I love barbershops


Nowadays I see men sporting the oddest haircuts or hairstyles inspired by cartoon characters from the Far East. This often spurs a slew of questions in my mind, where does one even go to get a haircut like that? Where do people who have their hair up like Son-Goku work? (Yep, that I reached) How do they do it? No concoction I know in existence can keep nearly a foot long of hair up. Since when did “metrosexual” become a word?

A man shouldn’t look like a woman. The only hairstyles I really know are barber’s cut, flat top, crew cut and shaved.

I once fetched a woman at a salon and to my utter astonishment there was a man there! He was getting his eyebrows threaded! Threading for the uninitiated involves the plucking of hair from a person’s face using thread, how this is more efficient than old fashioned tweezers escapes me. This person didn’t look like he had the unibrow of a lycanthrope so why what was he doing? I shunned at the horror.

But I must shamefully admit, in the not too distant past, in the darkness of my youth I too had gone to a salon for a hair cut. I went there thinking of what the premium would get me. Barbershops were considered a thing of the past by my peers, most were paying three times of what a barbershop haircut would cost. Salon’s were manned by stylists, experts in all thing follicular if you will, artisans who would craft an unruly head of hair into flowing locks and tresses that would rival a renaissance artist’s angel. I went in the salon full of expectations and sat and took in the sights and sounds of the place, the aromas of the scented air that created the signature salon ambiance. All of this led to even more heightened expectation. As a first time customer I was greeted by a receptionist who asked me to choose a stylist. It appeared that stylists were ranked according to skill and expertise with a corresponding cost or premium. Gleefully I decided to go with the most senior, the most accomplished as I was to be his canvas and my hair his masterpiece. I was led to a chair and discovered that my stylist had an assistant! An assistant! But of course! Even the great Michelangelo had his apprentices to do the minor tasks under his watchful scrutiny while he did the most important tasks himself. I was shampooed and dried until finally I was ready to meet the master. My stylist was a gay man, a veteran of styling competitions. He surveyed me quietly and asked me what I wanted. I answered in the most diplomatic way I could that I wanted him to make me beautiful in the most manly way lest I be mistaken, for I did not want to mislead him in any way as to my own sexual preference. Nodding slightly he went to work, I noticed it was only scissors he used and after the cut, the assistant led me back to the sink and washed my hair once more. I was towelled and brought back to the stylist who then applied wax to my head. Wax? I previously thought this was only for candles but here I was receiving the equivalent amount of wax that could go on my birthday cake. He was done, he was pleased. I slowly opened my eye as he presented his work to me with a mirror. My hair was doing things I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams, it was going in more directions than a Metro Manila traffic jam, heck it looked like I should be proceeding to a stage to be gyrating with the rest of a boyband. But was I happy? No.

What a calamity my hair was. It was rock hard and I had no idea how to wash it. Deep down inside I was too conservative, too old fashioned to pull that off. I could have given the style a chance but I had no idea how to do it or what to use. And for the cost of this haircut/styling I should have been issued a manual. A month later, back to my barber I was.

There is something soothing about going to a gentleman’s barbershop. It is clean and has no frills, piped in music straight from the radio and not some new age CD. You sit on your chair and a real man cuts your hair. My barber’s name is Johnny and he has arms like popeye because he works his farm on the weekend. He looks at me and immediately knows someone else has touched me. He looks at me with the admonishment of a man betrayed by the woman he loves. I sheepishly lied that he wasn’t there at the barbershop when I went a month ago. He knew I was lying, he, being a real man was hardly absent. He was silent and put the immaculate white barber bib on me and took his clippers and scissors that look like they could cleave a steak. He works on me then when he is done cutting gets the hot towels and begins to shave me with his cut throat razor. He then slathers my skin with his own concoction of menthol, alcohol and oil which stings and yet soothes at the same time. He finishes the ritual off with his barber’s massage, his hands strong and callused I feel strong, rejuvenated like a Greek warrior ready for war. This is what I need. As I left I gave Johnny his tip and he says “see you in a month”, I nod in agreement, I shall never taint my head with the mark of another person again.

Going to the barber is like therapy, like even Catholic confession if you will. Removing hair and making it short reminds you that a man has to fight all his life and hair can be grabbed and pulled and used against you (not that I want to be bald). If you haven’t go to a barbershop, find a barber you like. Talk to him, know his life, let him know yours. That forty five minutes once a month is food for the soul. I love barbershops.


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