Among men, the absolute truth is that the less hair we have the more time we spend arranging it. I specify “arranging,” because that task far surpasses ordinary combing or brushing. I reached that conclusion based on years of surveillance of men at various locales where mirrors are present and sinks are nearby. I have modest experience with women and their hair, which is probably just as well, since that’s a much more complicated topic, one that I’m ill-prepared to critique.
But I have been wondering which group, women or men, is more loyal in their relationship with cutters. Which group is more likely to sever connections and switch allegiance, and seek a better result elsewhere. I started pondering this topic after hearing my brother-in-law casually mention that he has been going to the same shop for nearly 40 years.
“The son cuts my hair now,” he said, with some pride. “The father is still there, but he doesn’t do that much cutting anymore.”
He seemed proud of the longevity of his barbering experience, and was especially mindful of the fact that two generations have become intimately familiar with his desire to read a newspaper while seated in the chair, and not be required to conduct a continuing conversation.
“When I started, the father was a barber and now the son calls himself a stylist and the price has gone up,” he said. “I don’t think many women will stay with the same hair person that long. Men are much more loyal,” he claimed.
I agreed, naturally.
It’s always dangerous to agree with any conclusion comparing the characteristics of men and women, and loyalty is one of the most admirable. The following day I decided to make a few discreet inquiries and soon heard the story of two different women who had been regular customers of certain hairdressers for about 35 years.
The results surprised me. Of course, there are many long term relationships on both sides, but my clear conclusion is this: Women are more loyal.
Yes, they require more attention and demand a higher level of creativity, but, for many of them, the person cutting their hair is ranked at a higher status, a trusted confidante, like a member of the family or close friend. When breakups do occur, they are often very emotional. A customer’s name suddenly doesn’t appear regularly on the appointment list. That news can be punctuated with sobs.
Men, while loyal, seem less concerned about the relationship and more focused on the job and the scheduling. One friend recently made a hurried stop at his shop of choice and was shocked to find this hand-written notice pasted on the door:
“Closed due to a death in the family.”
He was sorry to learn that sad news but determined to complete his mission. He stopped on the way back to his office at another shop he had noticed but knew nothing about; no references, no recommendations, strictly a cold call. It turned out fine, maybe a little short on the top, but generally acceptable.
My haircuts started with Charley, who I know only by reputation. He gave me my first several haircuts, accompanied by hysterical screaming. Things eventually calmed down, as they often do, leading to a policy of docile behavior which continues to this day. I started with Sam, Mike and Angelo, and so far have proceeded to Karen, Mary, and Renee. My changes were primarily caused by retirements, relocations or shop closings. On this subject, I still recall the observation of one of those barbers:
“It would be easier if you didn’t have to deal with people,” he said.
Dick Hirsch is a veteran Buffalo journalist and author. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which is “A new bathtub for the White House,” a collection of some of his favorite essays.
Photo by Alwin Kroon