Mother Nature takes revenge on Arizona in July for perfect weather from September to May. Maybe it was the spicy Sonoran hot dog I had for lunch, but one afternoon I felt so hot that I checked to see if I was leaving a smoke trail. I barely made it to the nearby barbershop and said to Roy, the neighborhood barber, "Buzz it all off."
I watched a steady trickle of men of all ages and mothers with boys come and go. What is it about a barbershop that feels so honest and down-home, like the comfort food of grooming? In a world that demands personal space and distant communication, people at a barbershop build community by sitting beside each other, in a row against the wall, nothing fancy, waiting their turn and talking to each other—that's it.
One wall has a poster with drawings of men's haircuts, each with a number. A flattop (remember?) is a ten. A gentlemen's cut is a number two. Next to that is another chart with the same drawings but names like Pompadour, Jelly Roll, Juice Box, and the ever-popular Combover. Roy says clients just tell him a number and don't have to explain anything.
As I took all of this in, I thought, there's got to be something to learn here. No matter how good a stylist you are, someone always has a better mousetrap. Here are my takeaways.
Lessons From a Barbershop
1. You just walk in anytime and take a number. There's something so democratic and fair about that.
2. Prices are affordable and prominently displayed on the wall for everyone to see.
3. Old men and kids are welcomed. You might see a kid get his first haircut-- priceless.
4. Nobody asks you to rebook your next appointment. A barber's advantage is that they are available anytime.
5. The final hairline shave with foam and razor should be incorporated in every salon.
6. That smelly Clubman aftershave I love. I bought some to splash it on at home.
7. I saved the best for last. For two quarters, you can get a giant gum ball that challenges your jaws out of a funky machine that I couldn't figure out. I bought three, one for instant consumption, another for later, and one for the kid who helped me figure it out.
Oh, my hair? It's buzzed off.
Carlos Valenzuela is a bilingual writer and a past global educator with a master's in international business. He is the author of the multi-award-winning novella Letters to Young Carlos, named to the Honor 41 List of Latinx LGBTQ+ role models, and selected for The Faces of Tucson 2022. Visit his work at carlos-valenzuela.com, Modern Salon, or find him on GayTucson.
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