How to Spot Manly Barber Shops (and Avoid Them)

I have never said that I need to get my hair “did.”  It’s not that I have a problem with people who use this term, it’s that “getting my hair did” just isn’t a manly thing to say.  I use other unmanly phrases like “cool beans, Eugene” and I let my daughters paint my toenails this past Saturday, but real men simply refuse to say certain phrases.  They also refuse to go to beauty salons. 

My wife tells me that most people just say salon without adding the word beauty to it, that only elderly women call them beauty salons.  Either way, real men don’t go to them.  We go to barber shops.  But there is a difference between regular barber shops and manly barber shops.  At a regular barber shop, you can get a good haircut at a good price.  At a manly barbershop you can end up looking like you are a marine.  High and tight is the default haircut at a manly barber shops.  This is why I prefer a regular barber shop.  

Is this the only difference, though?  Do you have to wait until the haircutting deed is done to know if you have accidentally wandered into a manly barber shop where a razor is the main hair removal tool?  There has to be other ways, right?

Right–and here are some things you can look at to determine if you need to flee before your hair is no more.

1.  The building.  Apparently being in a modern looking building or a fancy mall is for sissies.  Old houses and dilapidated strip malls are where the real men gather to get their ears lowered.  When I was a kid, I didn’t fully comprehend the term “getting my ears lowered.”  I just knew that if someone asked me that after getting a haircut, I was supposed to say yes.  I was little worried that they would get lowered so much that they would eventually be in my armpits.  This would make hearing difficult.  And awkward.

2.  The walls.  Being a man means that you like looking at dead things.  At least that is the feeling you get as you gaze upon the heads of dead animals and pictures of dead celebrities that adorn the walls.  There are also plenty of framed newspapers on the wall for you to read, if you think that this is still the early 20th century. 

3.  The seats.  What’s more manly than duct tape?  Answer: nothing and there’s plenty of it on the seats at manly barber shops.  And it”s not the new, girly multi-colored duct tape, either.  It’s gray.  And old.  And if you removed it, the seats would crumble into a pile of foam and vinyl.  Some say that love makes the world go round.  If so, it’s duct tape that holds it all together.  At least that’s what the owners of these barber shops probably think.

4.  The magazines.  If there aren’t any People or US magazines to be found, you may want to leave before you are partially scalped.  Manly barber shops have manly magazines.  If it covers sports, vehicles, hunting, or fishing and is at least ten years old, you’ll probably find it there.  You may not find all of the pages, though.  That’s okay with most of the clients; they like the pictures more than the words anyway. 

5.  The smell.  This is the best thing about manly barber shops.  You won’t smell perm solution, hair product, or any of those other obnoxious womanly odors.  Instead you’ll smell after-shave.  Or Old Spice—the Axe for old men.  Or sweat.  Or grease.  Or, if you’re lucky, cooked meat.  Maybe the combination of all of these odors is what Heaven smells like.  Maybe not.

6.  The conversation.  You want to discuss your feelings?  I rarely see grown men get wedgies, but I bet it would happen if you started to open up in one of these places.  And then they might throw you through the window, wild west style.  And then they would speak scornfully about your heritage.  It wouldn’t go well.  Sports, politics, and jokes seem to work.  But if you disagree with the barber, you may want to wait until your haircut is over before speaking up or you may wind up sporting a reverse mohawk.

7.  The clients.  The average age at some manly barber shops is dead.  Or close to it.  There are a few young men who enter, but the ages of the old guys more than make up for it.  They also drive trucks, like flannel, and think that plaid is a primary color.  You’ll also find these guys at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and at Hardee’s early in the morning.

Looking like a marine is not a bad thing.  Neither are dead animal heads or wonderful, manly smells.  There are plenty of folks who like going to manly barber shops.  I know that I do.   Sometimes.

It’s possible, though, that you want to spend your life avoiding them.  I hope this helps.

(Are there any other ways to tell if you are in a manly barbershop?  Which ones did I miss?)


27 thoughts on “How to Spot Manly Barber Shops (and Avoid Them)

  1. So what does it mean when the place where you get your hair cut is the same place where women get their hair “syled”, teenage boys get their hair trimmed, and old men get their hair buzzed? My barber shop is like a manly unmanly beauty salon.

  2. Hmm. You forgot to mention the age of the barber. Contrary to popular belief, manly barber shop barbers *do* retire: most of them never cut another hair after they’re in the casket. However, unlike old soldiers, they never fade away. Fifty years after their death, the little old man who has inherited their barber chair will be told after each haircut that he could never do it as good as old Joe, but he did an okay job anyway.

    Those who do retire before they’re dead are legally required to spend most of their time in the shop sitting and drinking the new barber’s coffee and talking to their old customers. The worst thing that can happen to a manly barber shop is not, as some think, to have a woman begin to cut hair there. That’s only the second worst, and may even be acceptable if the woman in question is the owner’s granddaughter. Not daughter, mind you, but granddaughter. By the time it is acceptable for the elderly owner to bring in a young prodigy, the daughter will be too old to count as a young prodigy. But a granddaughter might be accepted if she’s country enough to avoid adding any froufrou stuff to the mix. The worst thing that can happen, however, is to add a young man with mousse in his hair to the barbering roster. This is a sure sign of the end. If the young man is also the old barber’s grandson, this is not made better but worse, and surely signals not only the doom of the shop but the downfall of the old barber’s bloodline as well.

      • When we lived in a small town, we used to get our haircuts at the barber shop that had been on the corner for 50 years or more, with the red striped pole and the glass front window and the chairs covered in cracking vinyl or leather. And yes it did have deer heads on the wall and old hunting magazines. The barber’s last name was also to be found on street signs in town and around the little rural county, and had been in the area for at least a couple of centuries. Most of the time it smelled like coffee more than anything else. Politics and sports and hunting were the most common topics of choice. And I loved it there.

        The owner did die a few years back, and the place was never quite the same after it. Then we moved further out into the country and found a barber closer to where we live, so we’ve not been back in ages. We’ve driven past it a few times, though, and the old barber’s granddaughter, or so I was led to believe her to be at least, still runs the shop. Probably with the same little old man as her barbering partner as was her grandfather’s, if he’s still alive. She started there about a year or so before he passed, and after she’d gained a little respect you’d have the people who sat in the chair waiting for her, the ones who were waiting for the old owner, and the ones waiting for the other guy. It didn’t matter which chair opened first, they were waiting for the one they were waiting for, and they’d politely say so. You always felt a little sorry for the other guy when his chair was empty and everyone in the shop was waiting for the owner or the woman, so sometimes you’d be the one to volunteer to give up your waiting spot and go ahead and sit in his chair instead. Of course, he could never be as good as the owner.

  3. I’m curious to know WHAT ROCK YOU LIVE UNDER!!! This article should embarrass you and yer vagina. There a whole bunch of new guys in the barbering field that know how to give a proper mans cut without scalping you…?? Believe it or not Matt, we are actually using straight razors (which have been around since the Bronze Age circa 3500 BC) and hot towels as well!!! Please do research before you put a bunch of trash on the internet and have a little respect for the craft of barbering. We’re only the second oldest profession of ALL TIME!!

    • Unless you’re tongue-in-cheek with your reply, in which case be a little more obvious, I’d have to say your straight razor slipped and cut off your sense of humor. This is perfectly legitimate man-humor, and nothing about which to get offended. I can’t think of a barber I know that would be offended by this; even the female ones. 🙂

      • Man humor and outright insult are two different things. I am a barber and I am offended by this “humor”. People take this kind of “humor” seriously and next thing you know, barbers are out of a job. Maybe you need to associate yourself with a barber that takes his trade seriously.

        • My apologies for offending you with this. Definitely not my intention to do so nor do I intend to cause barbers to lose their jobs. Not everyone likes the same kind of humor or the same kind of ice cream or the same kind of anything.

          I hope that your business does wonderfully and your customers multiply exponentially.

        • I’m sorry it offended you. I’ve spent most of my life in or around small towns with an old fashioned barber shop on Main Street. The one I had in mind in my comments further up was owned by a man who ran it from his youth almost to his death, and was enormously respected in the community. He was a barber and proud to be a barber. He had a number of certificates on his walls, and could do the up to date styles if need be; even did a mohawk for a teen once and more than a few flat tops when they were popular. But most folks just wanted a hair cut, plain and simple, and maybe a shave if applicable. With a straight razor. I had enormous respect for him, as did most everyone else in town.

          Please don’t mistake poking fun at stereotypes for disrespect for your profession. I took a peek at your Facebook link, and it looks like you’ve got a fine shop there. I love the garage motif to go with the name. Very creative. I’m also impressed by your command of languages. If you’re familiar with Cajun culture then you know making fun of stereotypes is a Southern thing. Probably Northern too, though it may manifest differently in style. That’s all Matt’s post was meant to be, and I’m sorry you felt insulted by it.

          We all know that economic times are rough and fear of losing your job is a big thing for most everybody these days. So I understand why you lashed out. Trust me, nobody takes Pastor Matt seriously. Not even Pastor Matt. 😉 I do think you owe an apology for the last word of your second sentence. I know it was dashed off out of anger, but it wasn’t appropriate, particularly towards a Pastor.

          Most of all I hope you’ll hang around and see for yourself that Pastor Matt’s a nice guy who loves Jesus and loves people. He’s a giant but a harmless one.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Most of the people who read what I write here understand that it mostly falls into the humor/satire category. That is true for this particular blog post. It was a satirical/humorous look at some of the real “old-school” barber shops that I have had the privilege of visiting. I appreciate the work that barbers do and have enjoyed getting to know some of them.

  4. My barbershop is a “manly” barbershop yet I’m happy to go to one. It’s not what you describe, but it’s certainly not a salon or anything “metro” and I’m very happy with the haircuts my son and I get there. Some of what you describe is not accurate and some maybe references a bad barbershop, but please don’t put down traditional barbershops at the same time. There are many quality traditional barbershops out there to be found where a good hair cut is the only standard. You should maybe change your title to “How to spot a bad barbershop”, and certainly there are those. I feel that the only “Manly” barbershops are the ones were you will leave well groomed, not smelling of perm solution, and are in the presence of other gentleman.

    • As I stated in response to a previous comment, this blog post (and most of my posts) are meant to be viewed in a humorous/satirical way. To be honest, I really prefer the “old school” type of barber shop.

      • I appreciate humor as much as anyone, and I’m not always sure that my humor is appreciated. I didn’t really take offense to your article, but it’s difficult these days when it seems just calling someone a “man” can be a put down. Some of your comments were quite funny about barbers, but could maybe be misconstrued. These days it can seem that anything traditional or “manly” is under attack. I for one, am all for men being comfortable being men once again. Being a man doesn’t mean being a testosterone overfilled jerk, but just the opposite. That being a man is being comfortable with oneself, productive, concerned for others, and a model of integrity while being leaders of our families once again. Now I say this, not to say that women are any less, but believe that women should be proud of who they are also. I thank you, for your article and responses, and wish you well in all your endeavors.

  5. Some people should not express their opinions, especially when those opinions are stereotypical and judgmental. “Judge not”

    “It’s possible, though, that you want to spend your life avoiding them. I hope this helps.” Hmmm, sounds like what I tend to say about religion. 😉

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. As I mention in several other comments, this was meant as a humorous/satirical post and was surely not meant to offend or judge. Many of my other posts look at religion, church, family, and other such topics in the same way.

      I’m not a big fan of religion either. But I love Jesus, His church, and people and try to look at life from a joyful perspective.

      Again–thanks for reading.

      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  6. As a recently licensed barber with a plan to one day open a “man’s man” type barber shop I found this almost offensive. Whats wrong with embracing your manliness?
    When I was a kid one of my fondest memories was going to my grandfathers barber with him and getting my face shaved like a big boy, manly straight razor and all. Like I said, ALMOST offensive, until I realized a preacher wrote it.

    Lets make fun of other things too! I request a “satire” about stupid hick farmers and how they work their backs into the ground for almost no money. Just lets dont write it with a full mouth.

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