The sign on the façade of the oldest barber shop still in operation in the country is somewhat misleading. And we don’t mean the double “L” in the Portuguese word for hairdresser (Cabelleireiro), as this is the old spelling. No, we are referring to the fact that the shop is not what one would call a hairdresser’s, but a barber shop. Founded in 1886, it maintained the original description until 1920, when the Campos & Costa company was dissolved and the business was taken over exclusively by José Augusto de Campos (1856-1922). Since then it has remained in his family. So, more than 130 years of making Lisbon’s men better groomed and more elegant – from the nameless ignored by history to a long list of public figures. The wall of photographs of famous customers, all well groomed, displays the shop’s pride in adding shine – be it on the moustache, beard or hair – to Portuguese celebrities such as Ramalho Ortigão, Eça de Queiroz, Aquilino Ribeiro, Almada Negreiros, António Ferro and Vasco Santana, to name just a few.
Barbearia Campos is also a successful example of how the rapid transformation that the city centre has undergone can live side by side with the traditional shops and the places Lisboans value and want to remain as they are, whilst everything around them changes. In this scenario, where tradition and modernity often clash heads, the recent history of this shop shows how conflict can end well: after spending a year and a half in temporary premises whilst the building that has been home to the barber shop since 1886 was renovated, one of the city’s most beautiful barber shops has now reopened – to the great delight of many haircut-seeking gentlemen. It spent one year and a half just one hundred metres away from the original premises, its future destiny always in sight. One can imagine that the return was much celebrated, and the atmosphere one can now experience is one of having the best of yesterday and the best of tomorrow. The interior space, for example, has been kept as close as possible to the original, with only the introduction of modern developments required by the trade. After all, customers no longer ask for the tips of their moustaches to be rolled around curling tongs... (and let’s hope it remains that way, otherwise that trend, like many others, might return).
The fluorescent lighting has been replaced by chandeliers, the furniture was restored, the counter and sinks in Carrara marble were conserved, as were the stucco ceilings and the original tiled floor. A touch of charm is added by the chrome barber’s chairs from the early 20th century with foot rests richly ornamented with arabesque motifs, and the Italian mirrors. Also worthy of note is the collection of instruments involved in the old techniques of cutting hair and trimming beards and moustaches, which are now on exhibit in the shop.
Even if you don’t require a cut or a trim, you will no doubt want to go in.
Haircuts for men