In Kaimukī, Golden Hawaii Barbershop’s vintage charm brings back old-school nostalgia.
Golden Hawaii Barbershop makes me yearn for days long gone. Lining the shop’s interior are objects culled from owner Grant Fukuda’s own family history: a vinyl record by the Hawaiian music group Kalapana, a photo of his grandfather, a skateboard from his childhood. Each piece on the wall acts as a portal, taking me back in time through layers of cherished memories and decades of personal history. Each item has a story begging to be told.
Founded in 2017, owners Grant and Jennifer Fukuda’s main mission was to do right for their hometown. “Appealing to the community was imperative. I’m from the community myself, I grew up right there in Pālolo,” says Fukuda of the Kaimukī-based shop. “With the shop, I wanted to not only reflect my own upbringing, but pay homage to the classic Hawaiʻi that my father and grandfather knew too.”
Fukuda wanted to create a space where local people could come to get affordable, quality haircuts ($35) and feel at home, so he decorated it as though it were an extension of his own living space. “Most of the stuff on the wall is either from me or my wife,” he says. “Her favorite piece is definitely the Bruce Lee poster, that was a hard one to give up. We don’t get to hang it in our wall at home but this place is like a home anyway, so it’s okay.”
The place feels inviting because it is, and the barbers feel like friends because they are. In their effort to create a place that local people can feel comfortable in, they’ve brought back the concept of the classic social gathering place that once was the neighborhood barbershop, which in times like this, when the social climate doesn’t always facilitate a sense of neighborly love, authentic local businesses and welcoming community gathering places may be more important than ever. “The best part now,” Fukuda says, “is when we get calls from our bald friends asking if they can bring their lunch down and just hang out there.”
Between the handmade mid-century modern furniture, the refurbished 1960s sign with letters written in a font straight out of The Sandlot, and the high potential for doo-wop, ska, or any of the other danceable music played in the shop, it’s easy to get carried away. A rapid stream of wishful thinking bounces me from life before iPhones to wondering whether or not I could have afforded a 1955 motorcycle. I’m in a Chuck Barry-themed fever dream.
When asked about the shop’s heavy retro look, Fukuda explains that having been raised in Honolulu in the ’70s and ’80s, it was part of the aesthetic he grew up with. Barber and greaser cultures were particularly influential, says Fukuda, pointing to a photograph shot by his uncle depicting dashing, mid-1950s youth decked in leather jackets—early members of the original Hawaiian Motorcycle Club.
Though the days of sock hops and milkshake bars may be gone, people still need to look good. Golden Hawaii does not fall short when providing quality cuts for the modern man, and bringing out the inner greaser you’ve always wanted to be. Feet up, complimentary beer from Aloha Beer Co. in hand, and face engulfed in a hot towel wrap, it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon.