How to Spot Manly Barber Shops (and Avoid Them)–REPOST

This post originally appeared on January 10, 2011 and didn’t get much attention.  So, I decided to brush the dust off of it and post it again for your perusal. 

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?)

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14 thoughts on “How to Spot Manly Barber Shops (and Avoid Them)–REPOST

  1. One thing the manly barber shops now offer is the loud vibrating back/shoulder massager, which is a neat invention. It’s not “Hey, i’m a hot chick and here’s a shoulder rub,” it’s “My name’s Biff and I’m gonna punch the discomfort out of your posterior upper torso.” Biff knows what he’s doing.

    Also, the fact that they use a straight razor on the back of your neck. Beauty salons do neither of these. And I pay less than $10 for my haircut, which will always be the game changer.

    • The cost factor is the biggest deal to me, too. You have to be careful with those straight razors. Sneeze and you lose an ear.
      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  2. Dude: the real manly barbershops and the real men are the ones who let their wives “cut their teeth” on their hair and never pay a dime for one. Okay, except for the blackmail you have to pay when she threatens a “you say one thing and a mohawk it will be.” Then again, if you are like me and don’t have much hair, it is not much of a stretch to allow her to cut it. i refuse to pay anyone for making me look like Telly Savales or chrome dome.

  3. Matt,

    This is good stuff! Your ability to translate humor is unparalleled.

    I do attend a “manly-man barbershop” here in my small town. It doesn’t advertise. The man running it has been the owner/operator since the early 60’s, coming to our country from southern Italy with his bride. His name is Pasquale, but he goes by “Patsy”. He is old school. VERY old school.

    I like to go to him because
    1. He and I speak Italian with one another and he helps keep me from getting too rusty.
    2. He uses the old-school stainless steel scissors that are so sharp they could slice a whisper, and a cheap black plastic comb.
    3. The only people that go to him are strictly word-of-mouth referrals. This helps build a camaraderie with the other patrons. In other words, if you don’t know, rent the video.
    4. He takes his time. A normal haircut is about 25-35 minutes, and there is much talking and laughing. Patsy is simply not in a hurry, and you shouldn’t be either.
    5. After the haircut, he will lather up your neck and shave it with the coolest looking pearl-handles straight edge razor ever. Then, when done, he slaps on, (literally slaps), some kind of alcohol-based sting of Doom after-shave that burns like the dickens. Of course, if you flinch, you will be mocked and laughed at by the fellas.
    6. Cash only. No credit cards, no debit cards. Pure cash, baby. (And I have seen him wave off tips as unnecessary.)

    Your post brought all this to mind, Matt. Now I really want to get my haircut. But tomorrow is SUnday, and Patsy ain’t open. Thanks, Matt. Now I gotta wait.

  4. My problem is we don’t have many barbershops. I pick Hair Cuttery and ask them to help me not look bald. I can’t afford to have what little hair I have left chopped off.

  5. I used to use something very, very close to a “manly barber shop.” The straight-edge razor (which was always “honed” with a leather strap just before each use), the chatter … even the barber pole was so old it was somehow dented inside, while the clear plastic tube survived.

    Then the place changed ownership, and each time there was somebody new ready to slice & dice. They also ditched the razors, which was fine by me.

    The game-changer for me was this one guy who didn’t understand what “medium all around” meant. I mean, I didn’t understand it, either, but that’s what I always asked for in there, they knew what I meant, and it worked. He went to work with hands that STANK of a permanent infusion of nicotine.

    Let’s just say that, next week, I went to a “salon” to get it fixed up.

    Now I stay away from that wretched barber shop, choosing instead a Super Cuts wherein works a dear lady who is a worship leader at a local church, and (as it turned out) is the sister-in-law to a dear friend of mine, currently a domestic missionary with Gospel for Asia. (GFA has essentially no employees. Even the staff that stay in the States have to raise support, just as do those sent out.)

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