Recently, after a couple beers, Xy let it slip that she’s not really into the funky weird ponytail I’d been growing out for the last year or so.
I can’t say I blame her. It started as the ultimate anti-mullet, long on top, shaved everywhere else. But when it finally got long enough, it started looking like a mullet after all. In fact, this hair had become something of a liability. I worry how my personal image reflects on my other activities. For example, as the president of a small grassroots organization I often speaking to the public. I have to wonder what the Rotary Club thought when I show up sporting that ridiculous ‘do. I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t want to make our project look bad.
So, yes, I’ve been looking forward to chopping it off. The question has been when. Xy’s offhand comment was the only excuse I needed.
The other key question has been how. I could have just shaved my head bald on the porch. I can do that myself, and the price is right.
But I like going to a barber when I can. Since Katrina I have been struggling to find a regular barber. I’ve got a guy I can go to for a cut who’s pretty good, but he’s kind of unfriendly and he’s not close to home. Proximity is key. I want to be able to walk to my barbershop. i want to be able to pop in without a great deal of fuss. I also want a barber with whom I can develop a rapport, someone who will understand what I want, eventually. And finally, there’s a little feeling of community that can emerge in a barbershop. I like talking to, or just listening to, or just being the same space with people I wouldn’t otherwise have met, neighbors I wouldn’t otherwise know.
That’s why I was happy to see Loose Endz open up just a couple doors from our house back in early March.
Incidentally, I wrote Vincent Marcello a letter about this property last October. He wrote back and assured me that any lead paint issues would be handled responsibly. I would have gone ballistic if I’d seen any sanding, but I never did. Somehow they got it done. From what I can tell, Mr. Marcello was good to his word.
Since they opened, I’ve stuck my head in the door a couple times, but Saturday morning I went as a customer.
I’ve patronized African American barbers for years. My pre-K barber, Louis E. Claverie, had a sign above his door that advertised “Serving All Nationalities.” (His shop was put out of commission by the floods of ’05. I don’t know what happened to him personally. I often wonder, and I hope he made out OK.) The barbers I’ve visited post-K have not been so versatile. I went to Unifiers only once, but I got the impression I was the only white customer Mr. Percy had ever had. I worked with a couple guys at Hair Ideas, but just as soon as they got up to speed, they vanished — and then Hair Ideas was foreclosed, sadly enough.
If you’re wondering why I’m making such a big deal about race, well, hair really is pretty different between the races. What’s more, it’s different in tricky ways that are significant when it comes to cutting and styling. The art of cutting Afro-textured hair is distinct from the art of cutting straight hair.
Saturday morning, I decided to get the question out of the way. I asked Tim straight-up if he much experience cutting Caucasian hair. I don’t normally call myself Caucasian, but talking about “white hair” is even more confusing. Tim confessed he wasn’t too comfortable with the scissors, but that’s OK. Clipper cuts are what I prefer anyway.
I often aim for a flattop, a somewhat technical cut which is hard to pull of without a lot of practice. In this case, given how much of my head was shaved almost bald, I’m not sure a flattop was possible. What I ended up with was more like a rooster’s comb, almost like a mohawk with a very accomplished fade. Even so, I don’t look half as wacky as I did before. I’m happy with this for now, but I’ll probably take it down a little shorter next time. I like having an ultra-conservative, military-style haircut. It’s like a spiritual mullet: business on the outside, party within.
Twenty bucks got me a haircut and a shave. Tim proved to be both personable and a skilled barber. I think I’ll be back.
Here’s a photo.
It’s not a very good shot, because I’m backlit, but I like it anyway because it was taken by Persephone. I helped her steady the camera, but she pushed the button herself. You can’t really see here how the hair comes to crest, but there are more pix in my photostream if you’re really curious. Self-portraits are a challenge.
Post Scriptum: Tim told me Banks Street Bar will soon be closing, temporarily, so that the building can be straightened, because it’s leaning like a gangsta.