Shopping for an old-fashioned barbershop

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I’m looking for a barbershop that will take me back to my days as a boy who sported a flattop haircut.

These days, I’m been going to a stylist. If I can find an old-fashioned barbershop, I will repent of my wicked stylist ways and return to the true center of the hair-cutting world — the traditional barbershop. I also acknowledge that I have less hair now than I did 50 years ago.

I seek a barbershop that’s geared toward men and boys. I seek a barbershop where the barbers remember butch wax, that pinky, sticky concoction used on flattops and similar haircuts back in the day. I seek a barbershop where the male occupants talk about fishing, with anglers stretching the truth about as much as they stretched the size of the fish they caught. I seek a barbershop where the menfolk discuss hunting, with deer hunters adding a couple of points to the antlers of the deer they shot. I seek a barbershop where the old-timers (I’m getting close to being one) talk about how things — pickup trucks, tools, children, the government, baseball, football and fishing — were better in the old days.

While women gossip at beauty parlors, men intelligently assess situations and people at barbershops. Barbershops are where boys learn manspeak — how to tell a fish tale without telling an outright lie, how to describe that feeling of taking one’s first buck and how and how that it’s often dangerous to talk politics in public, that it’s done because we have freedom of speech here in the USA.

That’s what I loved about going to barbershop when I was a boy. I felt like I was eavesdropping on secret stuff that men talked about while sitting in barber chairs as the barber used clippers and scissors on their heads or as they sat in the row of chairs along the wall, waiting for their turns in the barber chairs. I recall, when accompanying my father or grandfather to the barbershop being told there was no need to repeat what I heard in the barbershop to my mother or grandmother, or both of them.

A barbershop is where I learned about the elusive bassalope (or basselope, spellings vary), a species of animal that is part bass, part antelope — a bass with antlers. I’ve seen them on the walls of several barbershops. There’s even a book titled “The Last Basselope,” written by Berkeley Breathed.

Will the last person leaving the last true barbershop please sweep up the hair on the floor before leaving?

Mike Voss is the senior newsroom staff member at the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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