Chippendale’s Sterling Apothecary is a fragrant, debonair time machine. A sister to Surry Hills’ Sterling Hairdressing Parlour & Barber Shop, Tony Vacher’s latest follicular endeavour for guys and girls emulates the comfort and style of the mid 1930s (Vacher himself wears Sweeney-inspired vintage garb). He’s run six barbershops in Sydney over the past 25 years, as well as vintage and collectable stores. “I started work in my uncle’s barbershop when I was 13,” he says. “I love it.” The new, quiet location was a no-brainer. “Chippendale just has a really good vibe at the moment, lots of great stuff happening.”
The interior is authentic. Vacher’s obsession with collecting supplied the retro-alchemist decor, a noticeable departure from the Surry Hills shop. “It’s got a slightly darker feel in a way – the other one is a little prettier and Hollywood,” says Vacher. The front room – previously an antique dealer and gallery – is dominated by British-railway green and deep-cherry timber. One copper-topped counter was recovered from an old Randwick barber, while Vacher shipped another from Mumbai. Melt into a hulking, 200-year-old Vulcan barber chair and enjoy a flawless curation of blues, jazz and swing.
In recent years the close shave has made a come back. “It’s absolutely the first thing I teach apprentices,” says Vacher. “It’s just really relaxing, it’s as close as most guys will ever get to a facial.” Hot towel, lather, blade, balm – repeat. It’s a transcendent, therapeutic exercise in trust, and Vacher is currently developing a 45-minute complete steam shave.
Exclusive products fill a towering apothecary cabinet, including Reuzel, Dapper Man and Vacher’s own Bay Rum, a spicy tonic decanted in-store.
Sterling Hair Apothecary defies the band-wagon barbershop and instead celebrates all things swinging. Vacher grins cheekily, “I’m kind of glad that it is fashionable now, because less people stare when I dress like this.”
Sterling Hair Apothecary
25 Meagher Street, Chippendale
(02) 9698 3825
Tue to Sat 10am–6pm