Barbershops Offer Space for Men23 July 2009
The day of the fraternal club has gone the way of the dinosaur. Seen as elitist, sexist and generally suspicious, most men’s groups have either dissipated or become co-ed. Athletics sometimes seem to be the only center for male interaction. I admit, this makes me sad. Men’s isolation is greatest around other men.
So it is with some hope that I’ve noticed the re-emergence of the barbershop. For instance, according to the Saddleback Valley News [CA] (19 June 2009), V’s, an Arizona-based franchise, has recently opened shops in Foothill Ranch and San Clemente. Featuring vintage Koken barber chairs, flatscreen TVs and straight razor shaves, it has brought men into a space more comfortable and interactive for them. “You walk into a hair salon and there’s women getting perms and it smells,” said Blake Feaser, the 24 year-old manager of the Foothill Ranch shop. “This is centered more around the guy.”
In my own hometown of Sioux Falls I’ve seen a related thing emerge in the form of the Chop Shoppe. For around $25 a guy can plop down on a leather couch, order a beer (!) and watch ESPN until he feels like having his hair cut. From there he is moved to the cutting area, which looks like some crazy hybrid of a motorcycle detailing shop and Paul Bunyan-gone-Japanese-minimalism. While the staff is mostly women, and while they offer massages and manicures and the like, the place is very cool, set up from head to toe with men in mind.
Barbershops don’t guarantee male comaraderie. But they do at least offer a space in which men can relax and perhaps develop some relationships in a non-athletic environment.