Friday, February 20, 2009

The Old School Barbershop

Mr. Peacock has had a few hairdresser friends cut his hair over the years, but for the most part, he’s always gone to an old school neighborhood barbershop. There’s something about climbing into the old barber chair, with the sound of hair clippers humming, that is very comforting.

Many boys cry at their first visit to the barbershop, but not Mr. Peacock. I can still remember as a small boy loving the “shininess” of the barbershop—with the gleaming chrome barber chairs, shiny scissors and the wall of mirrors. I also liked the smells of the menthol shaving cream and old fashioned hair tonics wafting in the air.

My father had the same hairstyle (see photo below) his entire life—short and slicked back in waves. He always cut his hair himself; sitting on the edge of the bathroom sink, holding a hand mirror and little scissors—usually smoking a cigarette at the same time. My mom tried cutting my dad’s hair once with clippers and it was a huge disaster. Since college, Mr. Peacock has always had some model of Wahl Clippers in his possession, trimming his own hair and successfully cutting many friend’s hair too. I’ve begged my partner, Jason, numerous times to trim my hair, but he adamantly says no—fearing a hair catastrophe like my mother.

Above: Mr. Peacock as a child, with his barbershop haircut, and his father (I think he's licking his lips in this shot, but you can see his hairstyle) smoking a cigarette.

Like most of the boys at my junior high school, I had shoulder length “feathered” hair when I was about 12 years old. I can remember my younger sister and myself standing near my father at the club, where he was the golf pro, and a new member complimenting him on his lovely daughters, referring to my sister and myself. I was mortified and remember thinking—I do not look like a girl! My dad hit the roof, and had my mother take me to the barbershop the next day. I shed a few tears, not because I disliked the barbershop, but because I would be the lone geek with a super short buzz-cut at school.

When I lived at 72nd and Lexington in New York (near Paul Mole Barbershop), I would always get my hair cut at the York Barbershop by a very soft spoken old Greek gentleman. They had women barbers too, but somehow it wasn’t the same experience as getting your hair cut by an older man who has cut hair his entire life. While you waited your turn in the barber chair, you were always welcome to peruse dog-eared Playboy or Sports Illustrated magazines.

I still get my hair cut at an old neighborhood barbershop, but it has more of a woodsy 1970’s San Francisco vibe, than the shiny traditional barbershop vibe with the red, white and blue barber pole. At my San Francisco barber you’re offered a Bud Light and can peruse old Honcho or Men’s Journal magazines, instead of the old school Playboys. But, you still get an old fashioned barber hair cut for only $18 bucks.

Above: F.S.C. Barbershop in Manhattan, and Rudy's Barbershop at the Standard Hotel in Los Angeles.

Mr. Peacock was worried that the old fashioned barber shops of America were going to disappear, but is pleased with the revival of old school style barber shops like Freemans’s Sporting Club in New York, and to a lesser extent, Rudy’s Barbershops on the West Coast. There’s something charming about the informal atmosphere and camaraderie of a barbershop that most salons don't have. Where do you get your hair cut—barbershop or salon?

10 comments:

The Rural Modernist said...

I'm an old school barber shop devotee like you. After many years of buzz cuts, I'm growing out my pompadour with the help of my rockabilly barber and LayRite Deluxe Pomade.

Shop Boy said...

When I was in junior high, my dad insisted that I be dragged to an old, cranky barber who didn't cater to the damn girly locks that we favored at school.

The barber's revenge: The Regular Boy's Haircut.

My revenge on my dad: The mean old barber was a foul-mouthed magician -- just awful stuff. But when he asked for a volunteer from the audience at a brother-in-law's bachelor party to give him $5, I made my dad do it. Dad grudgingly forked over the money, which the magician/barber lit on fire and let burn away to nothing on the floor.

When my dad asked for it back, the magician huffed and said, "It's gone. Poof!" and then his catchphrase: "Watch the fucking trick!"

He was serious.

I'd never seen an expression quite like that on Dad's face.

Another great blog entry, Mr. P.

Uncle Beefy said...

Haircuts aren't much of a necessity for me anymore. But while I don't miss my hair quite so much, I do miss the ritual. I am dying to visit the Freeman's Sporting Club!!! At least for a shave anyway. ;)

david john said...

great posting, im new to your blog. paul pincus sent me your way, and im glad he did!

this modern gentleman always needs tips :)

ive put you on my blogroll, hope that's ok!

all the best,
david
los angeles


http://youhavebeenheresometime.blogspot.com/

Paul Pincus said...

brilliant post. paul mole!!!

happy weekend, mr. p!

bevglen said...

I was going to Paris and had been growing my hair so that I could have a french haircut like Alain Delon's in PURPLE NOON; I'd had lousy buzz-type cuts in NYC! It was arranged for me to have an appointment with Delon's hairdresser!
When he finished, it looked just like the "lousy buzz-type cut" I'd gotten in NYC! Since that experience so long ago, I've never trusted any barber but have cut my own hair and finally have gotten compliments!

satanarchy said...

sweeney todd's on Hollywood Blvd in LA.

Mr. Peacock said...

Thanks barber guys...

I'm not a big hair product guy myself,
but I'm gonna try that LayRite Deluxe Pomade
and check out Sweeney Todd's next time I'm in LA.

"Watch the fucking trick!"...hysterical story Shop Boy!

The first time I had a shave at a barbershop I was terrified!
I quivered while I watched the barber sharpen the long straight edge blade,
but the warm shaving cream overcame my fear...and it was wonderful.

Every gentlemen needs tips!

I'm sorry Alain Delon's hairdresser was a disappointment.
Yes, I've had more than my fair share of lousy haircuts too.
I've tried cutting my own hair, but it always starts looking
like a bad mullet, because I can't cut the back.

Mike said...

I rmbr my dad dragging me to the barber when I was in the 9th grade to cut off my long over the ears collar length in back feathered style. I was being taught humility for getting in a fight and making bad grades. I can rmber him telling the barber to "give the boy an old fashioned short taper cut and to part my hair on the side" Of course he parted it first and left it much longer on one side of the part when he cut it- so that I was locked into wearing it that way, I griped to my dad that the bangs were crooked and angled. The barber told my dad he had something to fix that and I was treated to a thick coating of Wild Root Cream Oil, he then slicked my hair back from my forehead in this nice little "50's flip and then sold a bottle to my dad- much to my dissatisfaction, I was stuck with that style for the remainder of the school year as my dad made me use that stuff daily and go back for the same cut several times- I really stood out being it was 1981. Now its 20 years later and I find myself going to an old barbershop and getting that same cut and enjoying it. I have even starting using the old school pomades again, there's just something about a nice tapered cut finished off with dressing to make it shine and stay in place

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