May 14, 2006

My Follicle-Fondling Faux-Pas

A few months ago I came home on a Saturday morning and my wife knew something was off. I didn’t look like my normal self. Sure, my hair looked all right, just different. I hadn’t looked like this in our 3 years of marriage before. She knew right away. I did something I knew better to do. I had been with another. That’s right…I cheated on my barber.

It’s true. I let another touch me. I let some unknown person feel my follicles. I was cut by a stranger. I was charged two times the amount and got half the haircut. It took my barber (who knew someone else touched me the second he took a look at my head) two months to get my hair back to the original style.

I first met Sam Silva at Silva’s Barber Shop in San Marcos, Texas the month before I got married. I was on the hunt for a barber and all I’d found in the time I’d been there was “stylists” in the form of chains like Great Clips and Super Cutters. My wife (well, fiancée at the time) and I happened across Silva’s Barber Shop. We went in.

I later learned that Silva’s Barber Shop is the house where three Silva brothers decided to go into business together. Their father cuts hair in a neighboring city and their other brother cuts hair in yet another neighboring city. You can say that cutting hair is in their blood.

Anyways, That first visit was a little odd. I was probably the only 28 year-old to visit the Barber Shop with his girlfriend; I must have looked a little whipped at that time (the truth is, I like hanging out with my wife…she’s an awesome friend). It actually took me a few months to live that one down with Sam, he kept asking…so…your wife with you?

I could understand his barbing (pun intended)- Barber Shops are a man’s domain. For the most part, the only women at the Barber Shop are the ones there with little kids. Boys who are getting their hair cut for school. Boys learning the rite of passage that every boy should learn…the right to get your hair cut by a neighborhood barber.

For those who have never been to a barber, there are some differences you should be aware of. These are just some things that add a little testosterone to the haircutting experience. This article is going to concentrate on the differences between the chain-hairstylists and barber shops.

At a chain-hairstylists you sign in, or some receptionist takes your name down, and take a seat in some nice plastic white chair line and read your choice of Ladies Home Journal, Esquire, or Martha Stewart Weddings. When it comes your turn, they call your name out and you respond. Hopefully they call it out in order, because I’ve seen some tiffs that almost resulted in a cat fight when the hairstylist starts to play favorites… the huffy responses of “But I was here first” and “I’m a long-term customer” and ‘I’ll only be a minute” and “It’s an emergency I have a lunch date” circulate like flies at an outdoor barbecue restaurant.

At the barbers, you walk in and take a mental picture of who is in the room. You take a seat at one of the bus-style benches in the waiting area and read Golf Digest, various hunting magazines, Car and Driver, or some Real Estate brochure. It’s your turn when your barber yells “who’s next” and only people who have walked in after you are seated in the waiting area. It usually take about 5 seconds of finger pointing like “you’re” before someone is heading towards the chair.

Some hairstylists provide you with coffee or champagne or drinks of some sort. Rest assured, those aren’t free. The price will be reflected on the bill. At a Barber Shop you’re lucky to get a soda machine and a gumball machine with decade-old gumballs to benefit some organization. You’re there for a haircut, not brunch.

That’s another big difference I found out when I cheated on Sam — the price of the service. Hairstylists charge twice the amount for half of the work. My barber charges $9 for a haircut and trims my eyebrows and goatee. The hairstylist lady I went to charged me $12 and wanted to charge me another $7 for a goatee trim. She didn’t touch my eyebrows. I came home with my left eyebrow hair pointing at my wife. She knew I didn’t go to my normal place.

At a chain-hairstylists an 80s radio station is playing or there is some Muzak-like music in the background. It’s very quiet, serene, you almost feel like you shouldn’t talk while waiting. At the barber shop there’s music playing, either an oldies station or a tejano music station. Also, there is a television on with the sport of the moment playing. There is nobody to tell you that you can either have the TV or the radio on…not both. Both volumes are on and they meld together like it should be. Watching Tiger Woods play golf between reading the pages of Texas Parks and Wildlife while Beto Y Los Musicales are playing in the background. Nice.

Conversations while getting a haircut at the hairstylists revolve around things like where are you going this weekend, what your spouse thinks about something or other, do you think Brittney or Christina are cuter, or the latest gossip from the land. At a Barber Shop, the conversation revolves around who’s going to win the game or the fight on this week… which game or fight? All of them. Also touched on are, ‘How’s the family? What do you use to fertilize your lawn? Do you think I should take the kid to Wonder World or The Snake Farm? Did you see the new motor I dropped in my truck?’ I can tell you more about my barber and his family that I can about any of my co-workers…but I won’t. What’s said in the chair stays in the chair.

You can go to any chair in any store of a chain-hairstylists and get the same basic haircut. The people cutting get the job done and herd you out like cattle. Every time I went to the hairstylists I was in and out in about 15 minutes. I get my hair cut by Sam. I’ll wait for his chair to open. It takes me between 2 and 3 hours to get a haircut. And that’s if I get there just when they open. Sam takes his time. Every customer is important and every hairstyle is unique. Once I sit in his chair, I’m there for 45 minutes getting my ears lowered. He doesn’t try to get me done and out, we have a good time of BSing and advice giving. My hair is the picture of perfection, eyebrows trimmed, sideburns level, goatee tamed, and mind at ease.

If you’re reading this Sam, I apologize. I will never stray again. Until next time, if anyone who happens to find themselves in San Marcos with the need for a haircut, may I suggest Silva’s Barber Shop? The physical address is 1138 Invasion Street. Call and ask one of the brothers Silva how to get there - (512) 392-3050.

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