Keith Cayea is the proud owner of a New York City barbershop – a mid-century gem he designed, which is tucked away amongst warehouses in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Cayea is known for his masterful, classic cuts worn by a clientele of cool, dapper gents. He also plays an incredible Cadillac green Gretsch Duo Jet guitar on stage in some of Brooklyn’s coolest bands. At certain angles, Cayea resembles a young Robert Deniro, dressed handsomely in late 50s/early 60s menswear attire. Perhaps that’s why he was cast to model for uber-cool, high-end fashion labels such as Costume National and N. Hoolywood. We were thrilled to interview Cayea and shoot him in some stylish menswear. https://www.keithcayea.com/ https://www.instagram.com/keithcayea/?hl=en Photography & menswear stylist Alexander Thompson.
PONYBOY: We know you from playing in different bands in New York City. What bands have you been in?
KEITH CAYEA: I’ve played in a bunch of projects over the years – The Bothers, The Quasars, and currently, I am with The Josephine Network, to name a few.
PONYBOY: How did you get into playing guitar?
KEITH CAYEA: I always wanted to learn to play guitar and when I was about 19, I was listening to a lot of the 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll I grew up on. That inspired me to actually buy one and start learning. I spent the first year learning from Youtube until I was ready to sit down with a teacher. As soon as I got good enough, I started playing in my first band, The Bothers.
PONYBOY: We read that you had worked as a graphic designer. So, how did you get into cutting hair?
KEITH CAYEA: I started out cutting hair in the bathroom for friends and family when I was in high school. I always liked it, but never expected it to become my career. I also practiced on my own head, and still cut my own hair. I studied graphic design in college because at the time I was into graffiti and fine art, and graphic design seemed like the best way for me to apply what I liked doing to a career. Turns out at 17, I didn’t really know what I wanted, and after college realized I didn’t want a 9-5. During this time classic cuts were coming back into style and I found myself doing a bunch of my friends’ hair, which pushed me to go get my license and start doing it for real.
PONYBOY: Tell us about starting your own barbershop business. Has it been a struggle, especially with the pandemic?
KEITH CAYEA: I opened my studio in 2018, and getting it off the ground took longer than I wanted. As I was going into my second year in business, the pandemic hit and I was shut down for almost 4 months, which was definitely tough. After lockdown, it has been a quiet year for business but things have been picking up this spring.
PONYBOY: We did the photoshoot for Ponyboy in your beautiful shop. Did you design the space yourself?
KEITH CAYEA: Yes, I did. All the built-ins were custom-made, which I sketched and brought to the designer. They took my ideas and brought them to life. I picked out the wood tones, countertops, finishings and researched every detail of the space. I had the mid-century Belmont barber chair restored and reupholstered in my favorite green and also had the 60s waiting chairs reupholstered in a bright teal. The hanging wall mirrors are 60s vintage and my favorite finishing touch to the space is my growing plant collection.
PONYBOY: There was a surge in classic 50s cuts a few years back, primarily pompadours. However, do you see this “trend” dying down? Or, do people still come to you for that “old school” 50s look?
KEITH CAYEA: Although there are many new styles gaining popularity, I believe there will always be a place for the classics. I still have many clients who come to me for that specific look. It is my specialty.
PONYBOY: Do you follow current men’s hairstyle trends?
KEITH CAYEA: Yes. I’m always watching what new looks are emerging and evolving in the industry. A lot of people have been embracing their longer hair post-quarantine, so I’ve been doing a lot of medium to longer-length haircuts lately.
PONYBOY: What styling products do you recommend for your clients?
KEITH CAYEA: I’m into the dry finish products these days, and most of my clients are as well. I like using a cocktail of sea salt spray, matte paste or texture powder, and sometimes hairspray to finish. Some people still like a wet or shiny finish, and I have water or oil-based pomade for that.
PONYBOY: Who would you say is your ideal barber/barbershop? Past or present.
KEITH CAYEA: Barbering today has become more influenced by hairdressing techniques, which has pushed the envelope on technical skill. I think the barbering industry has been putting out better work today than in the past because of that. There are tons of great shops out there, but working with a crew that gets along, is passionate, and shares knowledge with each other are the strongest assets for any shop. I honed my skills at the Stepping Razor in Bushwick, and I’ll always think of them as a 2nd home.
PONYBOY: From a barber’s perspective, what would you say is the most annoying thing that customers do?
KEITH CAYEA: Show up late.
PONYBOY: You’re obviously very stylish. Describe your style/look. Do you wear primarily vintage?
KEITH CAYEA: Thank you. I wear a lot of repro and modern clothing that I think fits the vibe when finding the right vintage is difficult. I’m inspired by early 60s dress and casual looks. I also have a fair amount of 50s inspired clothing and denim/workwear pieces. For pants, I generally have to hunt down good vintage, because nobody makes a high enough rise. Modern pant rises are too low for me.
PONYBOY: What designers/labels do you favor?
KEITH CAYEA: For shirts, I have a small collection of vintage and some good repro from Sun Surf, Straight To Hell, and Merc. While I can find individual pieces here and there, I don’t feel like any one designer is doing the kind of look I’m going for. My favorite jacket is my Schott leather in brown with brass hardware. I also love my John Lofgren engineer boots and my R.M. Williams Chelsea boots.
PONYBOY: Who would you say is your style icon(s)?
KEITH CAYEA: I feel like Paul Newman is my daytime style inspiration. His style is very timeless and effortless. However, I like to get a little flashier at night and for shows. I guess my nighttime inspiration would be some of the outfits in Goodfellas and Casino.
PONYBOY: Besides playing music and cutting hair, what do you see for yourself in the future?
KEITH CAYEA: I’d love to design some clothes one day to match the same vibe of my studio and my music. I think it all goes together, and I’m often not finding what I’m looking for in modern clothing.