Hair salons decorate streets, and each one must have a way to differentiate itself from others. Across from Modern Market on Arthur Avenue lies Antonio Hair Studio, formerly known as Anthony’s Unisex Salon. Six months ago, the shop found its new co-owner in stylist Maurizio Gerbasi, 65, who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1978. Inside Antonio’s are newly renovated styling stations, and the center back wall dons a new, brightly colored poker painting featuring Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis Presley.
“It brings a nice touch here,” says Gerbasi. “Most people love very fashionable people.”
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Gerbasi talks holiday plans with an Italian-speaking client as he blow-dries her hair. Next to them stands a tall rack filled with Alfaparf Milano hair products on each shelf, fitting for a former technician of the company. According to Gerbasi, the shop uses these top-of-the-industry products almost exclusively because they contain linseed oil and no sulfates.
When someone steps into the salon, Gerbasi greets them by lifting up his baseball cap to reveal an electric-blue tuft of hair, an uncommon sight on Arthur Avenue.
“You got to bleach it first, and then you put the dye,” he says from experience of being his own stylist.
His hair has undergone several changes, but the blue has stuck for the past five years, with the help of touch-ups every couple weeks.
Gerbasi has been a stylist ever since his brother introduced the profession to him about 40 years ago. Since then, he has had several opportunities to work in fashion. After working in music and clubs upon his arrival in the U.S., his first hairdressing job was for a cover of GQ in 1983.
Later, he did before-and-after shots for makeover television shows, styled in Saks Fifth Avenue and worked Fashion Weeks in New York and Miami. Before moving to the Bronx, Gerbasi had his own salon in Manhattan. Both his Fashion Week and Manhattan experiences have given him celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Patricia Nixon as clients.
However, his clientele at Antonio Hair Studio may perhaps range the furthest in both demographics and geography. Both Fordham students and born-and-raised Bronx residents frequent the salon, in addition to travelers from Manhattan, Connecticut and Long Island. Despite keeping some old customers, Gerbasi notices the difference between working in the Bronx versus downtown.
“You know, in New York, the people are more fashionable,” he said. “They come often to the hairdresser. … Now I moved up here. … It’s good to be here in the neighborhood, bring some fashion up here.”
Gerbasi has still been familiar with the Fordham area for the past few decades and has witnessed the changes around the neighborhood, including the increase of Fordham University students. Ultimately, he finds the local community a source of art, in and out of the university.
“I think Fordham University makes the big difference here from then to now,” he states. “It becomes nice, artsy. … A lot of great artists came from this neighborhood. Lot of people came from here, so why not be here?”
Having cut and styled hair for many people on many occasions — from fashion events to weddings — Gerbasi can work on any type of hair and aims for inclusivity. While, according to him, no hair salon is perfect, any good hairstylist will make the effort to satisfy clients.
“If you have no passion, it’s not for you — especially in this business,” said Gerbasi. “It’s a creative business, but also, it’s a responsibility.”
For Gerbasi, hair styling is an art to be taken seriously. He identifies himself as a stylist as opposed to a barber because of the fashion involved in the profession of the former. “Fashion,” to him, is to “make a person out of yourself,” and hair is the most important aspect.
“Fashion was always my thing. It didn’t matter if it was clothes.,” he said. “The fashion starts from the hair, from the hair to the shoes. … You could have gorgeous hair, but maybe you’re just in jeans. Jeans are great.”
Gerbasi wants to warn those who seek fashion that it should not center around acquiring the highest-end clothing, such as Gucci. Especially for college students, having good hair and makeup paired with H&M clothing is just as good, according to him.
“To become a fashion slave is crazy,” he said. “I know people that just buy, buy, buy — then you’re a fashion slave. But I guess your hair, that’s where you start your look.”
Antonio Hair Studio offers 20% discounts for Fordham students and all Fordham employees, allowing for the Fordham community to engage both with fashion and local businesses.
In addition to that, Antonio’s offers coffee and, for customers 21 and over, champagne during their appointments in order to add to their experience. The salon is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It offers services from barber cuts to balayages and keratin treatments. Gerbasi recommends beginning with a consultation to work toward the best hair outcome, and, to him, a simple approach is always best.
“That’s my philosophy: basic. Basic and pretty, and then you change it and do whatever you want to do.”