In late 2004, a few months before Hunter S. Thompson took his own life, the iconic writer strolled into Aidan Gill’s barbershop on Magazine Street in New Orleans for a cut. Gill, originally from north Dublin, offered the infamous writer “some of the best Irish whiskey on earth.” Thompson, already equipped with a glass of white wine, proceeded to, without a second’s thought, pour Gill’s prized spirit atop his vino. Then, while sitting in the shave room, Thompson put his feet up on Gill’s fine marble counter and asked, “Can I smoke in here?”
Coldly, Gill replied, “You can catch fire if you want.” Thompson laughed at the jab and the two chatted for an hour and a half. “He was properly entertaining and honest after that,” Gill says.
The same words could be used to describe Gill himself, who began barbering in his native Dublin, Ireland, at age 15, before moving to New Orleans. He’s had plenty of big names frequent his famed shop since he opened it in 1990: LeBron James, Denzel Washington, Tim Robbins, Spike Lee, to name a few.
Meticulously decorated with gentlemanly antiques and leather-bound books, and with Guinness on tap, there’s something endearingly magnetic about Gill’s establishment. A few years ago, Playboy deemed it the best barbershop in America. With the slogan “Unapologetically Male,” Gill’s is, like the barbershops of old, first and foremost a man’s hangout. It is this concept of unabashed maleness that inspired Gill’s first-ever line of men’s grooming products: plain tools that do the trick.
“Men want something that just does the job,” Gill says. “It’s the Old Spice idea: your grandfather used something that works and he’s never changed it. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
In November, Gill released six items: shampoo, after shave balm, shaving cream, pre-shave oil, facial cleansing soap bar, and hair fixative, from $22-$35. Working with a pharmaceuticals production lab in Texas, Gill spent years tweaking the formulas until, he says, they were better than the stuff he already sold. These are quality goods: the aftershave balm, for instance, contains medical-grade micro-silver, a natural antibiotic. And besides the soap bar, which is produced in Japan, all are American-made.
“They’re very simple men’s style products,” Gill explains. “They just work.” aidangillformen.com