Barbershop Wisdom: Why The Dandy Will Outlive The Hipster

Signs of eternal fashion in a new Geneva barbershop that serves men only, and only men who know what will never go out of style.

At Geneva's Dandy's Barber Lounge
At Geneva's Dandy's Barber Lounge
Sylvain Besson

GENEVA — The small world of Geneva's barbers is ruthless. When the Dandy’s Barber Lounge opened a few months ago, its first client was an affable young man who turned out to be a spy sent by a rival barbershop. Assuming a false identity (but with his real picture), the faux customer lost no time in revealing his real intentions when he posted nasty comments online about his brand new haircut — before heaping praise on the barbershop that had sent him to spy.

The Dandy’s Barber Lounge staff is still chuckling about the story. It had no real impact on business, which is going gangbusters, according to Romain Marincamp and Vincenzo Cristaldi, the two barbers in this brick-walled, low-ceiling grotto locale.

The brain behind this vintage-style barbershop is Cristina Le Jeune Giacobbi, who used to work at Procter & Gamble managing hair-product brands aimed at professionals. Her aim was to gather “lots of information about men, their taste and way of life” to find the formula destined to succeed in the long run.

The profile of the ideal customer turns out to be the “dandy,” which Le Jeune Giacobbi defines as caring about his style and yet independent from the fashion trends of the moment. He is also ready and willing to discuss his obsessions with his style brethren.

Lag time

For this reason Dandy’s Barber Lounge is solely targeting men. Le Jeune Giacobbi believes that the fashionable and spendthrift male will outlive one feature at the heart of the latest trend: hipsters’ enthusiasm for beards.

Why then launch a barbershop if beards aren't going to last? Indeed, a few months ago, a French mathematician had predicted that the rapid spreading of the hipster culture will render their look commonplace, and therefore lead to their inevitable disappearance.

But in reality, the beard craze is only reaching its peak today, says Romain Marincamp. There’s always a lag between the moment when people start saying a trend is over and when it actually disappears.

The Dandy’s Barber made sure to have a website where it is easy to make an online reservation. It is an obvious and practical feature that almost none of Geneva's other barbers had thought of — and one that also is bound to last for the long run.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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