If your car needs an oil change, one place is probably as good as another. If your suit jacket has a stain, most dry cleaners will do an adequate job of removing it. And if your lawn mover needs a tune-up, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between Joe’s Repair and Steve’s Repair.
But when you go to a new barber or hairdresser, you are running a big risk. There’s really no way of knowing if you will walk out of there looking sharp, or looking like you were just mauled by wolverines. Because cutting hair is not just a skill that anyone can learn; you have to be an artist to do it right. And chances are, the person at the “Good Kutz” shop down the street is not an artist. Old joke: What do you call a hairdresser that graduated last in her class? Answer: A Hairdresser.
The reason I bring this up is that Jeannie, the woman who has been cutting my hair for many years, is moving to Boston in a month to be with a new man in her life. I’m being cast adrift, to float around town looking for someone else, without any real idea about where to start. Jeannie has an artist’s eye for layering and proportion, and a knack for cutting off just the right amount and no more. And, since I’ve been going there so long, I don’t need to try to explain how I like it cut. She just knows.
I don’t think of my hair as being difficult to cut—it’s thick and straight, with not too many surprises. However, I have walked out of shops in my life looking just like I told the barber, “I’d like my hair cut just like Moe Howard, you know, from the Stooges?” I really am not looking forward to going through auditioning hairdressers again.
You have to really like the person that cuts your hair, because they are going to be right up close to you, and extremely personal, like removing ear-hair kind of personal. They are going to know all about how you screwed up at work, broke up with your girlfriend, got sick last weekend drinking tequila, and who your favorite singer is. And you are going to know the same kinds of things about them.
Most people form long term, steady relationships with their hairdresser, to the point where if someday they decide to see someone else, they have to sneak around. Then they’re stuck with the nagging worry that their old hairdresser will find out they’ve been unfaithful. Getting your hair cut can get very complicated.
But it wasn’t complicated when I was a kid. My dad bought an electric home shearing device when I was about 8 that smelled like ozone and buzzed like some kind of mad scientist equipment, and he would line my two brothers and me up in the basement and give us the type of haircuts you used to see on new recruits to the Marines. Dad loved saving money by giving us bad haircuts, but when we became teenagers we revolted and refused to let him near our heads anymore. Eventually we grew our hair long and stopped getting haircuts altogether.
I guess I’m lucky to even have hair to worry about at my age. And I’m sure I’ll find someone else to take me on, that I will grow to like as much as Jeannie. But in case I don’t, and I have to go to Good Kutz in the meantime, you’ll still be able to recognize me.
I’ll be the guy with the Moe Howard cut…