Glassbox is the Coolest Spot to get a Quality Haircut in the Financial District

By Jordana Colomby

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Photo credit: Glassbox Barbershop

These short-hair specialists are running a gender-neutral, open-to-all barbershop.

Long locks often get all the attention in the Toronto salon scene, but beneath the city, a barbershop is opening its doors to all those with short hair. Peter Gosling, the owner of Glassbox Barbershop, is getting ready to launch his fourth location in the Royal Bank Plaza in the atrium of the PATH, where commuters can stop in for a quick cut in the morning, after work, or even on their lunch break.

Gosling and his partners, fellow barber Dylan Portner and Andrew LaGrave from John St. Advertising, founded Glassbox in 2015 when they felt there was a gap in the market for precision men’s haircutting. As male grooming trends started to take off, so did Glassbox. In their first year of operation, Glassbox was runner-up for best barbershop in Toronto in NOW Magazine. Since then, Gosling and his team have snagged the top spot two years in a row. They currently have three locations: one in Hamilton, one in Roncesvalles and their flagship location on Harbord Street. 

“All-inclusive safe space,” are the words Gosling likes to use to explain the barbershop. He drew on the mastery and tradition of barbershops but cut out some of the outdated staples you might still find in barbershops today, like taxidermy or Playboy magazines. He says his goal is to make everyone feel comfortable in the space, so he opted for a Scandinavian-style setup with a minimalist, industrial feel. 

Much like the modern vibe of Glassbox, Gosling’s approach to cutting hair is quite refreshing. “People in Toronto actually are trying to engage in things that make them feel better, and I feel like sometimes the old school barbershop is a place of negativity,” Gosling says. To keep things positive, Gosling is very mindful of appropriate topics of conversations and has no tolerance for offensive language in his shop. 

Instead of honing in on the male demographic, Gosling says he tries to make everyone feel welcome. “We took the modern-day hair-dressing and fused it with the traditional barbering to give us this hybrid aesthetic between hairstyling and barbering,” he says. Gosling says this unique approach has resulted in them becoming quite popular in serving the LGBTQIA+ community, “which is something we’re very proud of,” Gosling says. “At the end of the day, short hair is short hair,” he says. They’re currently working on changing the aesthetic from Glassbox Barbershop to simply Glassbox because they’re trying to serve all identities and all communities.

At Glassbox, everyone is a short-hair specialist and appointments are based on timing, not gender. “If you’re coming in for 45 minutes, it’s usually $45. If you’re in and out in 15 minutes because you’ve got a shaved head, we’re going to charge you 15 dollars,” Gosling says. 

One of the main convictions at Glassbox is to train staff well, which is why Gosling opened a school right across from the flagship location. “That’s what we really take pride in, that’s why I believe we’ve done so well,” he says. “We retain staff extremely well, the reason being that we train within, almost like a McDonald’s,” he adds. They aren’t the traditional mom and pop barbershop. All the staff are trained hairstylists, which isn’t all that common in the barber community.

Another one of Gosling’s golden rules? Hire based on attitude. “Skill level can always be attained,” Gosling says, “but attitudes can never be changed.” And when it comes to matching a stylist with a customer, Gosling thinks of it almost like a date: nobody wants to sit awkwardly trying to make small talk with someone for 45 minutes. That’s why he tries to align his employees’ and customers’ personalities and find that conversational sweet spot. 

The PATH location will be a little different because most customers will be looking for quick service and very little small talk. Gosling will be placing a group of mature stylists who understand that busy atmosphere to set everyone up for success. What will remain the same across all locations is the quality of the services and their openness to serve all identities and communities. 

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