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STYLE

Six Bits and a Dab'll Do Ya

Nowadays you can get a haircut that looks like a million, but it will cost you a mint. It makes you hanker for the old barbershops.

July 23, 2006|Martin Booe | Martin Booe is a frequent contributor to West.

When I was a kid, a beauty salon was the exclusive domain of women. In 1965, you figured that if a man loitered in one of these places longer than it took to deliver the mail he'd spontaneously mutate into an early prototype of Tiny Tim or Boy George.

Male grooming was seen to in a male environment, like Jack's Barbershop & Gun Depot. The great thing about Jack's was that you could pick up a box of lead hollow points for your rifle and get a flattop at the same time. Jack belonged to the John Birch Society, and he had a dual mission: to keep young men from becoming hippies by giving them crew cuts, and to make sure young men with crew cuts had guns to use against hippies. It was a vertically integrated, socially conscious business model, I guess, but it was annoying when Jack turned off his clippers to demonstrate the spring-load on a Glock 19.

This was long before the advent of the metrosexual. Men are peacocks and always have been, but the difference between now and 40 years ago is the extent to which we are encouraged to fuss over our complexions, our cuticles, our physiques and our follicles. It's weird. And suspect. If you think a woman wants a man who is as particular about grooming as she is, you are a mullet-headed fool. At the age of 6, the prospect of becoming a gun-toting vigilante with a burr cut felt wrong to me, though, to be honest, so did becoming a hippie. Anyway, by the time I was 13, the term unisex, a '70s-era Trojan horse for metrosexual, had come into play, as it pertains to hair anyway. My mother took me to her stylist, who did amazing things with my wooly head of Celtic curls. Female patrons asked, "Is that your son? What beautiful hair!" I didn't like the tone of this. I felt they were talking about me the way they would talk about Liberace. I wanted to hitchhike to Jack's Barbershop & Gun Depot to put things right.

I guess I'm lucky to still have a full head of hair, though I still don't know what to do with it. I've gotten expensive cuts from time to time--expensive meaning $50 or so--and they looked great, but only for an hour or two, because I'm constitutionally incapable of doing any sort of maintenance, especially if it involves "product." At one point I decided I liked the old burr look and went through a phase of $10 buzz cuts. Then I had a new passport picture taken and, well, you can just imagine. So I went back to trying to look like Dylan Thomas. I got the hangover part right, but not the poetic genius part.

These days I'm seeing a stylist named Myra in Los Feliz who charges a bit more than $10 but a lot less than $50. She understands me (as in, I couldn't be trusted to style my own hair even if I were up for an Oscar), and she doesn't have a gun dealer's license. Still, I long for the old days, for the no-nonsense barbershop. Clip this list if you seek nothing more than a fellow who will reduce the length of the hairs on your head and not cost you the bank.

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Ben's Barber Shop, 444 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena, (626) 441-6084.

Tony's Barber Shop, Silver Lake Shopping Center, 2552 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 663-9589.

Rudy's Barbershop, 4451 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 661-6535.

L.A. Barber College, 331 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, (213) 629-3303.

Jess' Barber Shop, 12822 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 397-7292.

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Neat Clean Trim

What the stylish male needs to face the day [see photo captions]

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Beauty does not ensnare men; they ensnare themselves.

--Chinese proverb

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If I were to start taking care of my grooming, I would no longer be myself, so the hell with it.

--Albert Einstein

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