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Greatest Haircut by Jim

I just had the greatest haircut I've ever had. It looks good, and it may or may not be the best haircut I've ever had, I don't know. But it was certainly the greatest haircut I've ever had, and let me explain why.

I was already more than a week overdue for a haircut. I had recently settled on a good barber and he thoughtlessly went on vacation when I needed him. Some nerve. On his first day back, I showed up at 9 sharp, and he was closed until 10:30. I couldn't come back until Thursday, when the sign on his door read "Regular Customers Only". I opened the door and said hello, hoping that my two previous cuts made me a regular, but he smiled and said he was booked up for the day and to try again tomorrow.

But I am afflicted with a spouse-diagnosed disorder that prevents me from noticing I am in need of a haircut until a week or more after the rest of the world has. It was now a week beyond need and I was desperate, so as much as I like Richie, I went to Woody's.

The Woody's experience cannot be overstated. To begin, I walked into a waiting room where three older gentlemen were already seated. Each guy seemed to belong to their chairs, the way Cliff and Norm belonged to their bar stools. The place smelled of the precise mix of Formica, hair tonics, and paneling that my neighborhood barbershop did when I was a kid.

So I sat down and took inventory. Pictures of locals with celebrities I didn't recognize? Check. The MA Barber's licenses on the walls opposite the chairs? Check. Gumball machine? Check (though the price has gone up since I last bought a gumball). Sign advertising the cost of a haircut? Check. At Woody's, a haircut still costs just eight bucks. That's right, gentlemen, change back from your sawbuck. This appeals to the cheapskate in me, but also to my sense of nostalgia. I thought the $8 haircut and the $1 draft were deader than dinosaurs. Can this mean there are still $1 drafts to be had?

Intrigued but skeptical, I thumbed through the magazines. A decent mix, but heavily weighted toward Sports Illustrated, which I appreciated. You see, I enjoy all sports, but don't spend much time keeping up on the latest news and I don't listen to sports radio. I like to watch games on TV occasionally, and go to a game now and then, so my sports knowledge is broad, but shallow and quite dated. I rely on stints in doctor's, dentist's, and barber's waiting rooms to keep me from looking like the pansy I am at parties.

Completing the ambience was the near-constant banter of local gossip between one of the barbers and the "waiting area guys". Of course, I knew none of the players and understood none of what was implied by the smiles, gestures, and eye-rolls, but it was entertaining to listen to. After ten minutes, I was on deck. Then, it was my turn in the big chair.

One of the problems I have is: I don't know how to describe the cut I want to a barber (or stylist, if you prefer). Women's hairstyles seem to have names like: a bob, a bob with a flip, a beehive, or something like that. There are few choices for men beyond a military cut or a little boy regular. I wish it was like a fast food restaurant where you could just order a #4 with a Coke, but it's not. Besides, the cuts I think look "cool" were dated when I was in high school. My progressive alopecia and the natural progression of style make these mullets socially unacceptable today. But I was in luck this particular morning, because my barber had precisely the cut I was looking for. So I told him I wanted a cut just like his, only a bit longer and that's exactly what I got. If it had ended there, I'd have left a satisfied customer. But then came the piece de resistance.

This morning was already headed for my haircut hall of fame when he applied warm shaving cream to my neck and sideburns (very soothing) and shaved them with a straight edged razor! You men out there know what I'm talking about, but you ladies will have to take my word for it. Few things in life can make a fella feel tougher than being shaved by a straight edged razor. That's how cowboys shave in the movies! It isn't quite a switchblade, but it isn't so different either. When it's that close to your face it looks like a samurai sword and it capped off the experience for me.

I don't know if women get the same kind of satisfaction from their stylists, but I suspect they do. Why else would they be so fiercely loyal to them? I can only speak for myself and say that next time I need a cut, I'm a-going to Woody's.

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