Although many a barber plies his craft with the benefit of decades of experience, it's rare to find one who's still in his 30s.
But Mihail “Mike” Hamamiyev has been cutting hair—professionally—since he was 13.
Uninterested in school in his native Uzbekistan, Hamamiyev left the classroom and went to work for his grandfather. Despite his youth, they didn’t wait long before letting him try out the craft.
“At first I was messing up, and then I learned,” he said.
Today Hamamiyev owns two Brooklyn barbershops, with his brother, Jake. Both are called “Benny’s” after Mihail’s younger son, Bension.
The first they opened in 2007 on Fifth Avenue between Lincoln and St. Johns places in Park Slope. The second they opened in May on Classon Avenue at Lincoln Place, where Mihail runs the show.
The 36-year-old moved to the United States 10 years ago with his wife and two sons, now aged 12 and 16.
After he arrived, Hamamiyev worked at a variety of barbershops, but found it too constricting.
“In the beginning, I tried to work in five, six barbershops and everyone has their own rules. Some bosses don’t like some machine: ‘We don’t work with this we work with that.’ You have to be exactly like they are,” he said.
So now that he’s the owner, he tries to run things differently. “Whenever I hire people, I don’t tell them how to cut hair. As long as it’s nice and a perfect job I don’t care,” he said. “Some people do an amazing job with a different tool.”
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Hamamiyev opened the Classon Avenue shop at the request of customers who were traveling to Park Slope for their cuts. He has quite a few regulars, including nearly a dozen who come weekly for a hot-towel shave (and one who comes just about every day). Hamamiyev cultivates a clientele for this by giving a free shave with every haircut.
Although it’s something people can do at home, it’s understandable that a professional shave could become addictive.
“It’s not only a shave. It comes with hot towels and a massage,” he said.
Asked whether there are differences between cutting hair in Uzbekistan and Brooklyn, Hamamiyev said Uzbekistani men are much more concerned about looks, taking the time to style it at home.
“Most of them have a regular style—they part it on the side, that’s a more popular style, but every person who cuts his hair they comb it to the side and do a nice job,” he said.
“Really what surprised me, is that here a lot of people, they don’t do style. They just want it short. It’s more like wash and go,” he said.