And there it is, attached to the wall just outside of the door as a nostalgic beacon to men. The iconic red, white and blue barber’s pole. The Barbershop, one of the last true sanctuaries for men in an increasingly feminized world.
The Barbershop – A Sanctuary for Men
As you begin to swing open the door into the Barbershop, the door creaks from the thousands of men who have entered before you. The Barber shop is akin to taking a step back in time. The sound of rock music quietly fills the air, on this occasion AC/DC, one of the last great rock bands. Rock and roll memorabilia, sports collectibles from the greats adorn the Barber shop walls and are stacked high on the shelves. A collection of accomplishments it takes a lifetime to generate but the Barber always has it. The floor shows its age with cracked tiles, the wall has a few small holes and the plastic blinds have many broken slats. The age of the shop reflects its patrons, full of stories but aging and slowly breaking down.
Sitting in the Barber’s chair, getting cut what remains of his white hair is an elderly gentleman. Nearing 92 years old, you quietly hang up your coat and sit in a waiting chair as close to this man as you can. A few of the other chairs are full with other men from the neighborhood, not for a haircut, just to enjoy the sanctity. But those men serve as the extras in this movie, the main character is that man getting his haircut in the Barber’s chair.
The Man in the Barber’s Chair
You don’t recognize the elderly gentleman, but you have seen his face thousands of times before. The face of the aging man. On the face of your father, grandfather, great-grandfather, your lineage, a celebration but also a bleak reminder of what this life has in store for you. You have seen this face on the older men in the grocery store who slowly walk down the aisle. Men who once could run up and down those aisles now slowed to a crawl as father time slows him down. You have seen this face on the older men who frequent the coffee shop. Many times the man is alone but still consider himself part of the group, the same group that used to get chased when they were young boys. You have seen that face on your neighbor who used to say good morning every day to you as you walked to school. The neighbor who has moved on from this life to the next phase.
As the elderly gentleman begins to recount a story of the war, lean in, listen to what he is saying. You are about to learn more about men then you could ever imagine. His story begins with how he lied about his age to enter the army at 15 because he so deeply loved his country that he was willing to die for it. He states how he went with a group of 10 men, all around the same age from his neighborhood and a few of those good men never returned home to their family. Now represented by flags, these men gave their lives for their country and for all of its families. Yes, your family. The gentleman continues to tell the story but he begins to stumble over his words. The confusion of a thousand stories floating around in his head, prevent him from reliving those moments through his words. His age slows him down, however only for a second and he beams with pride as he continues telling his story, his memories of his greatest years.
The Man with the Scissors
The Barber, the purveyor of the hair cut, the man who has heard every one of these stories. His reaction and his gratitude for his patrons from the sharing of their memories tells a different story. He is not bored at all with these stories, he enjoys it the same way every single time. The bond he develops, allows the elderly men to call him their friend as the group of their remaining friends dwindle. The Barber, has been through it all with you, from getting married to your first children, from failures to successes. He remembers it all and can recall as soon as he sees your face as if he has a database of information with every one of his patrons in it. He has watched as your hair has slowly started to thin, receding from your face but still cuts your hair with the precision he did when you had a full head of hair.
The Barbershop takes men back to a time when life was a little simpler and a little younger. Up and coming men, those with newer families, those who are recently married, those who are single can access the patriarchs of yesteryear. Men who have lived life and are a wealth of knowledge, a story for every scenario. Blogs and online articles can offer advice but they have not lived life like the elderly men at the Barbershop have.
Through the war, through poverty, through grinding, these men have been there and are just wanting someone to ask them their story. They enjoy the comradery, the passing of their knowledge to a younger generation of men because that’s how men look out for each other. It takes a lifetime to build information like this and elderly men would rather pass it on, then to die with it.
The Decline of the Barbershop
The number of Barber shops have diminished significantly over the last 30 years almost in line with the number of masculine men. Barbers have retired and passed with less men taking up the scissors. Salons seem to be on every corner now with bright lights, louder music and barely dressed women (sounds like a club). Just for your information – the hairstylist at the salon is being flirty with you because she wants big tips, nothing else.
As men age, we have the ability to learn more and to teach more. As older men pass, a lifetime of knowledge blows away in the wind with them. The Barbershop gives these men an opportunity and an outlet to relay their stories and advice from a lifetime ago. There is no need to censor these stories, there is no requirement to tell them a certain way because everyone listening in are men and men understand other men.
One way to become more masculine is to learn from those who have been there, to learn from those who have lived it. There are very few sanctuaries left for men, just to be surrounded with other men. The Barbershop is one of them. Go get your haircut at a Barbershop, ignore those expensive salons that are meant for women. You will learn more about being a man from that half an hour that you are in the Barbershop then you could pay thousands of dollars for.