Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

My Life In Haircuts

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As a baby, my mother cut my hair.  I recently saw some of her “work” in photos I found in my father’s closet.  My feeling is that if my mother spent more time breast-feeding me rather than giving me awful haircuts, I would be less neurotic as an adult.

As a child, I got my hair cut at Joe’s Barbershop, which was a block from my apartment building.  This was a classic type of barbershop, of which few exist anymore.  Outside, there were the spiraling red and white stripes of the barber pole.  Joe was an Italian-American of some indeterminate age.  He cut all hair exactly the same.  He used a comb that he kept in a blue 10% formaldehyde solution.  When he was finished cutting your hair, he rubbed in some gooey gel that smelled of Brycream and Old Spice, an odor that I can still smell today.

Eventually, Joe’s Barbershop changed with the times.  Joe brought in his wife to cut hair with him, and he changed the name of the shop to Joe’s Unisex Barbershop.  All of the regulars immediately stopped going there.  The shop turned hands several times over the next few years — first to an orthodox Jewish man, then to two Russian women.  Today, Joe’s Barbershop is named Kabul Hair Stylists (I kid you not!)

In college, I met Freya.  She paid for tuition by being a part-time stylist.  She cut my hair for free.  She wasn’t a very good stylist, but she was a brilliant mathematician.   For years after college, I associated getting a haircut with oral sex.

When I arrived in Los Angeles, a friend introduced me to the “B Salon” on Melrose Avenue.  The haircut cost me fifty bucks!  It was shocking.  When I told my parents this on the phone, I could hear them falling out of their chairs.   But I kept going back to the B Salon, for one reason — “B” herself. 

“B” was absolutely beautiful.  She was always perfectly coiffed.  She served you coffee while you waited for her to finish with her last customer.  When she washed your hair, she would press her voluminous white breasts so close to your face that you would become woozy.  She flattered you with compliments.  She told you how great you looked.  She taught you that Flex Shampoo was for losers, and that you should buy her special pH-balanced twenty dollar shampoo from Australia. 

I always bought everything she told me that I should buy, from fancy brushes with special “bristles” to fruity-smelling conditioner.  I would have married her, but she always brought up her “husband” while rubbing her nipples against my neck.  The funny thing is that her husband’s name always seemed to change each time I went there.  Maybe she was just distracted with her hair-cutting.  She really liked me.  I know she did.

Marriage brings many changes to a man’s life, hair stylists included.  Sophia didn’t like me going to the B Salon.  It had nothing to do with my infatuation with “B.”  Sophia thought that was just amusing.  Sophia didn’t even mind the high cost of the haircut, although she did call me “a sucker for a woman with nice tits,” which wasn’t exactly breaking news.

Sophia’s biggest problem with the B Salon was that she found it a turn-off for a man to go to a fancy-shmancy hair stylist.  If they had invented the word “metrosexual” already, she would have called me that, and said it with disdain.  Sophia believed that a woman should get pampered in hair salons, and “men should be men.”  I never quite understood what she meant by this, but I hope she didn’t expect me to cut my hair with a switchblade.

Sophia set me up for an appointment with Boris, a friend of her parents.  I went to Boris’ apartment.  He was a man in his seventies, a professional barber in Russia, now retired and living in West Hollywood.  He was a real man’s man — solid as a rock.  He didn’t speak a word of English.   He guided me onto his patio, without saying a word.  He covered me with a towel and unravelled his scissors and a comb from a clean white linen napkin.   He proceeded to cut my hair with amazing skill and dexterity. Boris was a true master.  He was not the most creative stylist, but extremely efficient.  Sophia later told me that back in the former Soviet Union, Boris was once driven in to an Army base to cut the hair of a thousand soldiers sitting in the sun.  He rapidly worked on one soldier to the next, chopping and cutting, finishing the entire task in a few hours.

Boris charged me three dollars for a haircut.  I felt so guilty by this that I tried to pay him more.  But he would only take three dollars because that was what he charged.  And he was a man of honor.  I went to Boris for a few years, until a couple of weeks ago, when I cheated on him.

It was right before Sophia and I were heading out to New York.   I knew I was going to be meeting some fashionable NY bloggers, and I wanted to look my best.  I wanted my hair to look trendy.  But where should I bring my precious head of hair?  Boris was too “meat and potatoes.”  The B Salon was now seventy dollars a cut!  So, I compromised.  I went to Supercuts.

Now, I’ve been to Supercuts before.  I know it isn’t exactly a beacon of high fashion.  But I was impressed with the work of Andi, the twenty-something Korean-born stylist with wild, curly hair and the coolest highlights I’d ever seen.

“How can I cut your hair?” she asked me during our “consultation.”

“What do YOU think?”

She took out a copy of Us Magazine and showed me some celebrity photos.

“George Clooney?  Brad Pitt?”

I started to laugh.

“Do people really expect to look like George Clooney because you give them his haircut?”

She giggled.  I immediately liked her.  I trusted her with my hair.  This was going to be my new stylist.   After years of being unable to talk with Boris, I felt the tremendous need to open up to my new stylist, as if she were my long time confidant.  I told her all about my blogging, my marriage, my hopes and dreams.  She kept on cutting my hair.

I looked at the hair falling into my lap.  There were quite a few gray hairs.  I complained about getting older and my graying hair.

“I can take care of that” said Andi.

“You mean color it?”

“Yes.  Half hour, it’s done.”

I seriously thought about it. 

“Does it smell after you do it?” I asked.

“No, no smell.  Very easy.”

“What color would you make it?”

“The same.  Same brown”

“You think highlights would look good on me?”

“Yes!  Yes!”

“Do men get highlights?”

“Of course.  Look.  George Clooney!”

“Will it look natural on me?”

I visualized Ronald Reagan, and his fake black hair.

“No one will know.  Not even your hair dresser!”

Andi was funny.  And talented. 

“Let’s do it!  Let’s go for the coloring,”  I announced.

As Anne continued on with her cut, a fiftyish woman entered Supercuts, branch #5,965.  She had this awful-looking orange hair that made her look like a character from a freak show. 

“Hello, Andi,” she said to my stylist.  “It’s time for an upkeep!”

“So soon?” asked Andi. “It still looks so great, Yvonne.  I love that color on you.  Let me finish with his hair, then I’ll be with you.”

My face suddenly went pale.   I imagined meeting Amanda and Tatyana in New York, my hair all orange. 

Andi turned to me with a smile:  “Let me get the coloring materials from the back and then we’ll begin.”

I began to sweat.  What do I do?   Luckily, blogging saved the day!  I remembered reading a blog post earlier that day from one of those countless “dating blogger” in New York who kvetch about their miserable dating lives.  She had an interesting solution for when she was stuck in the middle of an intolerable date.

I quickly called Sophia with my cellphone.

“Hello?” she said.

“Sophia, this is very important.  I’m in Supercuts.” I whispered.  “Call me back in one minute and say there is an emergency!”

I made it out of there, my hair still safe, still a little grey.  Fifteen dollars.

 

A year ago in Citizen of the Month:  Some Old Time Religion

 

49 Comments

  1. Your hair looked great, Neil.

  2. Oh! Oh! First comment!! :crazy happy dance:

  3. Damn! Thwarted by The Retropolitan.

  4. Metrosexual or not, men should NOT get highlights. Men look distinguished with grey in their hair, not little bits of color that’s supposed to resemble natural sun.

  5. A narrow escape!!

  6. Though it’s probably disgustingly sexist, I’m with Sophia – I don’t pay $50 bucks for a hair cut, so why should the guy I’m with?

  7. You must have straight hair. Curly hair = bad hair cuts unless you spend upwards of $25.

  8. What’s wrong with a guy getting a good haircut? Spend the money, get the cut. I’d have to agree with the others though, not fond of men who color their hair. It looks silly.

  9. Don’t color it, Neil. A man’s gray is sexy!

  10. I’m with Sophia on the fancy man hair, it’s girlie.

  11. You should absolutely watch the movie The Hairdresser’s Husband (Le Mari de la coiffeuse), whose theme relates to your post.

    Also – […] She wasn’t a very good stylist, but she was a brilliant mathematician. For years after college, I associated getting a haircut with oral sex.
    Could you elaborate on this? I get somewhat lost in the train of thought here…

    I am a tad phobic about haircuts. I am incredibly fussy, and I prefer gay men to cut my hair, I am not sure why. I like their conversation, basically.

  12. I’m guessing, Neil, that every stylist who ever worked on your hair thought: “This Neil… He’s a cut above the rest!”

  13. Whew! That was close, Neil. Way too close.

  14. As a kid I went to a place in Chicago that was just like Joe’s Barbershop. Did you know there’s an old-time barbershop on Larchmont that looks just like one of those old gathering spots?

    I was walking down a street in Beverly Hills just yesterday thinking this very thought: “Men should NEVER get highlights in their hair.” Even the metrosexual label doesn’t cut it, it just looks ridiculous. Thank God you got out of there in time, Sophia never would have sat next to you on that plane.

    $70 for a men’s haircut? Insanity, even if you ARE George Clooney. Sometimes I’m glad I’m bald.

  15. Non-Highlighted Heather

    July 13, 2006 at 7:05 am

    I’ve been quite the cheapskate with my haircuts in the last few years, but it is time for me to go back to a decent salon. I went to Fantastic Sam’s on Saturday and came home butchered. I said for her to leave it at the shoulders. Apparently shoulders and jawline mean the same thing in Vietnamese.

  16. neil – i go to the most expensive place in my town – my stylest is the “2nd” stylest in the place – and she STILL only charges me $25 for a cut…. now if we were to color it again, then we’ed be looking at $70

  17. Neil, you’re one of the lucky ones.

    Go to the store and get a “Just For Men” haircolor kit thingy. I’m so technical with my use of the word “thingy”. Don’t use permanent…just get a wash. And, voila…the grays are covered. I will charge you nothing for this advice.

  18. Let it go long, Neil. Get in touch with your Inner Bohemian.

  19. Soooo, I hate to ask, what I think it the most obvious question, buuuut, did the gal in college perform oral sex on you, or did you perform oral sex on her? Cause, if it was her on you, WOW! I would be lookin’ her up. I mean, a free haircut and a blow job? Cha-ching!

  20. A more important question: Supercuts or Fantastic Sam’s, which is better?

  21. What? no picture?

    (Don’t go to either…if you liked your haircut, you just got lucky…remember the orange hair?)

  22. I agree, Men should be MEN…dont do anything to your hair other than cut it, a vain man is not a good thing and a man who colors his hair = vain, and coloring it is always evident and gray is distinguished…my man is gray and I love it. If it were any different, it wouldnt look right on him.

  23. the parallels to my own history in hair scare me. let’s see: ancient, formaldehyde-loving barber as child, followed by oral sex/haircut gal in college, then spending big bux on cuts with big-bosomed tease, going underground with crotchedy old pro, and then ending up at supercuts where george clooney is invoked as a model. you’re my west coast coiffure twin. or maybe it’s just two jewish men about the same age, with foreign-born wives.

  24. At which of these places did you get the Dorothy Hamil haircut?

  25. After our conversation yesterday, I’m not even going to touch the metrosexual aspect of this post.

  26. Definitely no highlights or other high-maintenance hair stuff for men! I dated a guy who was sooo into his hair he was getting it straightened…I couldn’t take it…he looked so much better with curly hair!

  27. If you do want to color your hair, I agree with Blonde Vigilante above–go to the drugstore.
    Men who pay a lot for their hair cuts or get it professionally dyed are VERY unattractive.
    In this society, men with gray hair are ‘sophisticated’. 😉

  28. You should’ve gotten a jerry curl. Works every time.

  29. Umm Neil, I would NEVER get coloring at Supercuts. Going to a more expensive place, with a top notch reputation is worth it, for this hair procedure.

    YOu owe Sophia for saving you from the Supercut hair color. 😉

    3T

  30. Lol. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m caught with a real bad stylist.

  31. i don’t think anyone needs highlights, a good cut can make such a difference. i had a bad haircut recently because my stylist was away and i trusted someone else. nothing wrong with old school barbers, they know hair.

  32. I’m obsessed with my hair but, that’s my job as a woman.
    We have a salon here in Portland called Hair M, for the MEN. They serve you beer, you get a massage all by a large breasted blonde woman.
    An ex-boyfriend of mine used to go there and you know I didn’t like it either and I usually date Metrosexuals.
    We have another barber shop in town that’s hip but old fashioned. They serve Pabst Blue Ribbon and have pool tables. I should go there and try to get a date.

  33. gray hair on a man can be very sexy. good choice on the running like hell from the hair coloring.

    men are such suckers for boobs in their face. 😉

  34. What is it with liberals of certain age and their obsession with hair color?

    I’ve had an online correspondent from Australia (till last week; the connection is terminated), a philosophy prof, who boasted of having his beard colored. I tried to hint, subtly, that he looked astonishing with full head of red curls and a grey beard, but no, that wouldn’t do. He had to ruin it! I should have known there are other issues, right after he insisted on this faux pa…sigh.

    Neil, when I converse, I only look into other person’s eyes, to see my reflection. You didn’t need to worry about your haircut.

  35. I’m with femme despoir on this, grey hair on a man, whooooooooar

  36. There was a barbershop near my home that was opened by three Asian women who had immigrated to the U.S. $10/cut. My son has incredibly thick hair and some wild cowlicks. Even though he’s a kid, they precision cut it perfectly. My husband’s super fine hair gained shape under their scissors. As if the haircut wasn’t enough, you got a free soda, neck and shoulder massage, and a the hot towel on the head treatment there. Damn, I was ready to cut all my hair off just to have the experience!

    BTW, I think guys coloring their hair is fine and it’s easy to do at home if you’re just covering gray and your hair is brown. I do however nix the highlights. There’s a reason Perez Hilton calls Lance Bass “Frostylocks.” Ahem.

  37. I’ve heard the voice of the people. Come see my next hair style.

  38. yes, Yes, YES…I love Taylor…go completely gray…it’s the new blonde.

  39. YES! The grey bowl cut is HOT. You can totally pull it off.

  40. Most any walk-in haircut place like Supercuts is hit or miss when it comes to cuts. You were lucky to get a good cut.

    However, I have found that in some places if you go to a Supercuts in a fancier part of town, the quality of cut will be better. If you get someone good, get their name so you can ask for them when you go back…

  41. G.I. Guy once got a $7 haircut from some guy who ran a barbershop in the South End of Hartford. I think he really did cut hair with a switchblade.

  42. I’ve always stuck with good old fashioned barbers who, as you put it, are of undeterminate age (but old!). There’s always a little jazz playing in the background, playboy and sports magazines on the stand and they use the old fashioned shave cream and straight razor on your neck. It’s implied that women and kids aren’t really welcome. One of the few true sanctuaries for a man. But a dying breed.

  43. Though I’m sure you look lovely just as you are, Neil dahling, I don’t know what kind of bug these people writing in have up their butt about men dyeing their hair. I’ve gone out with guys who had blue and fire engine red hair, for god’s sake. I’ve dyed my hair any number of natural and unnatural colors. Playing with your hair is fun. And if done right, damn sexy, too. Why shouldn’t men get to play?

  44. 🙂
    I think that grey hair looks good on man; makes them appear more
    distinguished!
    Fitèna

  45. There are hair-cutting establishments in Vietnam with names (can’t spell them to save my life) which translate loosely to “cut and cuddle”. And yes, this means you get a blow job while someone’s cutting your hair.

  46. Well, I suppose that’s much better than escaping via that bathroom window.

  47. I’ve used the save me phone call before too – but I just dial the number with the phone in my pocket, and hangup after a few seconds. Whomever I dialed usually calles right back & I use that as my escape.

  48. An adorable photo. I forgot how fun your site was to visit. Will return soon

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