8000 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; (301) 986-1906
All I wanted was for my new stylist to take a little off the top, buzz things close on the sides, and shampoo me like she would her own child. But after almost 30 minutes of silent snipping and repeated cuts to the massive mole on my head, I left Bubbles Salon—a trendy chain with several locations in D.C.—$40 poorer and looking like Eraserhead. I committed to putting off my next trim until I found a go-to place. I wanted it to be perfect: affordable but not too cheap; accessible without a car; staffed by stylists who can interpret confusing descriptions of the perfect coiffure; and stocked with good magazines—subscriptions to both ESPN and Sports Illustrated are key, bonus points for Esquire or GQ. Salvation came in the guise of a 6-foot-9 former power forward for the West Virginia State University Yellow Jackets named Curtis Johnson. After trying his hand at selling cars for a few years, Johnson opened Razor Sharp in 2008 with the goal of creating the ultimate barber shop-salon crossover. Just a few blocks from the Bethesda Metro stop, Johnson’s shop has wood-paneled walls, futuristic chairs, and flat-screen TVs, plus framed portraits of various hairstyles wall-mounted within view of the barber chairs that simplify the ordering process: There’s the traditional yet stylish “Business man” and “Ivy League” styles; the tough-sounding but ultimately metro “Butch” cut; and for customers of the next-door army-navy surplus store, the “High and tight.” All of them cost $16, take about 15 minutes, and are finished with a straight-razor neck shave.