Barbershops are for Lovers

When I was 14 and my face was hairless, I used to go to the barbershop near my house. The old guys who worked there  would give me a no-nonsense cut with trimmed sideburns and a perfectly edged hairline, and then they’d lather my face with old fashioned shaving cream and straight razor it without comment.

James Dean is my gender, if you didn't know.

When I started taking T, getting a barbershop shave was high on my list of exciting new life possibilities. Since I have many months to go before a beard really takes hold, I content myself with looking at pictures of excellent barbershop haircuts, examining  the interiors of noveau-shops (like Temescal Alley in Oakland, Gornik and Drucker in LA, the Blind Barber in NYC and F.S.C. Barber in NYC and SF, and State Street Barbers in Boston and Chicago), and contemplating the appeal of a classic cut.

Barbershops make me think of unfussy yet considered aesthetics, tattoos, blue jeans, clean lines, and an afternoon in 1995 when an old guy  treated me with tender respect–basically, they are a reminder of my most handsome, gentlemanly aspirations.

Also, in a world where “men’s spaces” are generally associated with sports, strip clubs, and drunks, it’s refreshing to think of more refined touchstones of masculinity enjoying a revival.

And why not? My not-wife Michael always complains that she wishes there was a barbershop for women (a million dollar idea if there ever was one), and that would surely be fantastic for her and other ladies with short hair who don’t want to pay $60 and drink cucumber water at a salon.

But I love being in a space where a tattooed guy or an old school, silent type will shave me with a straight razor without ever questioning my masculinity.

And barbers! The nouveau barbershop movement has created shops that are hipper than any salon and barbers in Backyard Bill.

Style icons like Nick Wooster wears all the markers of a barbershop fan: very trim, clean lines, and a haircut that needs weekly upkeep. At $20 a pop, you can bet he’s getting that cut at a barber. I bet he even buys his guy a Christmas present every year, because that’s the gentlemanly thing to do.

Nick Wooster, barbered.

There’s so much wrong with the world, and so few places of refuge. Consider getting the guy-type in your life a shave and a haircut this holiday season, or treating yourself. Get in touch with your inner gentleman, and the world will thank you.

About Thomas Page McBee

Gentleman first, always. James Dean is my patron saint, poet is my gender. More about me here:


  1. Matthew Lawrence

    I recently made the transition from a $35-per-cut salon back to a barbershop, sort of for financial reasons but also, as you mention, because it’s one of the few homosocial spaces where you’re welcomed no matter who you are (or at least as long as you can feign caring when other people try to talk to you about the Patriots.) Unfortunately I’ve yet to find the right barber… Or, I have, but he’s in New York. I keep trying, though!

    • Matthew, let me know if you find one in Providence. There’s that place in Boston I mentioned in the post that I want to check out, though I’m sure it doesn’t have the feel of the NYC spots. Though the idea of getting a haircut with businessmen in a fancy barbershop is also appealing.

  2. It’s funny you should mention this. I recently moved from Sonoma County to Oakland and started looking for a place to get my short-but-femme hair cut. I expressed Michael’s exact wish – to find a barbershop for women. Alas, no luck yet in the East Bay. But ironically my Sonoma County haircut reports she just got a great short cut from a new hipster barbershop in Petaluma.

  3. Pingback: Tagged teamed at the Barbershop « The Kreen of the Crop

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