Before I tell you why I no longer get haircuts at barbershops, I’ll share some history.
It’s hard to find regular barbershops these days, at least in the big cities of the United States. There, you’re lucky if you can find anything other than hair salons. Sure, hair salons cut hair, but they do so much more. More than what I’ll ever need.
Most of the time, the person cutting your hair isn’t even called a barber anymore. Those people are called hair stylists, hairdressers, or something else. Thankfully, most American military bases still have traditional barbershops.
Getting Haircuts in Metro Phoenix, Arizona
When I worked at a military recruiting station from 1992 to 1996, I got my hair cut by an old guy at a barbershop in downtown Phoenix. He was an Italian immigrant and a World War II veteran. While there were other barbers in the shop, I liked listening to the things he talked about while he cut my hair. He passed away sometime after I retired from the military.
I don’t know where any regular barbershops now exist outside of Luke Air Force Base, which is near Metro Phoenix. That’s where I got my haircuts after I retired and before I moved to the Philippines. When I told any of the barbers there I wanted a Marine Corps haircut, I usually had to explain it.
Barbershops in Downtown Olongapo City
When I moved to the Philippines, I was pleasantly surprised that traditional barbershops still existed in downtown Olongapo City. Well, at least two of them did. I used to get my haircuts at the one next to a foreign money exchange on Magsaysay Drive. The only thing I didn’t like about their haircuts was that the barbers insisted on giving neck massages when they were done.
It was like that when I was stationed on Okinawa as well, except that those were Japanese barbers. The barbershops in downtown Olongapo are holdovers from when the Subic Bay Freeport Zone was still a United States Navy base. They cut hair for Sailors and Marines alike (since Marines were often deployed on Navy ships).
The last time I got a haircut downtown, the price was 50 pesos. Including the tip I always gave, I spent no more than 100 pesos.
Getting Haircuts Nearby
I didn’t know it until someone told me, but there was a barbershop pretty close to my home. If I went down the hill to the end of the street and made a left at the main crossroad, it was only about a hundred feet or so from the corner and across the street.
That’s where I got my hair cut a few times before 2018, when I left for the United States. I requested a “semi-kalbo”, which means very, very short. His barbershop consisted of two barber chairs behind a garage door. He did an excellent job, and he didn’t take long at all. His price was the same as the other barbershops, and I tipped him 50 pesos like the other barbers.
His barbershop moved to another building a little further down the street before I returned in 2022. I got one more haircut from him shortly after I arrived and never went back. The price had only increased to 70 pesos, and I still gave him 100. That’s less than two dollars, by the way.
Yet Another Barber
I have a receding hairline. It’s been slowly receding since I was 18. I’m already in my 60s, and I’m not yet half bald. I don’t believe in trying to hide my baldness. Other than my wife, Josie, who do I need to impress? She started cutting my hair in 2020, using regular hair clippers. Getting into a barbershop during the pandemic was next to impossible.
I let her cut it to an eighth of an inch all around (the “semi-kalbo” style) once a month. Pictures didn’t do it justice. Because I have blond and gray hair, it looked like I was completely bald from the front, unless I tilted my head forward and to one side or the other.
After I returned to the Philippines, and after I got a haircut at the nearby barbershop, I ordered a hair trimmer (also called hair clippers) from Lazada. Including shipping, it cost me about five U.S. dollars. It’s cordless and charged using a micro-USB cable. The charge lasts longer than it takes to cut my hair. I still let Josie cut my hair.
I’ll buy a much better set of hair clippers while I’m in the United States again. The trimmer probably won’t last much longer because the blades are getting dull.
Facts About Barbers
A very long time ago, before the industry of medicine starting forming, a barber was also called a barber surgeon. The barbers practiced both medicine and dentistry. Of course, they also cut hair and shaved faces. The famous barber pole represents the history of barbers performing medical procedures.
Most barbers today only cut hair, if you can find a real barber. Real barbers go to school to learn how to properly cut all types of hair. I’ve probably seen only two barbershops in my entire life where the barbers still shaved faces, and it wasn’t within the last 30 years.
Image by Lazada