Blooming like dandelions in a field, the image of my ear hairs in the mirror alerts me to one of my favorite rituals: it’s time for a trip to the barber shop. Although my barbers don’t trim either my ear weeds or the brow confetti , they do get the Wolverine mane that creeps up in the rear shirt collar region. The old school guys apply a straight razor on my neck for a nice smooth finish, possibly touching it up with a warm towel and a dash of witch hazel.
A trip to the barber while growing up was great not just because my dad, my brother, and I were male bonding, but because I always looked forward to that guaranteed lollipop. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee Greta ever going to the barber shop with me.
Perhaps my intuition here is sexist, but I assume first of all that she would prefer to get her up-do at the salon. Barber shops offer combs, clippers, and scissors – not foils, wraps, dyes, relaxers, perms, curling irons, crimpers, wax, or $50 shampoos in 6-ounce containers.
But secondly, the barber shop is more than just a place for $15 hair cuts. The storefront with the red, white, and blue swirly sign-thing outside the door is a sort of dude sanctuary. A good barber can shoot the breeze about anything: current events, sports, politics, women, you name it. The best chats extend beyond the guy sitting in the chair to the gallery of dudes within earshot. (I imagine ladies experience a similar sense of escape at the salon except $15 probably pays for only a six- or seven-toe pedicure.)
Waiting for their turn, customers peruse the standard reading material: tattered sports sections and 6-month old Sports Illustrateds, or the coveted nudie mags. You need to dig around for them, though, because they’re usually in the hands of the guys who arrived ahead of you. (For the record, I just read Playboy for the articles … and, um, to stay current about the most recent celebrities posing nude … I mean, it’s kind of like our Us Weekly. Moving on.)
“Skip’s” is a small place up the street for me. Bobby Cards is an old guy who hangs around there entertaining customers with his Donald Duck voice impersonations and card tricks that are about 67% successful. While sitting around, he’ll also show you pictures of his Cadillac and his winter home in Florida. Total character. My buddy Fun Boobs swears that Bobby greased him for a $20 bill that somehow disappeared when he went to pay for a trim.
Recently, a new trend has emerged, of which I frankly don’t know what to make. Shops previously content with AM radio broadcasts suddenly have enormous, flat screen TVs with ESPN telecasts blaring. Lollipop jars have been replaced by full service bars and cappuccino machines. Instead of waiting for the grandfatherly, white haired man in a tie and blue overcoat, I choose between a 20-something wearing a t-shirt tight enough to cut off circulation or his buddy with the alternate Celtics away jersey complete with gold chain and backwards, straight brim ball cap. Some of these new fangled places are even open for business on the previously sacred off-day of Mondays!
Is this a product of the “metrosexual” phenomenon or simply an industry adjusting to a more competitive market full of men with limited time and shorter attention spans? Or am I simply slipping prematurely into an old school generation nostalgically lamenting about what it was like in the good old days?
Whatever the situation, I’m off to “Skip’s” for my boy’s regular. Number two clippers on the back and sides. Scissors on top. No gel. Hey Bobby, show us that card trick again.