How This Southern Barber Is Helping Men Look Better

As a father, husband and business owner, David Ross strives to set a cultured example of what it means to be a man living in present day.


For a lot of us men, the barber’s chair has become a staple. Every two to three weeks, we find ourselves sitting in that chair with the confidence or at least hope that we will leave feeling better about the way we look. Our barbers often become our confidants, our counselors, and our friends.

As a father, husband and business owner, David Ross strives to set a cultured example of what it means to be a man living in present day.

In 2014, Ross opened the Circa, a small barbershop brand located in South Carolina with plans to expand in the Southeast. Since its opening, Circa has now set a new standard and expectation for men in the South East as it pertains to the shop’s equable guest experience. Circa 133

We recently sat down with the man himself to learn more about his endeavors behind the sheers.


How did Circa come to be? 

Circa started between 2014 and 2015 in a dressing room of a men’s clothing store (Circa 1332) located in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. At the time, there were not a lot of options for a small barbershop vibe with a clean aesthetic that focused on haircuts. We wanted to create an atmosphere that was inviting, yet sterile, without all of the distractions. A place where you could come and be yourself in a quaint shop and be in and out within a reasonable amount of time.

We want to build a brand that is powered by passionate, sensitive, and motivated barbers that want to give you a consistent product. We want your experience to be the same at any of our locations. We are less focused on the individual barber and more focused on our clients. 

Traditionally, you would never leave your barber to go to another one. That is great until your barber is booked for weeks. At Circa, we strive to provide a consistent service across the board.  Giving you more booking options and locations for your convenience. We want your experience to be uplifting and enjoyable so that you feel better about yourself when you walk away.


Why was there a need for a shop like Circa in the South?

A majority of the barbershops in the South seem to be more traditional.  Not only from a design perspective, but from a cultural perspective. We start developing our culture from the inside with our barbers. We value integrity, encouragement, positive and joyful attitudes, graciousness, patience and understanding. We want to break down any barrier that the customer may possibly feel. Our goal is to create an atmosphere where anyone feels comfortable to come and get a haircut. 

What do you think a good haircut means to a man? 

Haircuts are a great tool for a man, woman or child to feel special. There’s just something about a cut that can change your day. A good haircut can give you that extra confidence boost you may need to get you through your day, but it's not just the cut. It's how you are greeted when you walk into the shop, the service, and how you feel when you finish your look. It’s a process, an experience. It's the subtleties that make it special.  

Historically, the barber’s chair has been a safe place for men, why do you think that is? How are you keeping this tradition alive?

A barber is like your tailor or your doctor.  A place where you can let your guard down. Some people are intimidated when talking about their hair. They don't want to seem like they care too much, or they don't want to be vulnerable. We want to build that trust so they can open up and allow us to achieve the look that they want.  We also want to be able to communicate with them honestly and help guide them to a style that looks best on them. It's a relationship and as you know, relationships take time to develop. Our barbers do an amazing job at this. We are blessed with an amazing team that genuinely wants the best for our clients.   


How do you set the culture and pace for edifying “shop talk” vs. toxic conversation. Why is this important?

This is one of the most important parts of our business. Every single person that is a part of our brand has to fit culturally. This begins with the hiring process and is carried out through self and team evaluations. We encourage sticking to our values even in our shop talk. Clients are always listening and we want to make sure those conversations are uplifting. We have been given the opportunity to service these clients and we want to make sure we treat this opportunity delicately.

We want to create an environment that is striving for improvement and constantly evaluating our actions to ensure that our culture continues down the right path.  

What qualities do you strive to possess as a leader to set a healthy work culture?

I try to treat everyone on our team the same way that I would like to be treated.   Everyone on our team works so hard and cares so much, I want to try to do the same. I make mistakes all the time and I’m constantly learning on the fly so their patience and grace has impacted the way I lead.  

What is healthy work culture?

Healthy work culture is creating an environment where people feel comfortable and motivated to do the things they've been gifted in.  We want all of our team members to feel like they can communicate if something happens that they don’t feel comfortable with. We want everyone to feel heard and understand that their views and opinions matter. This doesn’t mean that we will agree with everything that people bring to the table, but we, as a brand, are constantly learning and growing from things that our team brings up. We feel like our culture allows for healthy growth.    

You have a diverse clientele, how important is diversity to Circa?

Diversity is extremely important. We want everyone to feel like they are welcomed here.  We want our clients to feel confident in our skill level; that no matter what their hair texture, style or density we can deliver an end result that they are happy and confident in.  


What are some obstacles you've met with striving to reach/service a diverse group of people?

The obstacles of race, gender and hair texture are something that is in the forefront of our mind as a company. There is somewhat of a stigma in our industry that if your barber is different than you, that they may not be the best person to give you the style that you are looking for. We want to break down that barrier. In order to do that, we have to continue to challenge ourselves and make sure we can thrive in those situations when they arise.  

In what ways have you seen change in Columbia, South Carolina since opening Circa?

Columbia, South Carolina has grown so much in the last 5 years.  We feel like people are caring more about our city. Wanting to make it a great place for singles to live and raise a family. Our art and musical scene in Columbia has seemed to ramp up. With that comes a passion for food and community. There seems to be a focus that is driving small businesses in our city. 

How would you describe your personal style? 

I’ve never been asked that before. Tough question. I have four kids and a beautiful wife that keep me very busy. I try to keep my style simple and easy to throw together on the fly. Most days, its jeans and a t shirt in the shop. Occasionally, I’ll put a casual sport coat on to go on a date, but other than that, pretty basic. 

You’ve given a lot of southern men the ‘ok’ to care about how they look. Why do you think men (specifically modern southern men) feel it’s not appropriate to invest energy and attention in their appearance. 

There has been this idea instilled in the Southern man that personal grooming is synonymous with vanity, this isn’t true. Once men begin to take some pride in how they look, I think they start to notice it makes a difference. It gets them excited to put some effort in their personal style and guys, that’s okay. We all have to get dressed and go out most days. If you’re going to do it anyway, why not put some time in there for yourself and try to look your best.  

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Do you feel men are slow to discuss body image and insecurities? If so, why do you think this is the case?

Absolutely.  I saw this all the time growing up in my parents' clothing store. I think people in general are hesitant to open up about their insecurities. I think past experiences for the individual, stereotypes they have seen in their lives, and expectations people set on themselves all play a role. That is why it is so important to handle these relationships we have with our clients delicately.      

As men, how do we hold each other accountable to lead, follow and listen well and push each other to be better? 

Stop picking on each other so much [laughs] sounds simple, but men give other men such a hard time.  Maybe compliment instead of trash talking. I think we’ll be surprised at how the other person responds.  

What are non-negotiables for you as a leader? If different, what are non-negotiables for you as a man?

As a leader, my biggest non negotiable would be putting the team first.  It’s so important that we put the team before ourselves. As the team prospers, so will everyone that is a part of it.


If we all have a role to play in our communities, what is your role in South Carolina?

I would like to do my part to create job opportunities and show people that they can believe in the gifts that they have been blessed with. So many times, people grow up and put limitations on themselves for whatever reason. I’d like to help break down those barriers. We would also like to use our brand as a way to give back to the community through charity events. A haircut can go a long way to helping people get back on their feet. 

What’s in the future for David Ross and for Circa?

One of the beauties of having a team that is all in for the brand is that the possibilities are endless. I just want to do my part and try to lead with that same mentality while also keeping an open mind to what God has in store.