A Barber(sh)Op-Ed: Trust in the Process

By Tyler Uslaner

I remember my first visit to the only barber shop that I hit when I’m back home. It was 8th grade, at a time when I use to just get a basic trim that kept my curly hair on medium volume. One day, my friend dragged me to this new place called R&N’s. I wasn’t reluctant to the change at all since I figured, “how could such a basic haircut get botched?” Of course, my naive self didn’t understand the feelings of helplessness that come with an unexpected, bad new haircut.

When a barber sees a client for the first time, he knows that it’s an opportunity to either lock the account down or send him packing with a mediocre result. That day at the new shop, I sat down with a man named Raul and told him what I wanted. Raul wanted to take it up a notch though and had something different in mind. He told me he thought that if I got a fade, my look would be much cleaner. After a few minutes of pressure from everyone in the shop, I caved. As soon as that razor hit my scalp, I knew I was in for trouble. He took the blade to my forehead and gave me a perfectly straight box cut and asked me if I want my sideburns pointed. At that point, I knew the damage was done so I waved the white flag and let the thing take its course.

When I got home my parents gave me the blankest stares I’ve ever received. My father was so appalled by the haircut that he proceeded to take things into his own hands, shaving the blockheaded points off the new sideburns. Thankfully, they didn’t disown me and life as I knew it went on. We should always be ready to take calculated risks in advancing our style, especially considering that hair grows back and that a cleanly buzzed slate is only a pair of clippers away. Two months later, when the curls needed to turn down again, I found myself oddly confident that Raul would be on a mission to right his wrongs. Adventure propelled me into that same seat once more and I’m thankful for that to this day.

My best friend and I started a great friendship after fighting each other in elementary school and similarly, my barber and I started a healthy working relationship after an awful haircut. For the past six years I have never gone to a different barbershop in New York and have even managed to get all of my friends, my brother, and my dad to get haircuts from my guy Raul. The man has held it down for years and he sure as hell won’t know me as the cheap one in the family when it comes time for tips. Before I come home from breaks I even grow my hair longer so I can go get a haircut at R&N’s immediately when I get home. I’m reminded that I’m more than just another stan passing through by the intense “bro hugs” I receive from the R&N staff every time I walk in.

I know the single time that I got homesick across the country was when I had to bite the bullet on the new haircut again. It was not a happy stumble down State Street when I went into the first spot I saw at “ye old” University Barbershop. In reality, the haircut was fine but I looked in the mirror and was not pumped. This was like eating in the salty dining hall every night after getting used to my mom’s fire home-cooked rotation. I would be lying if I said that it was pleasant to leave behind Raul and his harmless humming of Spanish songs to the too-friendly Wisconsin barbers twanging me with questions about why I’m in Wisconsin, but I got over it and took it for what it was. Nowadays at school, I attend Nogginz. More often than not, I walk out happy.

When you’re  unfamiliar with a barbershop, getting a haircut sucks. There are few worse feelings then watching your locks vanish while debating if you have enough hats to wear until the embarrassment underneath has run its course. The main thing to take away from these unfortunate outcomes is to actively seek out a working relationship with a guy whose style you trust. Ask friends who’ve seen him about what he excels at. Peep the cut that he’s working on before you sit down to see if you should abandon ship before sitting in the chair. Take time to find the right one, do a little bit of research on communicating the haircut terminology and you’ll have one less thing to stress about in your life. On that note, wish me luck finding a barbershop abroad next semester, I’m gonna need it in Europe.

Image: uncleclassicbarbershop.com

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