The Return of the Barbershop
Something sad and terrible happened in the 1990s - people stopped getting haircuts. Okay, not completely. But the greasy, mussed up locks of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder were in style, and paragons of high fashion like Madonna and Prince took a hit. It was cool not to care way back in the days of grunge, and that meant wearing your nonchalance. Who had time for haircuts when there was so much angsting to do?   Barbershops had been on the decline for decades by that point, and when the new millennium rolled around it seemed like they were poised to go the way of the fax machine and video rental store. Women have always relied on their salons and stylists and thus had other options, but men felt an awkward absence in their lives, some gaping hole they didn't quite understand how to fill. Do you get a ten dollar student haircut and feel like a hobo, or do you brave the jungle of estrogen that is the local stylist, shilling out a week's pay in the process? Hell, it was emasculating even to ask for hair help. The haircuts of men suffered in this limbo as a result.   Then something magical occurred. Gay culture became sexy and cool, the traditional "manly man" image fell sharply out of style, and men, perhaps as a result, started caring how they looked again. Sure, the tight pants and cheap flannel of "grunge chic" is all over hipster culture and they get a fair amount of deserved mockery. But the upside is some better looking, better smelling, better coiffed young men. The barbershops have come roaring back to meet this new crowd of appearance-minded males. Floyd's 99 Barbershop, The Grooming Lounge, Rudy's Barbershop - all have burst onto this new scene, handily transforming the haircut from a monthly chore to a fascinating experience.   Rudy's Barbershop   The real draw behind these new barbershops is the social experience they offer. Let's leave aside stereotypes about millennials and their texting habits for a moment. Kids these days love to chit chat. These barbershops serve much the same function as a café or bar. They're places to engage, both with the staff and other patrons. They're places to promote your band or poetry slam. They're places to get some local color, meet hot singles, and yes, to get some fashion tips. Hipsters they might sometimes be, but let's all just take a moment to thank our lucky stars that we've finally got a generation of young men who aren't afraid of shampoo. Barbershops are ground zero for this new, dandruff-free breed.   It's hard to say exactly why young men have gone back to their barbers. Millennials are fickle, eager to reject pretty much anything their parents say is good for them. They're children of "Post 9/11" politics and the Gay Rights Movement and they don't care to be told how to dress or how to feel in this weird new world they're inheriting. It's not rebellion per se, just a big "thanks but no thanks" aimed at the establishment. They don't need your politics, your prejudice, or your haircuts, thank you very much. It's time for a change, one that starts at the scalp.   Of course, maybe this isn't really a new development. Once upon a time the barbershop was a community hub, like a church or tavern. In many ways, this is less an evolution and more a homecoming for the modern man. We care again. We're sitting down for a trim and a shave just like our grandparents before us, and yes, maybe it's all gussied up with an iPhone in one hand and a Frappuccino in the other. But it's our crazy new version of something grand and old, and there's nothing wrong with that. We smell good, at least.   photo credit: brianwallace via photopin cc photo credit: Jeffrey via photopin cc

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