Before Gillette's safety razor found a spot on every drug store shelf in the modern world, men went to the barbershop to get a shave. These shops were more than just a place to get a perfectly clean shave or a haircut, they were hangouts. Barbershops were well-decorated from their fine leather furniture to their crystal chandeliers. They were a second home for many man, a place of familiarity and relaxation. With the scents like wintergreen, cherry, and tobacco filling the air, these barbershops were where a guy went to let his troubles fade. What happened?
Well, like I said. Men started shaving at home. Not only that, but the actual barber's profession started to slip away itself and mostly male barbers fell under one unisex title with the advent of the "cosmetologist's license". But if you've been to one of these unisex salons, you know the reality of the divide. Men's and women's hair aren't the same breed, and different genders want different things out of their grooming experience. There's nothing inherently wrong with the neutral or feminine décor that salons, both chain and private, offer if you view it in a utilitarian way. After all, it's just a haircut or a shave, right?
Even though cosmetologists learn how to do men's grooming, they don't specialize in it. A trained barber, on the other hand, knows their way around the tools required to make a man look his best – and I'll give you a hint, it's not a pair of scissors. Anybody can pick up a pair of clippers and swipe them over a skull. But it takes a specialist to know how to use them with finesse. The result is a haircut that looks great when you walk out, and remains great even weeks later when it has grown out some. There's nothing that makes a true barber sadder than seeing somebody walk down Municipal Lane with a haircut that has devolved into an atrocious bowl cut. A trained barber knows men's hair through and through, and knows how to approach it both in the moment and for in the near future.
Not only does a barber know what a man needs for his grooming needs, but he knows what a man needs for atmosphere. A barber shop is a place where men went to have interesting discussions with people whose' stories deserve to be told. It's not a place for mindless small chat. It's where you can feel at ease to say what's on your mind, where tons of topics are on the table to delve into or just laugh about. Nobody is isolated, everybody is a part of the conversation – even the people just sitting in the waiting chairs waiting for their turn. There are endless life lessons to learn from a barber's chair. Not the least of such lessons is the notion that the chair you're sitting in there is the one you should be in. A barber shop sells an experience first, and a killer haircut and shave second. Speaking of the shave, barbers haven't changed with the times. Still armed with cutthroat razors, these barbershop shaves start with a hot towel on your face and end with a super close, incredibly clean shave. The experience itself is so relaxing that many men feel tempted to fall asleep.
Barbershops are important and they deserve your patronage. They're one of the last places where people go and associate with each other. Did you know that in the United States, barbershops that catered to African American communities were a commonly fundamental location for the shaping of political ideas within that very community? It's not like a coffee shop or a bar where everybody minds their own business. Barbershop conversations are engaging, and they offer a sense of community and like-mindedness that isn't found anywhere else in our busy modern times.
From a great shave to fulfilling a civic duty, barbershops are an obvious stop on your next run of errands. Your haircut and shave shouldn't be a chore. They're experiences that should be lived in the moment and enjoyed in an atmosphere that is tailored to your own culture, a manly culture. A barbershop is where you grandfather got his hair cut and face shaved, and likely your father as well. Now, it's up to you to keep the tradition and experience alive through your own actions. Better yet, take your son with you if you have one. Teach the little man that he deserves to have his very own place in this world. Unisex salons are out. Barbershops are back in.