Modern Original People: Chris Matthew

Chris Matthew, a longtime barber since his early teens, quite possibly holds the unique distinction as America’s only simultaneously independent practicing barber and attorney. How does he do it? For the past ten years, Chris strategically divides his week, accommodating both careers around his devotion to family life and charitable endeavors, notably his personal initiative GROOM (Giving Remains Our Only Mission), providing haircuts and other services to homeless men and those in temporary shelters. He also sponsors three children abroad and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Monday through Wednesday, Chris practices law, setting up small businesses and start-ups on legalities that go into opening any new enterprise. By Wednesday evening, he’s “itching to get back to my studio and excited to see 99% of my longterm clients. It also gives the other side of my brain a rest.” He also allocates several hours for writing thoughtful articles with practical advice applicable in any state on branding and legal issues benefitting the beauty and grooming community.

Thursday through Saturday, you’ll find Chris at Dillinger’s, his sophisticated men’s grooming parlor at Sola Salon Studios in Garden City, NY, whose name evokes images of the Roaring 20s and Prohibition era. “It was a time when men dressed like they had somewhere to be, drank cocktails and played cards in backroom juice joints. Even the bootleggers were groomed to the nines,” he notes. It also pays homage to his best friend, nicknamed Dillinger on account of all the mischief he got into, who passed away in a motorcycle accident.

Complementing Chris’s comprehensive grooming skills, a Dillinger’s visit might start with an espresso or a whiskey (or both), leading to deep conversations on topics ranging from politics, the stock market, education and a client’s personal life. And while he’s never the one to initiate the subject of his other profession, every now and then, career circles cross. “When clients discover I’m an attorney, they’ll ask legal questions. I occasionally joke that your haircut just went up $300!”

Chris blocks an hour for each client, and discourages walk-ins as disruptive, preferring not to rush his creative process and keep someone new waiting. He usually books a month in advance, relying on his SolaGenius app as his silent personal assistant for scheduling 24/7, allowing him to be in the moment whether applying his left or right brain skills to tasks at hand.

He loves the flexibility of being a solo practitioner in both careers. His legal skillset also removes the fear factor of having his own barbershop, noting “I really enjoy working with cool clients, gleaning new business models and social enterprises for expanding my knowledge base.”

At the same time, “All these years later I’m still excited about being a barber. It plays into my creativity with never-ending opportunities to expand my cosmetology repertoire through continuing education and energizing my skills, from hands-on demos by visiting stylists from the UK to recent Sassoon training, there’s always something new to learn for keeping current on trends and products.”

As someone equally brilliant in creative and analytical thinking, Chris fuses both as a master of modern branding, with judicious legal advice for others on company names and trademark issues. He approaches Dillinger’s branding beyond naming and logos, incorporating every facet of his business into crafting one-of-a-kind experiences for his diverse, mostly long-time clientele. “Dillinger’s doesn’t have a defined demographic; it’s more along the lines of men of all ages, races and walks of life sharing similar values. My gents appreciate bespoke styling and my respect for their time. I grow with them and their lives, month after month, with each haircut.”

 To learn more, follow Chris on Instagram @dillingershaircompany or visit his website: