Working For the Weekend: With Joe Commisso and Andrew DiCamillo at Sorrento Barbers

By Glenn Alderson
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — Sorrento Barbers has been a landmark in the Hastings Sunrise community since the ’60s and throughout that time the East Vancouver neighbourhood has experienced significant growth and changes. One thing that remains a constant however is Joe Commisso. The always chipper old school Italian personality bought Sorrento in 1973 and retains a chair right at the front of the shop, but recently there was a change — or a passing of the shears if you will — when Commisso sold the business to a young and budding barber by the name of Andrew DiCamillo this past November. Keeping the age-old barbershop aesthetic true to form, the shop is as vibrant as ever while the two work side-by-side along with several other talented barbers/stylists. “I told Andrew to keep the shop the way it was. Do same routine and to do at least 45 years because I did 44 years here,” Commisso says with a laugh.

BeatRoute pulled a chair up next to Joe and Andrew to talk about the evolution of the barbershop and find out what happens when you combine two generations of barber brute under one neon lit roof.

BeatRoute: What do you guys think barbershop culture brings to a neighbourhood? 

Andrew DiCamillo: The barbershop culture brings a living room right onto Hastings Street. It’s a place anybody can come and just hang out even if there is no haircut or shave happening.

Joe Commisso: The barbershop brings haircuts.

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

BR: Joe, is it true that the most popular hairstyle when you first opened shop was the Beatles cut?

JC: When I opened it was lots of long Beatles cuts. The old guys all the time want short, but the young always change.

BR: How have the styles changed in your opinion? What is popular right now?

JC: Now I like better because it’s back to the short haircut. Right now the short haircut is in.

AD: The styles have done a full circle and everyone wants to have the haircut grandpa had when he was young; Short military styles.

BR: How has barbershop culture evolved over the years? 

AD: The traditional barbershops will always stay the same, it’s the men’s salons that take appointments and offer you cucumber water that is changing barbershop culture.

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

BR: What are the worst hairstyles you guys have been asked to give? 

JC: For me to do the flattop is the worst style, it’s not my cup of coffee. The young guys at the shop like to do now.

AD: The worst style I had to do is that damn shave the sides all off and leave a clump of hair on the top.

BR: What kind of music do each of you prefer to listen to?

JC: I like to listen to nice soft music. To tell you the truth, I like a little bit of all music. Yeah music it’s good to listen.

AD: I like punk rock, classic rock ‘n’ roll, and lots of Canadian music. I like Chet Atkins, Seaway, Pup, Dio, H20, Lagwagon. Those are a few bands I’ve been listening to lately.

BR: What kind of music do you guys listen to at work?

JC: I like to watch the news in the morning and music after lunch.

AD: I play a lot of oldies at the shop. It’s fun to listen to and I think all ages can get behind “Roll Over Beethoven.” It seems to bring back memories to many of our older customers.

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

BR: What’s the last live music concert you went to?

JC: Oh I never go. It’s been a long time, but the last time I went to a couple Italian singers when they came here.

AD: The last show I went to was King Crimson at the Vogue.

BR: The Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood is constantly evolving. What is one thing you’d like to see more of in these parts?

JC: Too many stores close. I want more to open.

AD: I agree with Joe. It would be cool to see more small businesses opening around here. On this block alone there are four or five empty spaces. I think it would bring more life to this already jumping neighbourhood.

Do you have any New Year resolutions for 2016?

JC: Relax more. That’s it. All I want is to relax more and play Keno.

AD: To keep waking up at 6 a.m. to open the shop at seven. I’m still mastering being an early riser.

Sorrento Barbers is located at 2417 E Hastings Street.

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