Sebastian Jackson’s extraordinary barber shop, The Social Club
INTERVIEW BY ASHLEY K. PARKS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM LEON
On a Tuesday evening, the sun still high in the sky, I walked into this barbershop on Anthony Wayne Drive in Detroit. There were soft sounds of buzzing in the air as the barbers clipped, cut, faded, and perfected their craft on the hair lines of very different clients seated in the classic leather barber chairs. A subtle tune from Gallina played in the background. There was this scholastic air and calm around, almost like being in a gallery. The door slowly closed behind me as the four male barbers and one female stylist looked up at me. Warmly one of them said, “Welcome. We’ll be right with you.” As I took a seat, my eyes were immediately drawn to the artwork and of course the towering book shelves that lined the walls. Shortly thereafter, the owner and founder, Sebastian Jackson, greeted me. He approached me with arm and hand reached forward and said, “Welcome to the Social Club.” Apologetic for the short wait, Sebastian assured me that he was just nishing up with a client; and that client had a unique style about himself. Everyone did. From the custom leather comb holster that hung on the shoulders of one barber to Sebastian’s lumberjack boots. I liked this place and was eager to learn all about it.
Hailing from the central part of what Michigander’s call the “Mitten,” Sebastian was born in a town of about 99,000 named Flint and migrated to the Detroit metropolis during childhood where he has resided for the major part of his life. It was there in Detroit that he honed the skill of cutting hair, the skill of what has led to the grooming movement he now spearheads.
What started out as cutting hair in college dorm rooms, where he studied at Wayne State University, for friends and family, Sebastian imagined a life of entrepreneurship in his future. He recalls talking to a friend saying “wouldn’t it be dope to own a barbershop here on campus?” Fast forward, that’s exactly what he has done. Passionate about intellect and conservation of the environment, Sebastian imagined a barbershop that groomed while maintaining a social responsibility to the community it served. He has in turn established the studio shop where men from all across the country stop by to look good.
When asked about the inspiration behind the design and development of The Social Club, Sebastian responds, “There are a number of things that inspire me. My wife. My daughter. The development of my city. It sounds simple but our motto is ‘Look good. Feel good. Do good.’ It really is that simple.” He further explains, “I didn’t want just a traditional barber shop but I wanted to maintain the history and tradition behind the barbershop...a place where information is exchanged. It only makes sense to include the books and shelves. Books give knowledge.” And The Social Club has over one thou- sand of them throughout.
The uniqueness in the shelving comes from the story behind them. The shelves that make up the barber stations are of reconstructed wood from what used to be “Lefty” of Detroit’s Imagination Station, a community art project, which was burned in a re. “Lefty’s” wood dates back as far as 1886. “The great thing about wood is that it literally lasts for generations. What was, at one time, meant for a house, is now used for business. It served its purpose as a house and now it will serve its purpose as a business. When that time is up, it may be used for a chair and who knows what after that” Sebastian explains. Beyond that, the left over hair shavings from the cuts at The Social Club are recycled for its nitrogen content, which enriches the soil for better vegetation in Detroit. Imagine that, hair as a natural fertilizer. Sebastian goes on to speak about how he was initially trying to “go green” all wrong. Thereafter, he put an abundant amount of time into researching his community green initiative that now contributes to his social responsibility.
Sebastian has taken a simple concept of an old school barbershop, tweaked it with new and modern features, and has made it a movement. From its library esque appeal, to the museum of art that each client fancies while waiting or in the chair; from the conservation of the environment to the educating of minds, The Social Club is the place for the intellectual, well connected, and most certainly well groomed. It represents all of that. The Social Club provides a cultural experience in every way.
While staying true to his passion and purpose, Sebastian Jackson is one to know. His humble spirit and genuineness is felt in everything he speaks on. It is apparent that this project is one that he holds very near and dear to him and it shows in the work that he’s doing.
With a vision to make The Social Club a home in other major cities throughout the United States, each with key concepts from Detroit homes, Sebastian plans to show the world what Detroit has to offer, highlighting the city’s beauty in more ways than one. “People didn’t understand or even see the vision initially, but now that it’s come together, it all makes sense,” says Sebastian. As the renaissance that is happening in Detroit continues to drive the city, The Social Club is actively involved in the process.
As we closed up our talk, I couldn’t help but smile and feel inspired by this young entrepreneur. Designed with a cause in mind, The Social Club is so much more than simply a barbershop, it is definitely something special.