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Phil's Barber Shop by Gator

Phil’s Barber Shop
By Gator

I had finished my freshman year in college; this was the early 1980’s. I had landed a job for the summer working for a guy who owned and rented out houses to college students. I was staying in a fraternity house with a fraternity brother. The summer had been going along really well; I had been working basically 7 days a week with no break. Since the guy I worked for had a job, he liked to catch up on house maintenance on the weekends which meant that I worked with him. The money was nice, I have to admit.

We were into the beginning of July. It had been hot with no rain at all. I had been driving by this barbershop on Michigan Avenue in Lansing since the start of the summer. Since I was driving a van, I was able to see into the shop, but because of the hours I had been working, I didn’t have time to stop. The place was called Phil’s Barber Shop. Phil was the only barber that I ever saw in the shop. He had blond hair cut in a long business man type cut. The customers who I saw coming in and out appeared to be mostly blue collar type guys. Even though this was the early 80’s, hair was still on the longer side even though Phil was giving cuts of all lengths – both short and long. It all depended on the age of the guy going into the shop – or so it seemed. The shop was in a string of buildings along Michigan Avenue. I kept watching my hair get longer and longer that summer. It was now fully covering my ears and way over my collar. I had not had a haircut in about 3 months. I kept hoping for rain.

I finally got my wish! Rain was finally coming down. Since all of my work was outside – painting, mowing lawns, etc. – I was able to take the day off. I got into my car and drove down Michigan Avenue. I guess I have a love affair for the Michigan Avenues in Michigan (see my Sgt. Russ story). I had to drive by and turn around so I could park on the same side of the street. I parked, walked to the door, quickly looked in through the window. There was a middle aged guy getting a haircut. Cool. I opened the door and went in. Phil nodded hello and I sat down. There were two other guys ahead of me. One had long hair like I did and the other had shorter hair. I didn’t feel out of place as I was ready for a good shearing. The shorter hair guy went first; got a nice tidy regular haircut with shaved neck and a nice taper in the back. Cool. The long hair guy went next. Phil asked him, "What do you want today?" The reply came back, "It’s hot as hell. Something short and off the ears. Kinda like the last guy." "Tapered?" "Yep." This was blue collar all the way. I watched with interest as this guy lost a lot of hair. Some ended up in his lap and the rest on the floor. They chatted some, but Phil was the quiet type of barber.

Finally, it was my turn. I had originally thought of just getting my haircut to mid-ear length. But then again, I was really liking the idea of going short again. The last guy paid and was out the door. It was just Phil and I in the shop; I climbed into the chair. Phil swung the cape around me and put the tissue paper around my neck. He took his hands, turned over the edge of the tissue paper onto the cape, then he stroked my neck pushing down the cape. God, I love that feeling! "What type of cut would you like today?" I looked at his face. "I’m not really sure. I was thinking mid-ear length and slightly off the collar, but then it’s so fricking hot out, I have been thinking of a regular cut." "Let’s compromise then," he said. "How’s that?" "I cut it short, off the ears, slight taper in the back and leave the top on the longer side." "Sounds good to me," I replied.

The clippers came on, he nudged my head down, and he started cutting up the back. I could see my blond hair falling into my lap. Of course by now I was hard as a rock. Phil was the type of barber that I liked – he would put your head where he wanted it. The clippers felt good. He lifted my head, tilted it to my left, and took the clippers around my ears. Blond hair fell like a snow storm into my lap. "Wow! That’s a lot of hair coming off!" I said. Phil laughed as he cut. "You’re looking better already. You will like the cooler feeling of the cut," he said. He turned the barber chair slightly and repeated the same action on my left side.

By this time, a couple of other older guys came in the shop and sat down. One older guy spoke up and said, "Ha! Fresh meat for you there, Phil! Nothin’ like giving a young guy a good skinning!" We all laughed. I could feel my face get slightly red, but I was liking this cut. Phil had finished the sides and back and moved in front of me. "Do you part your hair on the left or the right?" "Left side, please." Phil combed my hair down to where it covered my eyes. I could feel the comb parting my hair on my left side. The next thing I know is that he is cutting my bangs over my eyebrows. Wow! Just like when I was a kid – angled bangs to boot! I was excited that he took charge to get rid of my center part and angled my bangs! Very old school for the early 80’s.

Phil stood behind me, pulled up my bangs and began to cut the top down. He was taking off about three inches, but there was still a good two inches left. S**t! I knew my hair was long, but not that long. "When was your last cut?" Phil asked. I said, "Probably about 3 months ago." "When I finish here, you better be back in this chair every 3 weeks if you want to keep it neat." "Yes, sir," I replied. "Sir? Hell, no one says that in this shop, son!" I laughed. "Old habits die hard. I was in the Marines for 4 years." "And you got out and grew this s**t this long??" Phil asked. "Yep. I wanted to have long hair again. Well, I tried it and have decided no more for me!" Phil then proceeded to put on a light coating of Brylcreem. He then gave me the sharpest parting ever seen. He razor shaved my neck and around the ears. He powdered my neck and turned the chair around to show me the cut in the mirror. There was no mirror across the shop in this place. "Well, what do you think?" he asked. "Excellent! I really like it!" I replied and smiled. He turned the chair again and removed the cape.

As I left the shop, I knew that I had been in a barber shop and had just received one short cut! I knew I’d be back to see Phil again.

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