freeman’s social club. the perfect day.
May 23rd. The day we celebrate Dave Hanson Day.
Never heard of Dave Hanson Day? Never heard of Dave Hanson? pshaw. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Dave Hanson. He’s the guy that drinks you past the breakup, jumps your broken down CJ-7 at 6am, and can sit in silence with you filling the empty spaces with solid companionship.
In short, he is your best friends.
Sure, your Dave Hanson might be a Mike Johnson, or perhaps an Ellie Moss, of even a Chia Beng Xiao (it’s more popular then you think). No matter what you call your best friends, May 23rd is the day to celebrate them.
This all started because Dave was getting married, and to celebrate the occasion we thought it would be nice to do an extravagant “Gentleman’s Afternoon” out on the town. I had seen an interesting little package, set up by the fantastic UrbanDaddy people, for an all inclusive “manuxuary” afternoon, at the one and only, Freeman’s Social Club.
The package included a made-to-measure custom suit, a shave and a haircut at their bespoke barber shop, and fancy cigar and whiskey tasting in the back alley, a.k.a. Freeman’s. It’s about as perfect an afternoon could get. So us three – myself, Mr. Dave Hanson, and the impeccable Christopher “Sully” Sullivan, made our way over to the meca of man.
Freeman’s Social Club is the kind of place that the fabric of dreams are made of. Tucked away off Bowery in the LES, this little shop is the birthplace of a sharp new look, the Bethlehem of the hem if you will. A smattering of vintage motorcycles, tattered Americana bric-a-brac, and perfectly patina’d objet d’art line the corners of the store as you pay homage in this cathedral of cloth (last one I swear.). The fabrics are nothing less than the finest you can find in the world; Italian silks, Tunisian linens and Japanese cottons in colors so genuine and subtile that Caravaggio would have used them as his pallet.
Basically there is cool shit everywhere.
Which makes you feel cool. Very cool. Old playboys, tailor’s tools, and even gun casings can be found perfectly thrown around the store, as if you were in your grandfather’s basement, if your grandfather was Hemingway, and this was his hunting lodge that he shared with the Dos Equis guy. Stay fashionable my friends.
What’s more is the staff is as cool as their domain, going above and beyond the norm of service only helps you on your cool assent. Handing them the UrbanDaddy certificate was all it took for them to basically take care of everything, which is exactly how you’d want it to be. They showed us around, made us comfortable, and did so without being phony, but more like a friend that invited you to swing by their shop… you know, the one that sells 3,000.00 suits. Good friend to have.
We met our master tailor who we called Papito. A thick Cuban accent and a swagger that only comes with doing a trade for decades, Papito was our salty Virgil we followed through this elite world of fashion. We dove right in looking at swatches, deciding on the best color scheme and coolest cut that would make Dave look almost as good as his beautiful bride to be. For the next hour we discussed stitching, linings, vents and button placement, and I channeled my Italian father who taught me everything I know about how to look good in a suit. The two cornerstones of a good suit repeated in my mind: look for “the line” in the cut, and secondly, a jacket’s length should come down to the bottom of your balls. Or it might be thumbs, really it’s the same.
Having exhausted the possibilities and Dave feeling successfully dapper, they ushered us next door to the back alley bar where we would have a bit of the brown elixir and cigars. We delighted ourself on the rye, and took some memorable, albeit 80’s boy-band-esque pictures in the alley as we waited for the grooming portion of the afternoon.
(we decided our band would be named “Monsignors of Love ft. DJ Scratchatory Rape”)
Freeman’s Barber Shop is a place that occupies the space between new and old, classic and modern, cool and pedestrian. It’s simple inside; clean unfinished wood beams and frosted white lights give it the appearance that the Amish built this barbershop. The selection of hipster beards in the joint only added to the Mennonite mis-en-cine, but one thing is overtly clear; they are very serious about making you look perfect. Not good, perfect.
Everything about the experience was done with the skill of a master craftsman, but with the panache of Williamsburg bartender, sorry, mixologist. Our master barber assessed Dave’s nappy beard and plainly shaved head. “Do you wash your beard every day?” he asked Dave. “Yes.” Dave said, somewhat defensive. “Don’t.” said our piloculturalist, “Let the natural oils of your face keep your beard safe. The natural reds in your hair will come out, it will be healthier, and look more vibrant. virile.” Dave never had thought of his beard as virile, but immediately liked the idea, as if his beard could fight a bull, or maybe rebuild a carburetor. “Also, I see you probably use a #2 on your head here. I’m gonna go down to a #1 on the sides here, and fade it in the back. You won’t notice much today, but in 2 weeks, you’re gonna see the difference.” None of us can wait to see what the hell is going to happen in 2 weeks.
The shave was excellent. Our barber was a master, having grown up in a barber shop himself. These weren’t kids with jobs, these were artists with residencies. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to my old-school barber on 46th and 9th ave in Hell’s Kitchen. Henry is 78 years old and has been using the same blade since Truman was in office. The difference here is that Freeman’s has the same love and nonchalant execution, but done in a way that is much more, well, cool. I mean, they have a fully stocked bar. Henry is usually drunk, but he doesn’t share. These dudes do.
Cleaned up, suit being sent to the tailor, and having applied and ample dose of social lubricant, the day was a success, as three great friends celebrated the history they have made, and the adventures yet to be had. Such a luxurious afternoon worked up a sizable hunger, so we rolled literally across the street to Loreley, a proper German beer garden. Sitting out back, gently crafting the perfect ratio of sausage to kraut to mustard morsel, we tried to create the perfect bite. We experimented over and over, wiping the blackboard clean each time with a large swig of cold, delicious beer, until we were fully satisfied with the results. Expect them to be published in next month’s Sausagerific Review. (Why, dear God, does that not exist?)
Afterwards we stumbled northward through the city, stopping for a look at all the oddities a great calamity like New York can offer. We enjoyed another quick Instagram fix along Houston, and eventually made it up to Porsena where we ran into owner Sara Jenkins who I’ve had the pleasure to film at her other fab joint Porchetta. Well wouldn’t you know it … it was “Rosay” (That’s Rosé and the month of May mixed together, I figured the explanation was needed) so we indulged; three gents drinking rosé, eating strawberry risotto, and sampling some of Sara’s personal olive oil from her fattoria in Italy. Dandy doesn’t even begin to cover it.
And so, this year’s Dave Hanson Day was a success. There was great food, fun, and drink, and most of all, great company of two great friends, which is really what Dave Hanson Day is all about. #unicornamulet
* The author, Roberto Serrini, was in no way paid to write this review or has any affiliation with any business written in this article. What was written is just the opinion of his. That being said the day was awesome, and if you get the chance, I suggest going to enjoy any of these dope places.
** all photographs were taken with a lowsy iPhone and retouched afterwards.
*** Roberto Serrini loves a well placed semi-colon.