Yousef Afandi is re-imagining the local men’s barbershop experience, with a brand created by SYNTAX and a barbershop designed by Paradigm DH. The Yousef Afandi brand is inspired by the craft of the barber, and the social experience and tradition of the men’s barbershop, and contemporary urban lifestyle.
As we were delving into the experience of old barbershops in the Arab region, we started thinking of the citrusy, zesty fragrances used by barbers after a shave. We started wondering about the names of different citrus fruits when we discovered that the Arabic name of the mandarine orange, which is “Yousufi” or “Yousfandi” refers to a 19th century Egyptian scholar named Yousef, who was part of delegation sent to Istanbul by the ruler of Egypt at the time, Mohammad Ali Pasha, to learn about new plants and trees.
On the way back to Egypt by ship, the delegation had to stay in Malta for a while due to stormy seas on the Mediterranean. Waiting in Malta, the young Yousef chanced upon a cargo of exotic trees and plants on a ship coming from China and Japan. Part of this cargo was live mandarine trees planted in barrels. He proceeded to buy eight of those barrels and brought them home to Egypt to present to the ruler.
Intrigued by the trees, Mohammad Ali Pasha is said to have summoned the young scholar and asked him about his name. “Yousef,” answered the young man. The ruler decreed that the mandarin trees be planted in his palace and be named “Yousef Afandi” in honor of Yousef the scholar, adding the word “Afandi” (often written as Effendi), which was a title of respect or courtesy, equivalent to the English Sir, used in the Ottoman Empire.
When the SYNTAX team researched this story further, we found an old, washed out engraving on the internet depicting the visage of Yousef Afandi, appearing as a well groomed, elegantly dressed man. We immediately felt we found the perfect name and logo for this new barbershop. We worked with our friends at Greatmade, the German design and illustration collective, to revive the portrait in an appropriate woodcut style.
Longtime SYNTAXer Hussein Alazaat created an elegant rendition of the brand name in the traditional Taaleeq Arabic calligraphic style. The visual language of the brand was born. Signage, in-store graphics, packaging and web design followed in simple, striking back and white with a touch of mandarine orange.
When gentlemen, young and old, come to the new Yousef Afandi barbershop in the Prince Rashid district in Amman to get a haircut, a shave or an all-encompassing grooming experience, masterfully delivered by experienced barbers, they will be under the watchful eye of the elegant scholar from a bygone era, who introduced the Arab region to the refreshing citrusy delight of the mandarine orange, that earned him a place in history.