Haircuts and Grooming
By: Garland Davis
I was thirteen years old when I got my first Barber Shop haircut. Until his death, my Dad cut the boys’ hair. I remember he originally used a squeeze handle clipper that tore out as much hair as it cut. We were happy when he bought the five-dollar electric clipper. The new clipper made so much noise that hearing protection was needed. It sounded like a jet airplane revving for takeoff, but haircuts were more comfortable and much less painful. That is unless you moved while he was cutting your hair. Then Dad would make it painful. It didn’t matter how you wanted your hair cut. Dad made that decision (I am pretty sure; he could only do two styles, trimmed or bald). He also cut his own hair. He was very good at trimming the back using a mirror and the clippers.
After Dad died Mama would take us, about once a month, to a man who lived on Route 66 for haircuts. He had a block building with a single barber chair. I remember that it cost thirty-five cents each for the haircuts. I know the man cut hair part time, because we always went in the evening. He was a veteran who had served in the Marine Corps and had been injured on Guadalcanal during World War II. He walked with a defined limp. It sticks in my mind that he worked for the Post Office.
During the late fifties, flattop haircuts were all the rage. Barbers charged more for that style haircut. I wanted a flattop, and Mama told me that I would have to pay for it myself. I went to Davis’ Barbershop in the single stop light burg of Ogburn Station. I paid seventy-five cents for that haircut. I also paid twenty-five cents for a tin of “Butch Wax” to keep it standing stiffly. Those were the days of flattops, jelly roll cuts, and duck tails. Each successive style seemed to get a little longer than the ones before. The long hair that the Beatles ushered in was on the horizon.
The day before I left for the Naval Training Center, San Diego, I told the barber to give me a boot camp haircut. The first stop upon arriving at NTC was the Barber. What my civilian barber deemed a “boot camp” haircut was totally unsatisfactory to the Navy barber.
For the next thirty years, the service pretty much dictated the length and style of haircuts and during the twenty-one years I was afloat provided the barbers and haircuts free of charge. They were generally fairly competent barbers, although there were a few that I would be reluctant to let mow my lawn. But the haircuts were free and left more money in one’s pocket for liberty. Ashore, the Navy Exchange shops were cheap enough that it only cost a couple of beers for a haircut. I was pretty much satisfied with Navy haircuts. I usually found that wallet was a lot more appealing than appearance to the young ladies I frolicked with.
In a missive about haircuts and barbers, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to the additional services provided in the barbershops of Vung Tau, Keelung, Kuala Lumpur Taipei, Pusan, and Olangapo. Let’s just say, the services the young lovelies provided under the oversize sheets beat the hell out of a neck rub and a manicure. Although, those were available also. When visiting those ports one seemed to give more attention to appearance as it was not unusual to get multiple haircuts in a day.
Since retiring from the Navy, I have used the ‘irritation quotient’ to determine the frequency of haircuts. I let my hair grow until the irritation factor reaches a point that will drive me to spend eighteen dollars, plus tip, to get a haircut. When my friends, also retired from the Navy, ask how often I get it cut, I usually tell them, “Every three or four months, whether it needs it or not.” My wife has given up mentioning it. When I tell her I am thinking of getting my haircut, she usually answers, “Whatever.”
I had my hair cut yesterday afternoon at a salon near my home. A lovely young Filipina stylist provided the haircut. I am seriously considering paying more attention to my grooming. I anticipate more frequent visits to that salon.
I used to not worry how it was cut. I always knew it would grow back. But in recent years, I have begun to have my doubts. There seems to be less of it. Maybe It doesn’t always grow back anymore.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.