Swagger at the Barbershop
The people who spew out generalities about “the hair making the man” should be put in the same camp as the people who talk about how their brand of soap gets you the cleanest and promptly shot. Men of swagger cannot be held back by male pattern baldness, cowlicks or the number of grays in their Grizzly Adams. That said, religious ascetics and polio victims aside, a man needs to get his haircut pretty regularly.
It’s one of those shared rituals we all share in, whether it was a buzz job performed by our dads on the back porch, a visit to the barber chair under autographed hockey posters, or the wham, bam thank you ma’am at the generic chain shop in the mini-mall. The haircut is the great equalizer, and more often than not the only substantial difference between a $15 haircut and a $100 dollar one is the price. The trick is finding a place that’s “yours”, and if that means going to the same place your dad went to, or scouring the earth all your days, it’s gotta be yours. When you find it, all you’ll ever have to do is nod when he asks “The regular?” With that in mind may we present:
The Swagger Guide to finding “your” Barber
Ambiance. Ambiance is why chain shops will never score high on the Man of Swagger’s list. You’ll be hard pressed to settle for a bland shop that’s a few degrees shy of a cubicle when you can go to a shop that was handed down three generations, lambasted with framed pictures of dignitaries that have sat in the very same chairs, and a barber pole kicking around somewhere. Or if you’re more into modern amenities, it’s a place with a slick presentation, good music and a strong hip factor. Whether they’re playing CBC on the radio, or ESPN on the widescreen, the shoppe you frequent should be providing you pleasure just for being there, and if it isn’t, keep walking.
Personality. A good barber is a grandmaster of the back-and-forth and can figure out in a heartbeat how much or how little conversation you’re interested in. Whether you want to vent about your team or your politics, whether you want refinement or a well-spring of dirty jokes, your barber should be delivering on the money. He should be equal parts bartender and fishing buddy, and if he can’t impart some folksy wisdom or get you laughing in the 15 minutes-plus you’re hanging around his shop, he’s not the guy for you. If you have a proper barber, you shouldn’t need a shrink.
Location, Location, Location. Unless you have the sort of money that lets you have a “live-in” barber, you’re going to drive yourself to your appointments, and that means your place should be close enough to where you call work or home. It makes sense, the best barbers are small businessmen and a part of your community, and they bullshit with all the princes and paupers on your block, so more than anybody else, they know what’s going on. Plenty of history’s business deals are instigated by the man with a razor and a mirror.
Skills. This trumps anything and everything else. Your guy has to have the skills to back it up. You could go to a barber that lets you play PS3, shoot the shit about football and give you a lap dance while he’s trimming the sides, but if he/she doesn’t do a good job, it’s all for naught. The same as not everybody who buys a microphone can be an MC, not just anybody who picks up a pair of scissors is fit to cut hair. A good barber will give you a consistently good haircut with no unordered variance of the norm. The thing to realize is that it’s not an easy job, and it’s not ever your job to suffer hacks lightly. Be picky, because if you live in any kind of city, there’s going to be a place out there exactly for you. When you find what you like, you’ve got a date every six weeks until you’re either completely bald or dead.
Written by: Jeremy P. Beal
Image courtesy of The Blind Barber
339 E. 10TH STREET
NEW YORK, NY 10009
Monday – Saturday: 12pm – 9pm
Sunday: 12pm – 6pm