I’ve really been wanting to write a post about our search for a new church that will fit us well for exactly 8 months, but I just haven’t been able to pull it together. Instead I have this site: The Art of Manliness, hailing from my native Tulsa, and which has among its wares this lovely article on Why Every Man Should Go to a Barber Shop.
It’s very persuasive, except for the part where his experience has been almost exactly the opposite of mine. It seems like every barber I ever went to was a moron when it came to cutting my hair. “A barber is trained to cut with clippers,” Brett and Kate McKay say, which is true enough, and explains why none of them seem to know which end to use with a pair of scissors.
My experience was that a barber knows one haircut and applies it universally. I’d go in, tell the guy that my hair does this and that thing and needs to be compensated for, and every time I’d come out looking like alfalfa with a mohawk.
On the other hand, now I’m humming a different tune. Apparently, everything’s different when you’re in the Army. There are only a certain number of hairstyles that are allowed in the Army, and all of them are the specialty of the barber shop. In fact, on post, most hair places come in sets of two: a barber shop on one side, and a salon on the other. All the men walk into the barbershop (“experts in the military cut”), and all the women walk into the salon. The stigma is so great that I’ve been terrified of walking past the barbershop and into the salon. So I now get a barber cut every time.
The barbershop still scares me. In the army places, they’re extremely efficiency oriented, so there’s a centralized vacuum with hoses running to every station. The hoses are specially attached to the clippers so that your hair is being sucked off even as it’s trimmed. It’s very loud.
Haircuts come at two levels. The “basic cut” is just that: intended for basic training. The guard comes off, and the hair is trimmed down just short of a perfect shave. You are now a leukemia victim. Furthermore, the basic cut costs only $6, because it’s so easy, and because it’s so easy, even an untrained ape can do it, which is what I think they hired for the place near my basic training. They’d bring us in, 60,80, 100 at a time and line us up outside the shop. We’d present out cards and be stuffed into the nearest chair. Then the guy (or lady) would lay into us with all due haste, scraping our heads at whatever angle seemed most time efficient. And because no head is perfectly round, what usually happened was that deep, vibrating gouges were furrowed into our scalps by uncaring, half-trained barbers. To a man, they all seemed very surly, and I don’t know what their problem was. At $6 every 2 minutes, somebody was making money hand over fist. At any rate, my experience with the basic cut was sufficient to convince me that I wasn’t cut out for Ranger school
The other level is called (I think) “the military cut.” The big difference is that you are allowed the choose which establishment you prefer to patronize. Which is to say you travel as far away from any facility associated in any way with TRADOC. Army school = haircut pain. Because I can go where I want to go, and because they charge an extra $2, the barbers are much easier on the scalp. They use clipper guards and ask you how you want your hair done. They still use the vacuum hose.
And in the army, there are actual variations you can get for your hair cut. A short mohawk is allowed; so is the standard buzz or even a flat top. Another option is this ridiculous thing called the “high and tight” which is essentially a mohawk that spreads out to the width of the head – fluffy on top and bald on the sides. My favorite is something called the fade. You start out shaved close to the skin at the sideburns (there are no sideburns) and gradually blend into something substantial on top. It fits the military regs without looking die-cast in civilian clothes.
I’ve also found that, if I go in knowing that there are only 3-4 options to begin with and I mention one as a basic sort of template, but then I demonstrate the giant cow lick at the back of my head, about two times out of three, I can get a barber who takes some pride in his work and will actually try to work with it. And I get a decent hair cut.
But it backfired on me last week. I think it was because I went in on a weekend, wearing civilian clothes. The guy must have assumed I was a civilian who somehow wandered onto post, and he gave me the longest haircut I’ve had in 6 months. For the past week, every time I take off my beret, it looks like the backside of an angry squirrel.
I’m going to try again on Friday.
As for this site on the Art of Manliness, I think I’m going to add it on to my reader. Maybe we’ll find something we can agree on.