When Ry and J need a haircut, they go to a place called,”Snippets,” in Skokie. From everything I’ve heard, the name reflects the experience. It’s not a “haircut,” it’s a “snip.” It’s quick ,fast, and painless, no need to worry about Post Traumatic Haircut Disorder (PTHD). In fact, it isn’t even a full “snip.” No, it’s a “snip pet,” which seems to imply its even less intrusive than a full snip.
Yolanda, the snip per, from what I’m told,”lllllllovess” them. She sets them in an automobile chair, they get to pick a video, “or ” hey, bring your own”to watch, pick a toy, and even get lollipops for demonstrating an ability to withstand the physical and emotional challenges of this experience. The concept makes sense and works. It just amazes me that children’s haircuts have come to this. Before this experience, I remember taking Ry to a barbershop for a haircut. Neither he nor the barber wanted to be there. It appeared most of the guys in the shop were there to avoid children. So we stopped going and my wife now takes them to Snippets. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded a few “Snippets” moments in my own life.
First, let me be clear about something, I’m not good at knowing when to get a haircut. I have friends that just clock in a cut every 4 weeks, no matter what length their hair is or how it feels. I, on the other hand, go through periods of liking it one way, then hating it the next day. And with a bald spot, or “my spot,” as the boys and I have come to call it, my hair reactions are more neurotic. “Does my spot show? Do I look like one of those guys that can’t accept losing his hair, so he tries to keep the same hair style he had as a teenager. Only today that style on him , looks more like a forty year old man trying hard to look 18. Not a pretty sight. And please tell me, I don’t look like that guy who seems to have hair when you see him face to face and then when he turns away, all is clear and you wonder where he went.” Despite my hangups, my haircut memories equal the pain that some associate with going to the dentist.
When I was a kid, I hated going to the barber. I never got “Floyd” from the Andy Griffith show. I can remember climbing up on barber chair after the barber placed the special worn out burgundy leather attachment on it for kids. I can still picture his shiny metal pointy shears and the mirror in front of me on the wall and behind my head. The stripes on my cloak, the low lighting are unforgettable. The barber was thin, wore round,gold wire rim glasses, seemed to have thinning fluffs of hair slicked back. None of the men waiting for a haircut looked particularly happy. In retrospect, most of them, looked like men hung over from the night before trying to avoid their family and nurse a hang over. “Snippets,” it wasn’t.
I also remember going to a barber college on the South Side of Chicago. I didn’t know why my dad did this, but for some reason we commuted all the way from the North side of Chicago to the South side every so often just for a haircut. While I don’t have a clear memory of whether I liked getting my haircut there or not, I remember thinking the place was very hip. I can remember the rows of barber chairs and the Black student barber with their tall afros and Converse All Stars. At the time, there were few things cooler to me than that blue star on a pair of white high top Chuck Taylor’s. I can’t remember the music playing, but the place was jumpin. A clear contrast to the morgue like feeling in the more traditional shop.
Not long ago, I did try to go to the local barbershop located under the L stop on the Red Line. It’s probably been at the same location for over 40 years. In fact, it was the father’s shop and eventually one son joined and later the college educated son left a banking executive position to join his pop. The brothers tried to spruce up the place with a flat screen tv, a Rex Grossman jersey on the wall, and a broader selection of magazines.
The conversations between you and the barber went something like this, ” so what do you want today?,” ” I’d like some taken off the top, keep the sides short, and keep the side burns…,” ” OK, so you want to look good, right-I’ll take care of you.” I never knew if he actually listened to anything I said, or just waited, so he could tell me how he was going to cut it.
For me, the most awkward part of getting a haircut is the interaction between the barber and me. Think about it, one grown man running his fingers through another man’s hair. And then cutting and shaping it, so it fits your face and looks just right on you. On one hand, it is a very loving interaction. It seems so antithetical to a culture that struggles to understand men touching other men, unless they are gay. And yet men line up to have the barber tend to them, like a father to a son. Perhaps because of this, the conversation seems fairly rigid and limited to,
“do you think the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, Sox will do it this year?” Perhaps the intimacy of one man caring for another man’s coif, does not allow for silence. So for the shy man, “men’s mags” are always available as a substitute for an actual dialogue.
I can’t decide which is more difficult to endure, the exchange between myself and the barber or waiting to have that moment. In the year 2008, I don’t believe there are many places where men just gather together, sit, and possibly interact. I’ve been to the shop when there were 10-15 men of different ages, just sitting, not talking, watching TV, stepping in or out, just waiting for their turn. For me, that wait is horribly uncomfortable. It’s also bizarre because where do men gather like this if you’re not gay.
I think of a gathering of men at the urinal troughs at Wrigley Field, but that is more of an exuberant”Wow, we’re peeing at the Cubs game” get in-get out moment. Maybe at a dingy old bar, where no one talks, but they drink, smoke, and watch anything that moves on the television. I imagine in another era, the hospital waiting room in the maternity ward might have been a place for men to gather. But today, it looks odd and feels very uncomfortable, which is why I’ve settled for getting my hair cut at “Super Cuts.”
In some ways, Super Cuts is a hybrid. It’s where aspects of stylists and barbers meet. It is not quite as sterile as the medicinal feeling in a barbershop. Picture those jars with blue liquid and combs fermenting till the next head arrives for a combing. But its also not as trendy as the Michigan Avenue stylists. No, Super Cuts gives you enough purple walls,big posters of people with nice hair cuts, and waiting room chairs that can absorb even a Mountain Dew, fake plants, and bouncing music to remind you of the days you paid full price. But when the “stylist” asks you very specific questions about what razor level you want, the experience feels more technical than artistic. I’ve learned to say a “2” on the sides and scissors on the top. ” As I write, I hear my inner motivational speaker saying, “why are you settling man? get out there and find an expensive stylist.” And just as I am about to leave, my Super stylist tells me it will be $11.95and I remember why I keep coming back. She even asks me if I want “product.”
“Product” is code word for hair supplies. By using, it implies you are suave enough to understand. There is no need to explain to you because you have been to stylists and not just barbers. You know the importance of hair care. And I like to believe it is a not so subtle way of saying, “hey man, you’ve still got hair! Hair that could use “product.”