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Volume 16, Issue 4 - January 24 - January 30, 2008


Where Have All the Barber Shops Gone?

In search of a vanishing species

by Allen Delaney

Barberous Tabernus, more commonly the Barber Shop, is a vanishing species in our country. Salons, spas and stylists with cutesy names such as The Hair Port or Snips and Clips have replaced the corner barbershop.

Us guys middle-aged and older don’t want styles. We just want a haircut. No gels, perms or foils, whatever that is; just a plain, dry cut.

True story: I went to a salon called Fantastic Someone Or Other, and asked for a plain haircut. Nothing fancy, no shampoo, just a haircut. The stylist said she didn’t know how to cut dry hair. Only Kelly knew how to do that. So I made an appointment with Kelly.

When I walked in five minutes ahead of my scheduled time, I was told to wait since others were before me. “I made an appointment for 11:30,” I told Kelly. “We’re busy today.” she said. “That’s why I made an appointment,” I explained. She looked at me like a cow staring at a new fence. “But we’re busy,” was again her reply. I walked out.

I still needed a haircut, so my wife suggested that I go to her salon. I called to ask if they could cut my hair dry. “No,” was the answer. “Why?” was my question. “Because cutting dry hair dulls our scissors,” was the response. “How can my hair be thinner when it’s wet?” I asked. Their retort: Silence.

He directed me to a small shop, complete with the spiraling barber’s pole, located, literally, over the railroad tracks, in the middle of what had to be the oldest stores in the nation.

In 1985, my folks lived in Greer, South Carolina. On a visit, I

asked my father where he got his hair cut. He directed me to a small shop, complete with the spiraling barber’s pole, located, literally, over the railroad tracks, in the middle of what had to be the oldest stores in the nation. These brick storefronts had been there since mortar was invented. Inside was a scene out of Mayberry. There were old burgundy Naugahyde chairs with the occasional rips and tears, piles of outdated magazines, an old oil-heat stove in the back, worn black-and-white tile flooring and a calorie-challenged guy snoring in the rear-corner chair.

The bespectacled barber, thin and slightly hunched, could have been anywhere between 50 and 75. He welcomed me to his classic barber chair. As we talked, I mentioned my dad’s name. The barber knew him all right, but then again, he knew everyone in Greer. We chatted about the weather and how the local crops were doing, especially his ripening ’maters.

As we talked, he clipped. Every once in a while, the snoring guy would wake, put in his two cents worth of chatter and resume snoring. When done, the barber honed his straightedge razor on a strap, lathered my neck with warm shaving cream and carefully shaved the back of my neck. After that, he took his clippers and trimmed my mustache. Then he eyed my sideburns and evened them up. Once done, he brushed off the loose hairs and lightly powdered my neck with scented talc. All for $3.50. Three dollars if you were retired.

Along with the times, the price of a haircut has changed. A quick thin and trim, taking 15 minutes, costs $15. That works out to $60 an hour.

I miss the old-fashioned barbershops my Dad knew.

So, if you know a great barbershop that still serves quality cuts at reasonable prices where you don’t feel like you’re on an assembly line, let me know. Include the address, the shop’s name and a short reason why you feel it’s a great shop for a guy to get a trim. I can’t guarantee I’ll get to all of them, but I will follow up at a later date.

Email me at [email protected]

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