Strawberry Mansion: Sly’s Barber Shop Still Sharp

Co-owner Melvin Wroten showed a picture of Muhammad Ali getting his hair cut at Sly's.
Co-owner Melvin Wroten showed a picture of Muhammad Ali getting his hair cut at Sly's.

In the early 1950s, Strawberry Mansion native Henry Sly started doing hair in his mother’s basement near 25th and Gordon streets. Soon after, in 1954, the business got so big that his mother kicked him out and he opened up Sly’s Barber Shop at 29th and Dauphin streets.

The shop attracted a number of celebrity clients including Muhammad Ali, James Brown and Pam Grier. To this day, it remains a well-known landmark, and one of the longest standing barbershops in the neighborhood. Originally a family business, it is now co-owned by Ralph Jones and Melvin Wroten.

Keeping close ties to the area is one way that makes Sly’s more than just another barber shop. The business holds community picnics and donates materials to children going back to school.

Jones began working at Sly’s in 1980 as a barber. Originally from southwest Philadelphia, Jones met Sly’s daughter while he was in school learning to do hair.

“I cut her hair and she liked it, and they sent me here. I’ve been here ever since,” Jones recalled. “It’s real reasonable as far as prices, and we got good workers.”

While several barber shops can be found throughout the surrounding area, Sly’s has managed to stay in business over the years. The old-time decor is reminiscent of its early days causing it to stand out and provides a nostalgic experience for local residents.

Every now and then you can still find Henry Sly cutting hair in the shop he opened over five decades ago. The shop has become a piece of Strawberry Mansion’s history.

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