A few weeks ago, my husband invited me to join him on a trip to town to run errands and eat lunch together. One of the to-dos on our list that day was to stop by Barber Dan’s barbershop in Desha, Arkansas. Even though this barbershop was not conveniently located in relation to our home, my husband continued to remain loyal to Barber Dan because of the quality and consistency of the service at his shop.
I honestly never understood why he felt compelled to drive so far and spend so much extra time and gas money for a $10 hair cut and shave. After sitting in the hard-backed chair reading the classified ads, affording me the opportunity to be a fly on the wall for a while, I understood.
First of all, let me just say that I was completely fascinated by the entire barbershop experience. It’s completely different from a typical salon, and as a woman, I’d obviously only had salon experiences. I’d never stepped foot in a real barbershop. I’d never smelled the hot soap spilling out of the dispenser. I’d never watched a barber work meticulously and fluidly and rapidly, not missing a beat or snipping in error. I’d never seen my husband getting shaved with a straight edge razor.
But more importantly, I had no idea what kind of subculture the atmosphere of a barbershop conjures up. I had never listened to so many elderly men discussing everyday life with such depth of insight and amusing perspectives on things. I’d never seen a customer, at a salon or any place, walk into a shop and begin sweeping up excess clippings from the floor as a simple friendly gesture to help. I have rarely met someone like Barber Dan who ran his business with ease and seemed to genuinely enjoy himself on the job.
After my husband had paid for his haircut, and we headed to lunch, I remarked at what a great experience I’d had and how fascinated I felt by the subculture of barbershops.
“I wish I’d brought my camera! I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded if I’d taken a few pictures. Oh well, next time.”
There won’t be a next time, though. Barber Dan closed his shop a week later due to a personal illness.
I’m grateful I had the opportunity to gain insight into my husband’s strong preference for barbershops versus salons. Most of all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see a great man at work and get a glimpse of the great American barbershop tradition. Like all good things in life, I don’t know how long I’ll have them. But I plan to make the most of them while I can. And next time, I’ll take pictures.