Self-reflection: I’m notoriously cheap. At least when it comes to buying stuff for myself. I’ll wear my clothes to the point of disintegration; dinner leftovers, no matter how unappealing, I throw together and take to work for my lunch (pasta mixed with rice and doused with Cholula?); and paying for a haircut strikes me as equivalent to throwing money on the floor and watching someone sweep it into the trash.
When I moved to Gettysburg twelve years ago, I needed to pick a hair stylist. I say stylist instead of barber because Gettysburg only has one barbershop, the Varsity Barbershop. It’s a nine-to-five operation, which suggests that only retired people and students deserve cheap haircuts. The Varsity actually has Saturday morning hours as well, but that’s when I typically go for a run. Beside, every guy in town between twenty-two and sixty-five is vying for those few coveted haircut slots.
I didn’t know anyone when we moved here; I had no way to rate the local salons. They were all equal in my eyes, and all similarly priced as well. I did what anyone in my place would have done, I went to the salon where I had a coupon. It came from the Welcome Wagon—which is fancy name for the little old lady who dropped by one Saturday morning with a bag full of coupons. One of them was good for a free haircut at Georgia’s Mane Attraction.
I like it when a business crafts its name from a pun, so this salon seemed like a perfect fit for me. What I found was an establishment that couldn’t have been ideologically more distant from the Varsity Barbershop, and pretty far from the sort of place I’d normally pick. Georgia’s is a salon reminiscent of the salons from when I was a kid. The salons my mother went to back in the seventies. Back in a time when all men went to see a barber. Georgia’s is a place where women go to get their hair done—not necessarily cut—just done. There’s a large room filled with those space helmet drying machines, and conversations fly around the room, primarily about the achievements of grandchildren. The old ladies and me.
I wear my hair short. It grows with a bit of curl and has a propensity to stand straight out. Unfortunately, it’s more of a bush than an afro, so it’s impossible to style, and it never looks cool. In my opinion, anytime I try to grow it longer than really short, it winds up looking stupid. So I chop it all off.
My haircuts entail a short setting on the electric clippers, uniformly taking off any length that has grown since my last haircut—usually around a quarter of an inch. The actual cutting takes around two minutes, but then the stylist goes through a series of time wasting scissor-snips to make it seem like I’m getting my money’s worth. And every time I walk out of the salon, I feel like I’ve been ripped off.
When I was a kid, my father bought an As Seen on TV product called the Hair Wiz. It’s a plastic comb that splits apart and harbors a razor blade inside. The blade extends halfway down the comb’s teeth. Once loaded with a razor blade, you simply comb your hair, and the Wiz cuts it to the desired length. My father’s last haircut was sometime in the early seventies.
Last year, his Hair Wiz wore out. The plastic comb rotted away, and it would no longer hold the razor blade in place. A couple of weeks ago, I met my father out at a nice restaurant for lunch. Follically, he seems adrift. At age eighty-five, his hair has stopped growing, at least ninety-five percent of it. But that remaining five percent is about four inches long. And floating away from his head as if caught in an electric current. He’s channeling his inner mad-scientist.
Over the past forty-five years, my father has bragged at irregular intervals about the money he’s saved on haircuts because of his Hair Wiz. The figure is well into the thousands. While a Hair Wiz doesn’t provide what I’d call a quality haircut, the thought of saving a couple of hundred dollars each year on haircuts appeals to me.
A few years ago, tired of being the only man in the shop, tired of being the only person under seventy, I quit going to Georgia’s. I went to Walmart and bought my own electric hair clippers. This is my version of the Hair Wiz. Every three to five weeks, I stand in the bathroom, shirt off, a towel covering the vanity, and I cut my hair. I can do the whole job myself; I rarely miss a spot. And when I do, well, the clippers are right there in the bathroom for a touch-up. Every two months, Susan or Sophie will trim up the hairs on my neck.
Just like my dad, my one-time investment has paid for itself exponentially. Each time I cut my hair, I save about twenty dollars—which, coincidentally, was the same amount I spent on the clippers. I haven’t started tallying up my savings, but I can’t believe I’m many years from that. Eventually, we all turn into our parents. It just takes a little bit of time.
While writing this story, I found the Hair Wiz available on ebay. I bought a new (used) one for my father. I can’t wait until he gets it in the mail – Jeff.