I get my hair cut at a men’s barber shop. It is local, and it has been around for a long time. Charlie, the previous owner, has passed on the mantle to Sam, who comfortably continues this neighbourhood fixture according to tradition.
You know what to expect. First thing, is the haircuts are all pretty much the same, you don’t have to tell them how to cut it because a haircut is a haircut. No fancy salon specials going on here, just how long, or how short do you want it. This may not be for everyone I realize, but it suits me just fine.
What I like, is the familiarity. In a world of Starbucks and Home Depot, neighbourhood haunts have a hard time surviving. This makes them all the more valuable. There is a comfort that accompanies the tiny particulars of a place that have accumulated with time, that is unlike the homogenous presentation of big box stores. To find those stores the same, no matter the location disappoints me.
My barber Sam is a Christian Iraqi. Don’t start him on the topic of what has happened to his country, or you will see the scissors start to flash dangerously around your ears. But on the wall along with the usual pictures of men with variations of haircuts, there is the classic picture of Jesus, which has been there since Charlie and now is under the proprietary of Sam. I tell Sam to make me like that guy, and he always laughs at the same joke and tells me he needs better material to start with.
Saturday morning has a comfortable buzz, people coming in at their leisure with a coffee in hand. A variety of magazines are on the table in front of you. Sports illustrated, fishing and outdoor magazines, popular mechanics, men stuff. People line up in the row of chairs, quietly noting the order of who is next in line. Some joke and chat, others read the paper. I will see people I know from the neighbourhood and I tell them, “now I know why you look so good. We have the same barber”.
One of the most comical institutions, is the lollypop drawer. It’s there for the boys who come in for a cut, usually with their dads. There is delicious kind of freedom to this father and son roadshow which I will never know personally. Boys have a lot of energy, but they don’t have to be told to sit still here, the lollypop drawer takes care of that. The chair is jacked up to proper height, and they wait it out, then at the end while the hair is being swept up, they dash over to the lollipop drawer and pick a flavour as a reward for their patience. Two twins were in last time, and despite that their competition over who had the cooler hair cut, they still tested each other’s lollypops to see if the other colour tasted better.
Comfort, it’s in the little details. For example, (unlike my own house) the toilet seats are always up. This makes me feel good, like I belong there. There is no so-called toxic masculinity going on here, just everyday run-of-the-mill men’s stuff. I don’t think a lady would be chased away from the premises, but at the same time, I think a woman might come in, take a look around, scratch her head and leave, unable to see the charm.
Like I said, it’s in the details. At the men’s barbershop, they trim your eyebrows, nose hairs, AND ear hair without asking, and if you have the balls and want to treat yourself, you can get an old fashioned soap and lather shave with a straight razor. You better not sneeze in the chair by accident with that one, but the shave will last you for three days.
We live in a global village, but I am of the belief that the most charming and best world, is always local. Globalism feeds on the notion that universality is good for everyone. I say, it is fine as an ideal, but in the real world, something that is supposed to be for everyone, is really for no one in particular. Local and familiar can be a beautiful thing. One thing I know, the men’s barber shop is a small refuge from the world and I like it there. Men only. Ladies, feel free to stick your head inside and admire. Just don’t change anything.