has attracted hordes of the curious — as well as the likes of David Beckham. Fabio Marques is the man behind the brand. He is now known as Lisbon’s “sick barber”, and tells us that he became fascinated with the art of barbery when he was a kid.
“I used to go to barbershops with my dad,” he recalls. “I always enjoyed the atmosphere of the barbershop. Everything was somehow magic. Then one day, 14-year-old me decided to cut my friend’s hair. Soon, I was cutting hair for my family and myself. I loved the sound of the clippers and feeling of turning out something new.”
It wasn’t until after college and a seven-year career in corporate finance in New York that he threw himself fully into the craft. Upon his return home to Lisbon, the self-taught Marques opened Figaro’s. He bucked the Portuguese trend of offering unisex services, operating exclusively as a traditional gentlemen’s barbershop.
Unfortunately, Marques is harbouring thoughts about leaving Lisbon. He tells us about his unlikely success, leaving home, and what the future may hold.
What is the industry of barbering like?
This industry is like a jungle. There are too many people coming into the trade without knowing what they are doing. They are like sheep that got dragged in by this new wave of barbering that swept across the world five or six years ago. People think it’s cool to be a barber these days. But if you’re not passionate about standing behind a chair 10 hours a day, cutting hair and being a good conversationalist or listener, you will never be a good barber.
You’ve worked on David Beckham several times. Is it unnerving to cut a celebrity’s hair?
Not really. I mean, when you see a head in front of you, you just focus on the hair, and after a few minutes, you forget who’s sitting there.
Do you ever wonder about how the future will unfold?
Barbers are everyday hustlers who live by the day. But yes, I do wonder about the future in this ever-changing industry. One good thing about being a barber, is you can be a barber anywhere in the world. If I could choose, it’d have to be a place where I can make a difference to the industry, like LA or New York. Otherwise, I’d love to settle down somewhere like Okinawa, where I can lead a calm life by the beach.
What’s wrong with Lisbon?
Nothing, but I’m tired of the city. It’s been five years since Figaro’s opened, and after another two years — or less — it will be time for a change. Besides, the Portuguese don’t really understand the value of barbering. I feel like I have created something enjoyed mostly by tourists; they make up half my clientele. While I’m happy to have them, I don’t want to turn my shop into a tourist trap.
Your craft harks back to an earlier time. Are you a sentimental or nostalgic person?
I am, I am. Maybe I shouldn’t be, so much. I am 33, but people say that I’ve got the soul of an 80-year-old.
Should you meet God at the pearly gates, what would you say to him?
I talk to God every day, so I don’t know if I’d have anything new to tell him. But I do know that he’s not upset with me for anything.
In the future, when people look back at this moment in history, what do you hope they will say about you?
When you think of Maradona, you think of football. I’d like to be remembered as the guy who opened the barbershop that became home to the best in the world. I know that at least to my apprentices, they will always remember Figaro’s as this cool motherhouse where they started.