Gray Matter


Barbershops and Haircuts in the United States and the Philippines

RT Cunningham | August 19, 2020 (UTC) | Culture

barbershops and haircutsIt’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 will ever need.

Most of the people doing the cutting aren’t even called barbers anymore. They’re called hair stylists, hairdressers or something else. Thankfully, most military bases still have barbershops.

Barber Shops in 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 on 7th Street and Thomas Road. 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 after I retired from the military in 1998.

I don’t know where any regular barbershops now exist outside of Luke Air Force Base. That’s where I got my haircuts after I retired and before I moved to the Philippines. When I told one of the barbers there I wanted a Marine Corps haircut, I usually had to explain it.

Barber Shops in Olongapo

When I moved to the Philippines, I was pleasantly surprised that traditional barber shops still existed in downtown Olongapo. At least two of them still exist. I used to get my haircuts at the one next to a foreign money exchange on Magsaysay Drive.

The only thing I don’t like about haircuts in Olongapo is the barbers insist on giving neck massages when they’re done. It was like that on Okinawa from 1987 to 1988 as well, except those were Japanese barbers. The barbershops 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 (which was around two United States dollars).

A Relative Giving Away Haircuts

A sister-in-law’s husband, Alex, decided to practice cutting people’s hair back in April 2017. He didn’t charge anything from anyone. Not even me. He’s also the guy who drove for me and my wife, Josie, on occasion when he wasn’t at his regular job, which was driving a taxi.

He cut off all the hair of the first two victims, as they requested. I was the third victim, but I didn’t get all my hair cut off. He did a pretty good job, all things considered. It wasn’t a great haircut but by the time I went out in public again, no one could tell. Of course, I never got a haircut from him again.

Another Barber

I didn’t know it until someone told me, but there was a barber shop 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 from the corner and across the street.

That’s where I got my hair cut a few times. I requested a “semi-kalbo”, which means very, very short. His barber shop consisted of two barber chairs behind a garage door. The barber 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.

My New Barber

I have a receding hairline. It’s been slowly receding since I was 18. I’ll be 60 this year and I’m not yet half bald. I have four brothers (one deceased), with only one younger than me. There’s more hair living on my head than on any of theirs.

I don’t believe in trying to hide my baldness. Other than Josie, who do I need to impress? She started cutting my hair a few months ago (I think she’s cut it twice), using regular hair clippers. I let her cut it to an eighth of an inch all around (the “semi-kalbo” style). Pictures don’t do it justice. Because I have blond and gray hair, it looks like I’m completely bald unless I tilt my head forward and to one side or the other.

Facts About Barbers

A very long time ago, before the industry of medicine starting forming, barbers were also called barber surgeons. They 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 in the last 20 years.

Photo Attribution: mrtapp1 from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published as two separate articles at one of my other websites in March 2014 and April 2017.

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