As I recall, neither of my sons have set foot in an honest-to-goodness barber shop. I’ve tried from time to time over the years to lure them into my barber’s shop, but they have a preference for those hair salons that have popped up the past few decades. Such a shame.
When I was a kid, most of my haircuts took place in our basement with one of my parents wielding the clippers. This was a far cry from the comfy big leather chairs that my father undoubtedly enjoyed for himself. I realized what I was missing when I started to pay for my own haircuts, at just about the time I started college.
Since I was on a budget, I opted for a barber school in downtown Omaha. The price was right and they wouldn’t let you out of the place until your hair was inspected by the head instructor, a tight-lipped, straight-backed young man with sculpted hair who preferred nodding and pointing to actual conversation and smelled of Sen-Sen.
I eventually graduated to a two-chair shop in my neighborhood, where they actually trimmed nose and ear hair and eyebrows. They even applied a hot lather with a soft badger shaving brush and used a straight razor to block the back and trim your sideburns. It was heaven.
It’s no wonder that the shops were full on Saturdays with older men who appreciated the personalized service and lively banter among friends while dropping in for a "high and tight" or "three-finger fade." The smells of talc and bay rum mingled with Jeri’s Hair Tonic and Pinaud and Clubman toiletries to create an intoxicating atmosphere.
For a time in the 1970s I briefly strayed to a hair stylist. It was a two-seat shop that required at least a few hours notice. Despite the higher prices and shelves lined with fancy shampoos, conditioners and pomade, it was still basically a barber shop with an appointment book.
When I moved to Des Moines nearly 30 years ago, I found a simple barber shop, one with a candy cane pole beside the front door. It’s now a two-generation family shop boasting pictures of dad giving junior his first haircut and junior trimming up pop in his first professional gig.
There’s always a pot of coffee brewing with complimentary doughnuts or cookies in plain view. Most of the customers know each other and conversation flows freely. The reading material is more current and topical than your typical doctor’s office and the TV is fed by satellite, including all day games of the locally popular Chicago Cubs.
Who could ask for anything more?
Writing prompt for the day: Are there any hair-cutting stories in your family history?
Flickr photo courtesy of naotakem.