Saturday, June 9, 2007

Beauty and the Barber

I get my hair cut about once per month. I used to go to my barber before he closed shop. Why do some men go to barbers and some go to beauty shops? You get the same basic haircut. Men's haircuts usually include the 'buzz cut' or the 'trim'. The buzz cut is pretty self explanatory. The trim involves cutting the patron's hair to look exactly the same as when he came in, only smaller. If you walk in with a 'helmet' of hair, a trim will have you leaving with a smaller 'helmet' of hair. I get a combination of the two. I get the sides buzzed and the top trimmed.

For those unfamiliar with barbershops, I will try to describe observations I have made through the years. The first thing you will notice is that only men go to barbershops. I have never seen a female getting a haircut in a barber shop. That is probably due to the female aversion to the 'buzz cut'. The barbershop decor is usually outdoor related. If there are any pictures on the walls, they are usually landscapes or wildlife. There is usually a fish mounted on the wall too. Sometimes, the fish sings. Sometimes a few sports related items are in view. And there is always, fake wood panelling.

Beauty shop walls show pictures of women with various hairstyles. Which is curious, because I don't remember seeing any customers getting any of those hairstyles. There is also one obligatory picture of a male with 1970's style cut and Magnum P.I. mustache. Beauty shops also include those massive, sit-down hair dryers. The ones that look like alien robots trying to suck your brain out of the top of your head. I also can't figure out how some women can carry on a conversation during the hair dryers' roar cycle. Conversations at the barber shop include sports, fishing, hunting and the weather. These exchanges are usually short, too the point and agreed with by everyone in the barber shop. There is rarely a political debate during a haircut.

Barber shops and beauty shops smell differently as well. A barber shop has the smell of dust mixed with the smell of the blue antiseptic that the combs are soaked in. Add a little 'old man sweat' and Aqua Velva, and you will be able to cut hair. Beauty shop odors include 'old lady perfume' mixed with Aqua Net hairspray. On a bad day, you can also expect 'perm fumes' to nauseate you. I think both places could be helped by ceiling fans. I suppose the hair on the floor would disagree. Although, it would be cool to see a hair clipping tornado.

Reading material also differs between establishments. Barber shop periodicals include the local paper, Field & Stream and Sports Illustrated. Beauty parlors have multiple 'hair style books' (usually 3 to 5 years old or more) and a Good Housekeeping or two.

One point where barbershops and beautyshops are alike is their sad box of 'toys'. These toys are usually broken or missing pieces or batteries. Even so, these toys have a magical effect on kids. No matter how pathetic they are, these toys get new life in the haircut places. There is such a lack of any other diversion, that children will actually wrestle for the Troll key-chain, or the Matchbox car missing two wheels.

I obviously do not know how my experience compares with others. I'm sure women have multiple levels of hair nirvana. That may be why a woman's cut costs more than a man's. I am sadden by the fact that barbershops are becoming obsolete. My dad took me to a barber and I have taken my son to a barber a few times. A beauty shop haircut is fine, but I am usually watching the clock until it is over. A barbershop makes me want to slow down time and 'set a spell'. I guess it also makes me talk like Andy Griffith.


Darren said...

I miss barbershops too. We don't even have one around here anymore. One that my Dad used to take me to had a pile of Playboys in the corner, but I was too scared of someone seeing me to ever look.

Sam-I-Am said...

I do my own buzz cut these days (my wife tidies up the bits I cant see), but I do miss the barber. Back in my home town, my regular also had "mens" magazines with either cars, fish or naked women in (an entire gender summed up so neatly.) He also sold cigars and "something for the weekend, sir?" - which was code for condoms. On holidays a complimentary sherry might be offered.

If you know a good old fashioned barber, its a nice treat to go in for a trim and wet shave - if you're lucky they'll do the whole hot towel treatment and you come out feeling just grand.

Denver Dad said...

"hair clipping tornado" Hehehe. Great, now *every* time I get my haircut I'm going to start snickering and then I'll have to explain the whole tornado thing to someone who won't find it nearly as funny as I did.

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.