Clemente Dimonda climbed into the barber chair, explaining how he got here to function a barbershop in Manhattan, and to chop the hair of a era of males’s put on executives, together with Ralph Lauren. “I used to work on Jamaica Avenue,” in Queens, Mr. Dimonda mentioned. “One of many previous males, Sicilian man, he used to work within the store the place I used to work.”
Within the tales of Mr. Dimonda, who’s from Naples, barbering is full of moments of excessive drama. In his Italian-accented English, he went on: “Someday, this man seize me by the jacket like this” — Mr. Dimonda seized his go well with vest with each palms — “and he say, ‘Have a look at me!’ I say, ‘I take a look at you!’ He say, ‘You’re too certified for this space. You bought to go to New York. You make some huge cash.’”
The barber raised his finger and poked the air to complete: “I always remember.”
That was 50 years in the past. In the present day, Mr. Dimonda nonetheless wields a pair of scissors at age 85. He’s identified for giving what he calls a “gentleman minimize, no loopy look, excessive class, clean-cut,” and for utilizing old school provides like witch hazel, cotton necklaces to catch unfastened hair and monogrammed capes.
Designed by Mr. Lauren and somewhat unusually tucked into the eighth flooring of the Polo Ralph Lauren headquarters at 650 Madison Avenue, Mr. Dimonda’s operation appears, as one buyer described it, like “the form of a barbershop you’d anticipate to see on an ocean liner within the ’30s.”
Mr. Dimonda’s voice swells with admiration when discussing his most well-known shopper and patron. He started slicing the style designer’s hair within the late 1960s, “when he was a daily man.” He styled Mr. Lauren when he appeared on the quilt of Time in 1986, and on many different journal covers, and nonetheless tends to his hair at this time, although not as continuously because the designer has come to desire longer locks.
Footage of the barber with Mr. Lauren adorn the store partitions, and Mr. Dimonda recalled the time one other buyer, an govt for Saks Fifth Avenue, forged a disparaging eye on them.
“He say, ‘Why you have got an image of him within the store?’ I say, ‘Take it simple. Be like him and I put your image up.’ It’s inconceivable to search out one other man, a beneficiant man, like Ralph. The perfect.”
Mr. Lauren praised Mr. Dimonda as nicely. “Clemente has a really attention-grabbing persona. He’s a enjoyable man to speak to,” he mentioned on the cellphone. “The persona is one factor, however his experience as a man who is aware of minimize hair is crucial factor.”
For a few years, Mr. Dimonda operated a barbershop on Fifth Avenue and 46th Avenue, and earlier than that on the Berkshire Resort, the place Winthrop Rockefeller was a shopper. It was there that he minimize the hair of the executives who labored for the material mills and clothiers, who in flip launched him to Mr. Lauren.
As Mr. Lauren’s enterprise grew and he turned busier, it was tougher for him to interrupt his workday to go to Mr. Dimonda, he mentioned: “I requested, How would he like a barbershop? I constructed him a classical barbershop. There’s no hire. It was handy for me and good for Clemente as a result of I mentioned if he needs any accounts to return in, that’s superb with me.”
Mr. Dimonda initially had hassle adjusting to the transfer into the Ralph Lauren workplaces, 27 years in the past. He felt that some staff didn’t perceive his stature within the commerce, or why he was of their pantry utilizing the espresso machine.
He recalled: “One of many women — she was an enormous shot, now she’s out — she say, ‘Oh, too many individuals over right here.’ Later, when she noticed me and Ralph stroll down the road collectively, then she turn out to be my greatest pal.”
Mr. Dimonda smiled as he remembered the triumph: “Now she is aware of who’s Clemente. Who’s a barber who bought this sort of relationship with the clientele?”
In recent times, a few of Ralph Lauren’s younger feminine staff have adopted Mr. Dimonda as a grandfather determine. They created and run his Instagram account, and cease in to see him throughout work hours. Jessica Malot, a graphic designer for Polo Ralph Lauren, has visited Mr. Dimonda at house on Lengthy Island, the place he lives alone as a widower, to assist him cling drapes.
White-haired and bushy-mustached, compact and courtly, Mr. Dimonda at all times wears a tailor-made go well with and tie, usually set off with a fedora. He reigns over his store just like the king of a tiny city-state, banishing clients who’ve proven him disrespect and yelling throughout the partitioned house for the second barber and manicurist below his make use of.
“Margarita! Margarita!” Mr. Dimonda was shouting.
Margarita Andrade, a manicurist who has labored for him for 13 years, answered wearily, “Sure, Clemente.”
Mr. Dimonda ordered, “Give him a kind of footage. It’s proper on the highest drawer.”
The Xeroxed newspaper article, from 1991, described Mr. Dimonda because the barber “whose clientele reads like a who’s who of males’s put on.” The garmentos got here partly to listen to trade gossip; what one govt mentioned within the barber’s chair usually bought handed on to the subsequent. Most of the individuals cited — Kenny Bates of Roger LaViale; Cliff Grodd of Paul Stuart; Peter Strom of Polo Ralph Lauren — are actually lifeless or out of the trade.
However a few of Mr. Dimonda’s clientele from that interval stay, together with Alexander Julian, the lads’s put on designer, who was scheduled to return in that afternoon.
Whereas he waited, Mr. Dimonda advised of how he additionally minimize the hair of Tommy Hilfiger, who “used to return right here for an excuse,” Mr. Dimonda mentioned, suggesting that Mr. Hilfiger was much less curious about a “gentleman minimize” than in getting a glance across the Polo workplaces.
“He used to return at evening on a regular basis,” Mr. Dimonda mentioned. “One evening I present him out, I say, ‘Tommy, let’s go.’ He say, ‘No, go forward, I comply with you.’ I say, ‘No. You comply with me.’ And since then, no extra Tommy.” Mr. Hilfiger didn’t return a request for remark.
Mr. Dimonda lately had a blowup with one other buyer, a millionaire businessman, over the costs he prices, which run $80 plus tip for a minimize as much as $150 for the complete remedy of a minimize and a shave. After he took a automobile service from Lengthy Island to dye and trim the person’s beard, Mr. Dimonda felt he was underpaid.
“I inform him, ‘Don’t come right here no extra.’ I bought a status. I throw the individuals out. I like you. However don’t benefit from me.”
Mr. Dimonda sighed. “After the operation, I lose management very quick,” he mentioned, referring to his open-heart surgical procedure eight years in the past.
He has reduce his hours, from eight o’clock to round 3, and takes a automobile service to work. He tends to longtime clients and passes new shoppers to Frank Statella, the barber who works the store’s second chair.
Extra mild-mannered than Mr. Dimonda, Mr. Statella got here to America from Italy the identical yr, 1961, and in addition began working in barbershops as a boy in impoverished postwar Southern Italy (Sicily in his case). He’s barely youthful, at 73.
Mr. Julian appeared within the doorway, calling out to Mr. Dimonda, “Il Maestro! Il Maestro!”
Balding, with an overgrown beard, Mr. Julian sat within the barber’s chair, and Mr. Dimonda draped him with a cape constructed from his personal shirting material.
“This man will not be a barber,” Mr. Julian mentioned. “This man is a sculptor.”
Mr. Dimonda beamed with delight.