There is an old adage that states “there are two things every man should have in this life: a good bartender and a good barber.” Now of course this shouldn’t pertain strictly to men; alcohol and a haircut should always be equal opportunity.
When it came to men’s fashion in generations past, the American barbershop was a crucial corner stone. But for our generation, the barbershop is always regarded as an urban legend of sorts. Much like the Mothman, everyone talks about barbershops, but few have ever actually seen one. That is until recently. With every passing year men’s fashion becomes increasingly more prevalent (thank you hipsters!) and a good haircut is fashion’s backbone. Luckily for us, the American barbershop is currently undergoing its own renaissance in cities nationwide, including some of our own here in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
“I think the reemergence of barber shops is great in America and in the Mid-Ohio Valley.”
David Mclntyre, a barber at Ray’s Barber shop located in South Side of Parkersburg, W.Va. said, “It’s a dying art, and the fact that there is starting to be a larger amount of younger people getting into it is nice.”
Many men of this generation have never had the pleasure of stepping into a barbershop, settling instead for chains like Sports Clips, the Hooters of hair, or salons that cater almost specifically to women. While cosmetologists are more than able to provide men with an excellent hair cut, there is a certain intimacy and understanding with a man’s hair that is missing, and a machismo that even the least manly of guys seek. You can spend hundreds of dollars on an outfit, but it’s going to be overlooked if you have fly-a-ways littering an otherwise good head of hair. Those are the fine details, the nitty-gritty if you will, that barbers never overlook. They know that even though a cut may look great after a couple of minutes in the chair, it’s the long term that matters. They know men’s hair.
The barbershop environment also plays a big part in its appeal. When you walk into most salon chains, you’re told to sign in and wait patiently for the next person to acknowledge you. But a barbershop offers a welcoming, safe environment where, instead of a halfhearted hello and someone pointing down to the aforementioned sign in sheet, you’re greeted warmly and ushered over to the chair with a handshake or a hug. Even if you do have to wait, you’re included in the conversation, and depending on the shop, offered a drink. You’re instantly among friends.
“When you have a regular barber, you develop a rapport with each other.” David said, “You know what you’re getting. A haircut, a laugh, advice, conversation.”
With the continued expansion of men’s fashion, barber shops are just as important now as they ever were, and not just for the obvious grooming reasons. Yes, they are a place where men can feel like men while being pampered, but also a place where friendships are forged. Human interaction and relationship building is key, and as we become more technologically advanced, it’s something that is lost more and more.
Barbershop culture is something every man, or woman, who wants a change of pace, should take part in. If not for a great haircut, then for the camaraderie alone – paying your barber a visit is one of the few great remaining American pastimes. If the classic black suit is The Fonz of men’s fashion, then the American barbershop is Frank Sinatra; classic cool.