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Clip and Shave

For the Guy Who's Not Wild About Haircuts, Today's Styles Are a Disturbing Development.

November 24, 1996|COLEMAN ANDREWS | Colman Andrews is executive editor of Saveur and the author of "Flavors of the Riviera," recently published by Bantam

Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but has something happened to hair that I ought to know about? Nobody seems to have it anymore. Is the strontium-90 in the milk we drank as kids finally catching up with us? Are we supposed to be shedding the topside insulation because of global warming? Did hair become uncool while I was on that trip to Switzerland and forgot to look at USA Today?

The only public figures who seem to sport hair anymore are Dennis Rodman, Whoopi Goldberg and Fabio--and I'm not sure if Fabio still counts as public. When Andre Agassi got his hair cut short a year or so ago, I figured it was just some Buddhist reference left over from Barbra Streisand. But then Bruce Willis did it. Demi Moore did it. Even Candace Bergen did it. Well, sort of.

I view this trend toward less hair and outright hairlessness with great alarm. It's not that I have a lot of hair myself, although it happens that I do. It's that I just plain don't like getting haircuts. I expect my hair to look out for itself, to make as few demands on me as possible. I don't mean I let rats nest in it. I wash it every couple of days. I brush it in the morning. But then, as far as I'm concerned, I've done my duty. I don't want to hear from my hair again for as long as possible.

I haven't always felt this way about haircuts. As a kid, I thought they were pretty special. At first, it was probably a matter of the lollipop or balloon I got if I didn't squirm too much at the barbershop. Later, I came to appreciate barbershops themselves. They seemed like palaces to me--big, bright, lively, fragrant, full of gleaming chrome and sumptuous leather. I liked barbers, too--avuncular fellows in crisp white tunics, as adept with small talk, even if you were only, say, 13, as they were with shears.

Then I got to to be about 20 and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Garcia turned up, and guys with scissors in their hands suddenly became the enemy. I let my hair grow long--really long--for the first time. To my surprise and then delight, I found that this annoyed people--my parents, my employers, even strangers on the street (who, when they drove by the peace march, would yell not "Support our boys in Vietnam!" or "Join the Army!" but "Get a haircut!"--thus establishing what it was that was really bothering them about us hippie pinkos). When my hair got long enough to annoy me, I'd usually ask a friend to snip some off or try doing it myself. Eventually, of course, I did get back to professional haircuts. Practical circumstances demanded it. But the only time I've really enjoyed getting haircuts was in the mid-'80s. I was working on a book in Barcelona and chanced to meet Pascual Iranzo, barber to the King of Spain. Actually, calling Iranzo a barbaer is like calling Paul Bocuse a fry cook. Iranzo is a veritable poet of his metier. "I am a philosopher of life who cuts hair," he once told me. How could I resist? I became an Iranzo regular. It was quite an experience, sitting in his stylish softly lit second-floor salon on a Saturday morning, looking down on the bustling Gran Via while he darted around behind me with his shears like an artist dabbing paint on a masterpiece and a beautiful young, brown-eyed Catalana gently caressed my cuticles with an orange stick. How elegant! How gentlemanly! When I walked out of the place, I always felt as though I should stop somewhere and buy a double-brested pin-striped suit, or at least have a very dry martini.

Today, I'm an East Coast commuter, working in Manhattan, and I feel constrained to keep my hair at least vaguely under control. To this end, I get it cut from time to time in my new place of residence, a small town in southwestern Connecticut with no parking meters on the streets and an old-fashioned, if hardly palatial, barbershop at one end of its four-block-long business district. I walk in without an appointment and climb into a chair attended to by a nice young man or woman who snips away with deft, economical movements while we talk about the weather and our kids. I get up 20 minutes later, fork over $14, plus a $3 tip, and walk out. It's all rather pleasant, really--but I wouldn't want to do it once a week just so I can look like Demi Moore.

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