Have you noticed that you can generally get your hairdresser to be a barber for you, but it’s certainly not the case that barbers are hairdressers.
For the greying and older generation, the red stripped pole land mark indicated the barber’s shop and was the place for the male of the species to go for a haircut. Other male-only processes would also be available, such as a shave or a moustache trim. Hairdressers were, in those earlier times, strictly for women, and the services on offer did not include anything so humdrum as a haircut. The most important purpose for a visit was to get a “perm” – more technically referred to as “a permanent wave”.
Whilst the haircut at the barber’s shop was usually cheap, quick and efficient, the permanent wave was none of those things. Relatively expensive, it also seemed to take a long time, and involved much more technology than the barber’s scissors. It was clearly not efficient, because the permanent wave was definitely not permanent. At least at the barber’s you didn’t have any illusions – you were not asked to pay for a “permanent short back and sides”. But the hairdressers was always a place for illusions and fantasy.
It’s a sign of the times that these are now places where you’ll see as many men as women. No longer content with a mere hair cut, plus an opportunity to browse some ageing motoring magazines and girlie tabloids, the modern male now likes the opportunity to browse fashion magazines, and sip a caffè latte, whilst he awaits shampooing, conditioning, trimming, styling, colouring, blowdrying – and that’s just the hair. Hairdressers will also offer a host of ancillary services, including spas, waxing, massage and manicures.
This changing market-place has meant that the barber has become something of an endangered species. The clientele gets steadily older, as do the barbers themselves, and each time they step into the barber’s shop, they’ve got even less hair to cut. The ubiquitous short back and sides is often the only option available, as there’s nothing left on top. It’s a leisurely activity all round, though, since there’s little hair to cut, and time even for a little value added, to trim the eyebrows, or other locations where hair growth is not particularly hoped for.
Young men should take the opportunity to visit a barber whilst they still exist. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s well known that the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is just two weeks.