Tony Vacher, owner of Sterling Hairdressing Parlour & Barber Shop, has been cutting and doing hair for 30 years, specialising in retro glamour and 1950s styles. Originally trained at Vidal Sassoon in London, Vacher had his first Australian salon in Erskineville in the late 1980s.

Following the success of his five previous salons, Vacher opened Sterling Hairdressing Parlour & Barber Shop three years ago in a converted warehouse in Surry Hills. The space is divided into three sections: a dispensary and shop-front, a 1950s-inspired ladies salon and a traditional 1930s style barber for the gents.

Growing up, Vacher would spend hours in his uncle’s barbershop in London. While he credits his uncle – a renowned barber at the time – for having “heavily influenced” his “love for traditional styling”, Vacher’s Aunt was a part of Vidal Sassoon’s team and encouraged him to take his first job there. So hairdressing and barbering is very much, as Vacher puts it, “a family dynasty”.

The Sterling salon is retro themed with a rockabilly vibe that mixes sexy with a rock’n’roll edge. Pin-up looks of the 1950s are the inspiration for girls and the aim is standout glamour; think Bettie Page or Joan Holloway. Rockabilly style emerged from the music scene, which paired rock’n’roll with country music. Vacher’s “love for all things vintage” will have you transported back to a different time, from the smooth tunes of Elvis to the retro décor and curios scattered throughout the studio.

Tucked away in the back is the traditional barbershop with a pre- Second World War feel, replete with vintage barbers chairs, cutthroat razors and pin-up girls lining the walls. The nostalgia doesn’t end there, with the smells of talc and shaving lather adding to the atmosphere. Vacher loves barbershops and “wanted to bring that tradition back to a whole new generation, the kind you used to go to with your father”. Sterling offers the original straight-razor shave and is one of the few barbershops in Sydney that specialises in Continental barbering.

While Sterling’s signature is authentic vintage hair, the studio stays at the cutting edge of the latest techniques and works what can only be described as retro magic. You can be assured that you’ll leave with a style that has you looking polished to perfection – Vacher and his team are “pedantic about true vintage styles”.

The challenge, says Vacher, “is working out how things were done in the 40s and 50s and recreating that in a modern way”, refining the process with up-to-the-minute techniques and producing “a look that would take nine hours in under two”.

The most popular service for girls is setting, while guys will often seek out Sterling for their traditional barbering. The team do a lot of styling for vintage weddings, events and fashion spreads, but come here for a makeover and the team will take the time to show you how to work with your new look day-to-day. Workshops are planned for later this year.

In April, the hairdressing salon and barbershop will be refurbished with no doubt the same care and attention to detail that goes into their styling. Vacher is, by his own admission, “a mad collector” of vintage pieces, so expect to gain even more of an authentic experience once the space is transformed, with influences from the 1920s and 1930s in the same vein as Boardwalk Empire.

Sterling Hairdressing Parlour & Barber Shop
Shop 3, 29 Brisbane Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9262 7777

Tue to Sat 9am–6pm