I was blessed with the curse of rapidly growing, extremely thick hair. When it was much longer, combing it was often a pain, literally. And now that I keep it tamed in one of those side parts often seen these day in cities like New York, Seattle and Portland, it's slightly more manageable. However, because it grows pretty fast, I have to get it cut at least every two weeks. When the average haircut at newfangled "throwback" barber shops and glitzy, fashion forward salons run upwards of $40, that's almost $100 bucks a month on keeping my 'do in check. And frankly, that's a lot more than I'm willing to pay.
That's why I'm a strong advocate of the neighborhood barber shop. Often, these cuts cost less than $20, even after tip. Plus, the guys cutting are usually older, wiser and into very different things than say, your average cool guy barber. Sure, it's great to chop it up about the newest indie rock album or a cool bar in town with a well-coiffed, tattooed bon vivant, but it's also enjoyable to get a different point of view on current events or talk sports with a gent who doesn't hang out in artisan coffee shops or drink craft beer when he's not giving hipsters a buzz.
Don't get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the fact that there are guys who proudly choose barbers over stylists any day. And there's no doubt in my mind that you get what you pay for at places like Rudy's and The Blind Barber (a good cut, a stiff drink and a modern, masculine ambience), but you can't duplicate the no-nonsense demeanor of a man who's been cutting hair for decades.
And while I choose to go old-school on my barbershop, the products I put into my hair are an entirely different story. After all, the men's grooming product market is booming with modern options that smell and work better than the stuff they had in the '50s. Currently, I'm on a daily regimen of Bumble & Bumble's Surf Spray and Blind Barber's 90 proof pomade.
As for my current barber, I found him on Yelp. The shop's a few blocks from the office, and I pay about 18 bucks with tip. The clientele is a mix of older guys who've frequented the place for years, younger guys who need a quick trim and men who just happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to stop in. But above all, the environment is totally unpretentious. There are no marketing gimmicks, no attempts to sell you special pomades or old-school combs, no tie-ins to hipster hangouts, and no waxing nostalgic about "the good old days." It's just a comfortable spot to come in, get a quality cut and go about the rest of your day.