WASHINGTON — As COVID-19 lockdowns shuttered businesses across the nation in early 2020, West Wing aides began to sidle off into a downstairs bathroom in the next-door Eisenhower Executive Office Building — for appointments with a black-market barber, The Post has learned.
With barbers across downtown Washington closed under local orders, the underground operation kept then-President Donald Trump’s staff looking their best as they battled a once-in-a-century pandemic.
The service was so popular that the Trump White House re-established an official barbershop after years without one — and it appears the Biden administration has kept it around.
The initial secret operation — a source of intrigue and humor among Trump’s staff — employed a female Asian-American duo that sources say were recommended to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ wife, Debbie Meadows, by the wife of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Four former White House aides said Meadows’ role in establishing the speakeasy coiffeur was widely known to his staff.
“Jim Jordan’s wife introduced them to Debbie Meadows and then Mark got the idea to bring them in during the pandemic,” a former White House official told The Post.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and his wife, Debbie Meadows spearheaded a secret operation to give out haircuts while barber shops were closed during the pandemic. Getty Images
“[Meadows] said he was bringing in this lady to cut hair [and] told people to email Beau [Harrison] to book an appointment.” Harrison worked as an assistant to the president for operations and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A different former White House official confirmed that Meadows “had his personal barber go to the EEOB and do it [and] had people schedule it through the [operations] shop.”
The service was a hit, especially among young men in the White House. One of the women operating out of the bathroom workspace cut hair. The other handled snacks and payment — which could amount to $60 or $70 with tip included.
The assistant would insist on photos with nearly all of the customers, flattering them by declaring they were political celebrities.
“I’m sure they would have agreed to style women, though it was definitely targeted to the male staffers. I can’t say for sure if any women ever went,” the first former White House aide said.
The success of the unofficial system gave momentum to inking a permanent in-house barber by fall 2020, and the deal went to the nearby Wall’s Barber Shop, which was frequented by White House staff before it was forced to close by the pandemic. An asbestos removal project in the building it formerly occupied has jeopardized its reopening.
A view of the West Wing and Eisenhower Executive Office Building, (right) of the White House in Washington, DC.NurPhoto via Getty Images
Wall’s Barber Shop owner Dale Simmons told The Post that his sister, Makia Simmons, was cleared last year to cut hair at the White House office building. He plans to join her once the Internal Revenue Service clears his required paperwork.
“She’s holding that down until present notice,” he said in an interview. “She decided to go over there, which I’m really happy for, because I couldn’t go at the moment because I was dealing with [IRS] stuff.”
A Trump White House alum said that preliminary prices for the permanent shop were $45 for a haircut, $25 for a shape up and $15 for a beard trim, though a different source said those numbers are subject to change. Several White House staff recalled the barber shop being open around the Nov. 3 election.
One former White House staffer said that male staffers, particularly those from New York, “would go there and they were all excited.”
Makia Simmons referred The Post’s questions to the White House press office after seeking guidance. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. An aide to Meadows declined to comment.
Before the pandemic, many White House staff patronized Wall’s Barber Shop and Vice President Mike Pence was a frequent client. Pence sometimes jogged across the street for a quick trim and was well-liked among staff.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (right) and his wife Debbie Meadows at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on January 20, 2021.AFP via Getty Images
“Pence is a really good guy, he actually should be president one day — smart and intelligent guy,” said Dale Simmons.
But Simmons said he’s served prominent officials and journalists across the political spectrum and hopes that Biden is able to effectively lead the nation toward economic recovery — and that he will be there to give him a trim.
“I’m ready to get back to work,” said Simmons, who spent much of the pandemic with his six-year-old son in Northeast DC.
Simmons believes his shop’s longstanding reputation for serving White House staff helped land the new gig. “With the staff coming in and out of the barber shop, they may have felt that it was a perfect fit,” he said.
Dale Simmons bought the shop 16 years ago from its namesake, Harry Walls, a member of the celebrated African-American Tuskegee Airmen. Walls started his operation in 1967 one block east of the White House on 15th St, according to his 2005 obituary in the Washington Post. Seven years ago, Simmons relocated the business to 17th St.
It’s unclear if the reestablishing of the White House barbershop will return the position to its glory days of the 1970s through early ’90s, when barber Milton Pitts operated from the West Wing basement. Pitts dispensed style tips to presidents and fended off challenges from rivals who preferred more artistic “styling” of hair — proclaiming “I’m completely happy” when two rival hairdressers were sacked in 1982. Pitts departed after criticizing Bill Clinton’s $200 Beverly Hills snip.
The Biden White House’s apparent decision to keep the restored barber shop won praise from Trump White House staff, but also scorn for Democratic reluctance to reopen businesses more broadly. One noted strict new press access rules imposed in January.
“The Biden presidency motto: do as I say, not as I do,” a former White House official told The Post. “The fact that he will keep open the White House barber shop while shutting down the press covering him tells you everything you need to know about his gaslight governing.”