Ye Ole' Rusty Barber
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Barbershop. What does that word invoke for you? For me, before I got into this thing, my only experience with a barber was a second hand haircut.
I come from a big sized family in a middle sized economic class; I have five brothers and one sister, so there wasn't a whole lot of 'disposable income' for luxuries like a professional haircut. Luckily my mom got real good with clippers and shears and could give killer mullets, and later on (unfortunately) super clean bowl cuts.
ugh the bowl cut. moving on.
So back to the second hand haircut. My buddy and his little brother were commissioned by their mother to go get haircuts at the barbershop. If I Remember correctly there was a bit of griping, which I was confused by because I loved getting my haircut. But they knew something that I didn't...-
We made our way down Broadway Street in the little one-blinking-stoplight town that I grew up in; no adult supervision was needed for a couple twelvish year-olds and a ten or so year-old because, as you can imagine, in a town of 1500 or so people, with the top speed limit being 25 mph, there weren't a lot of threats to our health and well-being besides whatever trouble we could get ourselves into.
As we walked into the barbershop, the most prominent memory is that of the olfactory kind.
The old, musty, dusty cigarette smell of years past when laws didn't prohibit people from smoking indoors remains the most accessible recollection. Following this, and maybe just additional to this, was how dark and stale the shop seemed, to the extent that even the barber and her client seemed like they had dressed themselves with clothes that had been stored in an attic. I'm sure that my boyhood imagination is just taking excessive license in this regard, but hey, that's how I remember it.
I don't recall much more than this besides the humming of the clippers and the awkward silence propagated both by my friends who seemed to suffer through the experience, and by the barber who was just doing business as usual.
This first experience at the barbershop seared into my mind a generalization of what all shops must feel like. But really, I have found this to be more often the rule, rather than the exception.
Dusty, stale, tired.
However, in the last decade or so, there has been a reformation in the barbering biz. As life has become faster and noisier, a desire, or maybe even a desperation for slow and calm has led a whole generation to reach back to a place and time when 'efficiency' and 'convenience' weren't the thesis statements in society. This longing has manifested in many ways, but primarily, anything that promotes an interpersonal environment. The barbershop fits into this dynamic perfectly.
You see, back in the day the barbershop was a part of the routine. Just like reading the physical newspaper to get the...you guessed it - news! The barbershop was where men socially networked and talked about what was going on in the world, in the country, and in their community. It was a rhythm of community.
This all but died in most places when long hairstyles became the new fad and either-sex salons became the mainstay. Salons focus on the personal experience rather than the communal aspect.
My experience so far working in different kinds of shops; big, small, loud, quiet, hip and worn out, has forged my convictions in what I want my business to be. One tendency for shops, regardless of type or form, is that when they become established and/or successful there can be a gentrification that takes place. This generally happens either by pricing out, or by isolating out the lower income and/or the lower class. Being from humble beginnings, it has disturbed me to see this trend; perhaps the most exciting aspect of starting my own shop was that I have full liberty to welcome, rather than reject, honor rather than neglect any and every person that walks into my shop.
Because really, the true barbershop is a place for anyone who is looking to connect and get fantastic haircut, no matter how clean and pristine or dusty and musty the environment might be.