Thursday, August 13, 2009

That's A Pretty Nice Haircut

A haircut has what. Association. Calendar on the wall.
Mirrors everywhere.
-Don DeLillo

It's that time of the month again, time to prune my ever-thinning locks of hair. Cheered on by the mid-August murk that's descended upon the eastern seaboard, I'm sporting, against my better instincts, a kind of ad-hoc ducktail. It needs to go.
Unlike the female lead in this summer's Wes Anderson knock-off, (500) Days of Summer, I've neither loved my "long dark hair," nor "how easily [I] could cut it off and not feel a thing." And not only because the window for growing my hair long has closed -- slammed -- shut.
Too often I've settled for the discount barbershops, your Bo Rics, your Supercuts, your Fantastic Sams (no apostrophe, fellas?). It's time to graduate to a full-blown (pun intended) experience, the real McCoy: mirrors edged with yellowed clippings of high school football triumphs not of the current decade; the lead barber, Gussie, who inherited the shop from his father, Big Gus, and wears matching rhinestone encrusted pinky rings; the dim hope that a shave with warm lotion and a straight razor is the fanning of a few GW's away.
Surely I'm being nostalgic, tracking back to "Y" (Yale) Haircutting, a barber I frequented when living in downtown New Haven, CT, where much of the above is still possible. Like the dive bar regulars who sit on a corner stool farthest from the door, at "Y" there were the local-friends-of-staff who sat in their designated chairs away from the haircutting, there to return the volleys of barber commentary ("Hot one today." "Sure is." "Can you believe what 'xyz public official' did now?" "It's beyond me. This country's in the shitter.") Repeat daily. They seemed to never leave.
"A barber is a place where you can get a haircut," writes Geoff Dyer. "That's the defining quality of the establishment but certain other elements are also essential: the availability of conversation (if required), reading matter and a task-specific seat (midway between the regular chairs provided for waiting customers and the frightening specialism of a dentist's chair.)" A suitable definition, but somewhat parochial. The photographer Edward Weston (no relation) got at something deeper: "I always feel denuded from the barber shop -- quite immodest: and seated in the chair I feel helpless -- anything may happen."

What do you think of when you think about barber shops? Is a trip to the salon one that elicits dread, that, like Samson, loss of hair is loss of life force? Or do you look forward to a haircut as a chance for renewal, that in the trusted hands of scissor-wielding men and women holds a new you?
Peter Brown: Barber Shop, Brownfield, Texas, 1994.

Michael Ormerod: Untitled, Undated.

Christiaan Geirgio salon, Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Sign, 5th Ave. btw 14th and 15th Streets, Brooklyn, NY

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At August 18, 2009 at 10:13 AM , OpenID theghostinthepantry said...

Excellent idea for a post. :) The barbershop pole is still spinning in many towns. Such a great piece of Americana!


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