For years I thought the barber shops I grew up seeing on reruns of shows like Andy Griffith had gone the way of the dodo. I had resigned to having to go to places like Super Cuts or Great Clips and just getting the same assembly line hair cuts as the rest of the world. I grew up going to a “salon” with my mom to get my haircut and had never really had an experience with a barber so I never went looking for one once I was old enough to drive myself to get a hair cut. This lead to two unfortunate occurrences:
1. I hated getting my haircut. Even though I didn’t know any different, going to run-of-the-mill cosmetology chain locations just never felt right. I hated the smell (you know, that perm junk smell), they always played bad music, and had a magazine selection to make most men gag. On top of not liking the environment, I was never very pleased with the haircut I got. It seemed like the attending cosmetologist was just focused on getting my hair cut as quickly as possible. I understand the idea of making money and more customers means more money, but come on! You don’t have to look at a crappy haircut everyday!
2. I would go months between hair cuts. Since I hated going to get my haircut I would push it off as long as possible. This lead to very poor appearance and may have been why I never had much luck with the ladies. I hated the idea of shelling out $15 for a haircut that I probably wasn’t going to enjoy from a place I hated going. It just didn’t make sense.
But one day, something happened. My mother, completely disgusted with my appearance, ordered me to get a haircut. I explained how much I hated the places I had been going and she then chose to inform me that our elderly neighbor was a licensed barber and had a chair in his garage. So, begrudgingly, I went over to Mr. Allen’s and asked for a hair cut.
I have probably had hundreds if not thousands of hair cuts in my life, but up to that point I didn’t remember any of them. But I remember the day Mr. Allen cut my hair. It was perfect. His garage smelled like grass clippings and gasoline. His chair was leather and extremely comfortable. He took his time, we talked about sports and the weather and girls. It was the first time I ever enjoyed getting my hair cut. And to top it off, it was probably the best hair cut I had ever received.
This lead me to decide I was never going to go to a “Chain Store Haircut Emporium” ever again. Unfortunately, Mr. Allen moved away shortly after he cut my hair, leaving me once again shaggy and unkempt. Luckily, I was able to find a classic barber shop on the main street of my home town where I now get my haircut every other Friday.
So, what was it about Mr. Allen that made his abilities at cutting hair so much more proficient? He knew how to cut men’s hair. I didn’t know it at the time but there is a real, fundamental difference between cosmetologists and barbers. Here is a short breakdown of the difference:
-Trained in both men’s and women’s styles.
-Trained in other areas such as: pedicures, manicures, waxing treatments, facials and makeup application.
-Trained only in men’s styles
-Trained more for facial hair trimming, using a straight razor (most states don’t even allow those with a cosmetology license to use a straight razor)
On top of those differences, take into consideration the fact that barbers are trained to cut hair with shears, while cosmetologists focus on scissors. Shears are the main tool used for cutting men’s hair because of the closer cut styles, while scissors are used primarily for women because of their longer styles.
Another interesting fact is that, while there may not be as many barbers out there and one could argue there isn’t as much demand for barbers, according to education-portal.com, barbers are paid an average of $3,000-$7,000 more annually. This leads to less of an emphasis on shuffling customers out as quick as possible in order to make more in tips.
One of the things I enjoy most about going to the barbershop is having the chance to “chew the fat” with other men of the town. Our mayor, county police chief, and several county office officials all get their hair cut at the barber. We also have a large military base nearby and the barber offers special discounts to our fighting men. This leads to great conversation and a chance to rub shoulders with some fo the movers and shakers of our community. Not to mention the fact that the barber himself, Alan, who has been barbering for 40+ years in locations ranging from a Navy Aircraft Carrier to the factory of his previous employer, has great stories to tell and is just an interesting guy to talk to.
If you have never gone to a barbershop, I highly encourage you to do so. Get a great hair cut, a relaxing neck shave with warm lather and a straight razor, and just enjoy being a man. If you don’t walk out of the barbershop feeling manlier than when you went it, turn around and make sure you didn’t accidentally walk into a Great Clips or something like that.