New York barbershops fall into three categories: trendy (Astor Place), fancy (the over-art-directed men’s club in the Sherry-Netherland), and low-rent (the ones with blue disinfectant in the comb caddie). Trendy and low-rent clip joints should be avoided, the cuts ranging from bad to god-awful. The fancy barbershop typically offers a higher level of craftsmanship, but a haircut (with tip) will set you back at least $55. Still, there are some good barbershops out there where a guy can get a decent trim for under twenty bucks.
Sixteen months ago, Bertilda “Betty” Garcia, a Colombian immigrant, opened up in a shoe-box-size space on the ground floor of the historic London Terrace apartment building. Since then, Chelsea Barbers (465 West 23rd Street; 741-2254) has attracted the likes of Todd Oldham and Joan Didion, who wait for up to half an hour for one of Betty’s $15 cuts. How good is Betty? Orlando Pita, one of the fashion industry’s top stylists, refuses to let anyone else shear him. Mark Kostabi is another ecstatic customer. “I used to go to John Sahag,” says the artist, as if he were confessing a grave transgression. “But Betty is much better. The haircut she gave me has changed my life. My girlfriend, Gwen, actually fell in love with me because of my haircut.”