What Happened To Old-Time Barber Shops?

I ask because I haven’t seen one in years! When I was a boy (shudders to think how long ago THAT was!)your local barber was usually an elderly italian or greek man, with a long, narrow shop, with a row of fancy barber chairs. These chairs were antiques…they looked like they were hundreds of years old! Anyway, mirrors lined one wall…and there was a shelf filled with big bottles of mysterious substances…like “Brylcreem” or “Hair Tonic”…and there was a jar containing a violet liquid, where the combs were kept. Getting your hair cut was a relaxing experience…and it usually ended when the barber lathered the back of your neck with HOT lather (from a noisey machine). He then shaved the back of your neck with a fearsome-looking straight-blade razor.
I’ve looke d for these shops…and they just don’t exista any more! Have Italians and Greeks stopped being barbers?:frowning:

If the situation’s anything like it is here, ralph124c, they probably got priced off Mainstreet by rising property prices. No place at the mall, I guess.

That it - they all committed barbercide!

Strangely enough, there is are qutie a few left in New york city. Mostly in subway stations. I know there is one at 59th Street, under the new AOL building. And there is one downtown Brooklyn at Jay Street. You’d think theyd have been forced out for retail space, but aparently not.

I thought the comb stuff was always green!

In downtown Chicago, Frank’s in the Monadanock Bldg is pretty neat, tho you won’t find any old Greeks or Italians.

And in my town I go to the Busy Bee. You’re just not looking in the right places.

ralph, you’ll be pleased to know I got my hair cut in one exactly as you described, not a fortnight ago.

They are alive and well in Sydney, although as Wolfie pointed out, you won’t see them in the big mega-malls. But if you look down a scruffy 19506/60s arcade in the suburbs, there it will be, next to the shoe repair/ key cutting bloke and the second hand clothes shop.

The one I went to is run by two old Greek guys. The older one looks exactly like the Pope. It is scary. The younger one looks a bit like Julio Iglesias, and is all flowing mane, medallions, and chest hair. They are both damn fine barbers. Their store has:

The jar with the violet liquid has a dented aluminium base and lid and is in that 1950s style that it could have been used to hold drinking straws at a milk bar or diner.

The place is lit by bare flourescent tubes, and along the top of the mirrors are glossy black and white framed photos of male models showing off these guys’ haircuts. The photos are thirty years old.

I love these places. I love getting my neck shaved with a cut-throat razor. I love getting an excelent haircut. I lovethe atmosphere. And I love only paying twelve bucks.

You won’t get me into a hairdresser’s ever again. I’ve been to them, but they don’t do a good job. Give me a barber any day.

There’s still one in the Auckland suburb where I live. Been there since 1932, through three changes of ownership, seen trams come down the hill, and vanish again before the beat of progress. Another is a couple of miles along the highway, The Gentry, a lone building where apparently people go to from miles around, and is the home of a ghost.

Can vouch for the antique chairs. At the Gentry, they have a chair from Australia that’s around 100 years old. Too cool. :slight_smile:

I took my boys to one in San Luis Obispo just last month for their first haircuts.

It even had the stack of Playboys in the corner!

The one in my hometown is called “E & D’s” although D(on) recently passed on. It is exactly as you described. E(ddie) knows everyone by name who passes by his window and you knew you were a MAN when he finally gave you the shoulder massage when he finished your cut.

You’ll be glad to know that he recently took on a younger guy to continue cutting hair in Don’s chair so perhaps the tradition isn’t quite dead.

There’s one just by the tube station where I live. Nice old Italian gent who’s dead into footie and horse-racing. I don’t go there any more; the haircuts were rubbish. Maybe that’s why the old-style shops are dying out; they just don’t deliver what everyone seems to want these days.

For mine, they deliver exactly what I want. I’m a working class, heterosexual bloke with a wonderfully uninteresting hair style. I like it that way. The barbers know what I want. I don’t want it styled. I don’t want it experimented on, blow waved, streaked, teased…

I want a haircut. They do it well.

I don’t go for those things either. But I expect someone cutting my hair to know what grades are, and to have the courtesy to ask what I want done with my sideburns or whether I want tapered or stepped. Does that count as poncey?

It’s a shame that barber shops seem to be dying out, particularly given the ludicrous prices charged by the alternatives, but in my example at least (hey, no generalising for me!) the guy just doesn’t seem to have kept in touch with what his customers want.

I agree. I’ve never found the old boys in my suburb anything but good in that regard. You might just have struck a couple of dodgy ones.

Maybe so - just my luck!

They still exist in small towns, at least in mine. My barber of many-ought years, Bruce, retired about 3 years ago, so I lost the ability to have a $6 haircut. His shop was made into a latte parlor.

But just down the street is Joe’s. I now have to reach deeper in my pockets for the $9 (outrageous!) he charges (but I go one-third as often), but it includes a straight-razor touchup as God intended. No Playboys, but a pile of Maxims. I guess some things do change.

And the barber shop is the place to get the latest news. Real news, not this pseudo-stuff the newspapers peddle. My barber can tell you the truest story and dish out the bestest gossip you never heard. Ain’t nothin’ like it.

I get my hair cut at a place exactly like the one the OP describes: Central City Barbershop. They even have the blue-and-red striped pole outside, though I don’t think it turns anymore. There are stacks of old Field & Stream and Popular Mehanics magazines. In the summertime everyone talks about baseball.

I get mine cut pretty short, so most of the cutting is done with clippers, then they use scissors to do some edging/finetuning work, then the hot lather and straight razor for the neck and sideburns.

It costs $10. I wouldn’t get it cut anywhere else in town.

So do I. It’s owned by a guy named Pete, Gerard is his long-time partner and they recently took in a guy named Willy.

I used to live three blocks from Pete’s shop, now it’s a 3½ mile drive. Sometimes I go to a place closer to home but usually I make the trip to see Pete, Gerard, or Willy and get their $10 cut.

I used to get my hair cut at one of the old-style barber shops back when I used to live in Dearborn, MI. I can’t think of the name of the place. I was so overjoyed when I discovered the place. Up until then, I had only experienced the chain-type places, like Bo-Rics or Fantastic Sams or whatever. Everything was authentic and true, and these were real barbers, real professionals. Best damned haircuts I ever had in my life. I, also, enjoyed the hot lather and straight razor for the neck. At one time, you could also get a shave, but they discontinued that sometime before I started going there, as it was crossed off their price list. I had this feeling, though, that they were slowwwwwly getting squeezed out of business; that they didn’t have too many years left. Not that they were dying or anything, just that business was too slow. And that is a damned shame. Now that I’ve moved, it’s back to the chain shops, with their rotate-a-stylist (I swear it’s a different staff everytime I go in; turnover has to be outrageous), or stylists who are used to doing perms on old ladies. Ugh. Don’t tell me the world is making progress and getting better.

There’s one in my neighbourhood. Only it’s an old American guy, named Jack. Really nice guy, Jack.

I’ve always been a big fan of those sorts of places, but as the OP points out, they are getting VERY difficult to find. You can still find them, but you won’t by looking on Main St USA. Check the phone book, and drive by the ones listed there. Look for the old bald guy, and you know you’ve found your barber!

I usually walk in (or used to) and ask for the “2nd LT straight out of the academy” look. (It’s a Short regular, but the military reference gets it short enough).

But… since I’ve moved into the woods of Southern NH, it’s too far to go to find one, so (following 10 months of unemployment), my wife cuts my hair. She’s also the first and ONLY woman I’ve ever met that can give a proper men’s haircut (non styled/fluffed/streaked/primped, etc)

Many continental barbers used a lighted taper to singe the ends after the haircut. Was this also done in Britain and is it still?