Barber Boogie Woogie
Metallic silver seats, a busted jukebox and black and white checkered floors set the stage at Big Kat's, a tattoo parlor cum barbershop that has emerged in the pedestrian corridor at the intersection of Main Street and West Albama. The indie hub now offers an alternative to the Lower Westheimer drag, while capturing the spirit of Austin's SoCo and Fat Cats-era Washington Avenue.
A mere 17 steps from the HCC/Ensemble light rail station (I counted), Big Kat's is the brainchild of Edgar "Big E" Salazar, a live music booking agent and DJ who's worked with the across-the-street Continental Club for eight years. Big Kat's shares its building with record shop Sig's Lagoon, Natachee's and a duo of funky fashion dives.
After years doing the overpriced salon circuit, I walked into Big Kat's ready to forsake the plush atmosphere of yuppie-ridden, predominantly female spaces for a fair price and indie credibility. I was pleasantly surprised by my barber Bart's expertise. There was an undeniable rocker edge, but he had a heart of gold and is a resolute lover of Texas (word on the street is he smokes some boss ribs). And, unlike the stylists at more uptown places, Bart was more attuned to my hair than hearing about my personal life. After my cut, he headed upstairs to have an image of the Alamo embroidered on his left arm by Big E.
"I've always wanted a cool barber shop," Big E tells CultureMap, adding, "I love the whole '50s vintage culture thing. I've had this vision in my head for a long time."
To create the distinctive atmosphere, he scoured resale shops across the city with the help of his wife Crissy, who operates the adjoining hair salon, Kat's Meow. That salon also offers men's cuts in what may be an unintentional sexuality segregation (which I didn't fall for).
Big Kat's is a goldmine for old school indulgences, including the hot towel straight razor shave. For all of the topnotch service, the prices remain reasonable — that shave treatment is just a $10 foray, and haircuts ring in at $15. The three barbers ooze personality, as does the resident top hat-toting shoe shiner, Sir Charles.
Another bonus: Big E & Co. are in the process of converting a 1949 refrigerator into a fully functioning kegerator, which will provide the men with libations during trims. For the young lads, the machine will also have root beer on tap.