Thursday, October 6, 2011
I went to the same barber all the way up into college. He was in a classic barber shop called Hawkeye Barber. It’s in downtown Iowa City and I don’t remember going anywhere else. My grandpas got their haircut there, my dad got his haircut there, and my brothers and I got our haircut there. There were four, and then five barbers that were in a row. Before the haircut I read Mad magazine, afterwards, Dennis would give me a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. That was all I needed, nothing fancy. It was a regular, stable part of my life. I remember I even used to get Dennis confused with my doctor in my head sometimes, both healed, in different ways.
Eventually, I stopped going, I think after college. When I started going somewhere else, I realized that people tipped their barbers. I never knew about it. I had stiffed Dennis for 20 years. Not only that, I was late to a majority of appointments.
The problem is that guys don’t talk about hair and barbers as much as women talk about hair and hair stylists, and I think it’s time they did. I got my haircut the other day and I’ve been thinking about barber observations. I hope to start an open dialogue amongst men.
Top 10 Barbershop Rules
1. Know what to say when the barber asks, “What do you want?” I never know and always say, “Some off the sides, and a little off the top.” Could I be more vague? That is the haircut for 90% of men. Usually, they will trim the sides and then show me how much they’re planning to take off the top and I say, “Sure.” We need to have vocabulary for such things because measurements don’t do in that situation. “I would like 3/8 of an inch off the top please.” We should use occasions as measurements. “I would like a wedding” would mean just a little, I need to look good for tomorrow.” “Give me a Doritos afternoon” means I don’t really care, no one is going to see me. “Give me a neo-Nazi rally” would be a buzz.
2. Decide early on how much you want to talk. I’ve gone through haircuts where I talk the whole time, and I’ve gone through others where I say not a word. It’s your decision, it’s their job to follow your lead.
3. Decide what you want to talk about. I’ve started writing down discussion topics on a notecard and handing it to the barber when I sit down. It gives us an outline for the next half hour.
4. Going to the barber is one of the only times it is acceptable for a man to tickle another man while at work. Let’s be honest, when they get to the neck, it really tickles. I tend to go with the method where I hold one arm down with the other arm under the smock they have given me.
5. Tip. I don’t know how much, but tip.
6. Learn what the barber likes to talk about and then read up on it before you arrive, it makes the conversation go smoothly.
8. Pick a barbershop that is as cool as you, don’t try to play up. I go to a place here called Floyd’s. It’s very cool. Everyone that works there has crazy hair and tattoos. The decorum says, “We’re bad ass and we know it.” I feel like such a simpleton when I go there wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and not smoking, and only able to name one Nine Inch Nails song. I am drawn to it though because I think it will make me cooler somehow.
9. For the love of God, go to a place that gives you a shampoo and head massage afterwards. Do it. Now. It is the best thing ever, just be sure not to moan as it’s happening, you’ll be tempted.
10. If you run into someone you know who just got their haircut, tell them it looks great, even if it doesn’t. Guys like to think that they’re above vanity, but really we’re not. Even if it looks like the haircut was done with a Swiss Army knife and a blender you say, “Oh hey man, nice haircut, looks good.” Don’t go into too many details, you’ll give yourself away.