What is a barbershop? Mind you, I am not referring to the little unisex hair place that hung a barber pole outside its door hoping to lure in a few men to round out their daily payroll, or a local salon. I am talking about a barbershop. I am talking about the kind of place your grandpa went. Hopefully your dad was lucky enough to spend time there as well. What is it that makes it that place special. What makes it a barbershop?
As intangible as it might seem there are qualities that make up a barbershop. For those who’s senses are attuned authenticity can be apparent in an instant. You can often tell the moment you walk inside and are greeted by the smell of bay rum aftershave, barbicide and talc. Pause a moment , let your senses drink in the sound of conversations, some whispered some loud, and even some laughter. Clippers buzz, shears snip with their gentle click clicking and the pop of the drape shaken out as a new guest ascends the manly throne of tonsorial supremacy.
Each barbershop is different. While there may be replication there is always revelation. A barbershop, a real barbershop, cannot be duplicated. It is as different as many children of the same parents. They may look similar, but each is a treasure chest of personality, special ability, strengths and weaknesses. They may sound similar, smell similar and look similar, but like snowflakes and faces, no two are exactly alike.
There are those who have tried, but once exact duplication takes place the intangible magic that is the barbershop disappears, the salon slowly creeps in. It covers, smothers, and takes over its host. What started as a living breathing example of classic Americana is quickly transformed into a franchises. No heart. No soul. Simply a gathering of automatons cutting off men’s hair to the end of payment, driven by volume, preying upon the next pour soul who is doomed to this purgatory or even hell only because no one has told them the good news; man-topia is real, accessible, and they are welcome there.
What is a barbershop? It is like the old Celtic Monasteries. It is people gathered around mission. It is a reflection of the community around and in, presided over by a loving Abbot and cared for by tonsiary monks, apprentices and masters. It is a gathering of all the folk from as far as the news will spread. It is nobleman and proletarian equal, as the floor is always level in the barbershop. It is at its core hospitality, a depository of thought, and a dispensary of good will as well as good looks. What a barbershop really is, is community.
What is a barbershop? It is you. It is the sum total of all those who come in. Some may take away more than they leave, and others may deposit extravagantly, but it is a mixture of all the men who come and engage, granting others a fifteen minute audience of their own unique value, allowing that to be blended into the pot of humanity that is The Barbershop.