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Head Talk

Okay, enough with the current events talk. Unless something else equally interesting happens this week, we’re sticking to scheduled programming.

There was a time when I tried growing long hair. I even tried to naturally braid said hair into dreadlocks (by naturally, I mean without using chemicals and / or salon treatments), although that failed, much to the relief of some of the people I know.

During my stay in CdO, however, I decided that enough was enough, and had my hair cut off. This act was enough to stop all work in the office the next morning — that was how impressed everybody was with my decision to chop off my hair.

Woman getting a haircut

Why does the word “haircut” retrieve more Google images of women when men spend more on haircuts??

Apparently, I looked way better with less hair—this was according to my boss at the time, who said that I “…looked younger.” I think I re-discovered the joy of having my hair cut then and there; call it vanity on my part, or the thrill of being appreciated as a younger version of my 24-year old self. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that I made it a monthly habit. There was this barber shop at the basement of the Gaisano Mall in the city that could cut my hair just the way I liked it. So I lost weight AND looked good during my stay down in Mindanao.

Now, what happened later on was that I went back to Manila, and I couldn’t find a barber shop that could give me the same treatment. I went through a lot—and I mean A LOT—of barbers between 2008 to 2012.

  1. The first barber shop I came back to was the Headway chain of haircut franchises. These were easily found in the malls, and from what I recall, they employed barbers of the Old City (the kind that drank black coffee in the daytime, San Miguel Pale at night, looked like a taxi driver). I enjoyed these barbers, partly because they gave good back massages afterwards, and partly because I spent most of my earlier years in Old City barber shops. Now, Headway was still a good barber shop. But they charged P90 for a barber cut, and I just couldn’t recover from the fact that I had to pay that much just for some dude to put a pair of scissors to my hair. So I moved on.
  2. The Bay View Barber Shop is a piece of Old City history in itself. It still resides in it’s original spot along United Nations Avenue, and enjoys a steady influx of people who remember going to these barber shops back when they were younger. I remember going there back when I was a teen, and my father still gets his head shaved there once in a while. After I decided that Headway was too expensive, I went with my father to this old barber shop for a change. It was nice to see that the place still had it’s old clientele (I think dad recognized some of the people there) and that some of the old barbers were still there. But after one haircut, I realized that no matter how much you insisted on a variation of the barber’s cut, you will still always end up with just a regular barber’s cut, so I decided not to go back there.
  3. Thanks to the brand-new Robinson’s mall in Otis street, which is near my house, I was able to try out another brand of boutique haircutters. This time, it was the Express Cut brand of salons. The reason why I gave these guys a shot was because they had an early-morning promo; all hair cuts before lunch were forty pesos each. That was quite a deal, so I decided to give them a couple of tries. But the prices reverted back to their regular rate of Php120 a haircut, which was a bit exorbitant, as far as hair cut rates were. So there went that barber shop.
  4. Which brought me back to the barber shop I’d been visiting the most back when I was younger. The California Barber Shop is a landmark along the corner of Apacible-Leon Guinto streets in uptown Manila. This is your classic Old City barber shop with a genteel twist; the barbers, when not working on a customer, are reclined on their chairs, reading a newspaper or playing music from their music players. Once in a while, they trade gossip with the manicurists. This sounds like a testosterone swamp, and it is – there’s a lot of machismo going on around in The California Barber Shop, but when you grew up going to the place, you hardly mind the banter between the staff. Also, it turns out that a friend frequented this barber shop too, so that was an added plus for me. At Php70 a haircut, it wasn’t so bad as the other shops I’ve been to, so this went back to being one of my two current go-to shops.
  5. Which leads me to the last on the list. Puno’s Barber Shop is like The California Barber Shop, except a couple of times dodgier. The business started out as a literal hole-in-the-wall in downtown Pandacan, but thanks to the skill of the eponymous Puno, the barber shop grew and prospered up to a point that there are now two branches – one of them being a multi-story building along the corner of Peñafrancia-Pedro Gil Streets in Paco proper. I initially paid a visit to the latter branch sometime in 2010, and was pleased to find out that haircuts were Php40 a pop. Of course, back at the time, the guy who worked on me basically did the barber equivalent of running a weed eater through my hair. I had my usual short-cropped barber’s cut, but it was uneven on some areas, so I was a bit hesitant when I decided to give it a try again early last July 2012. Much to my surprise, the same person who did a number on me gave me one of the better, cheaper haircuts I’ve ever had the pleasure of having, and at the same price of Php40.

It’s near the end of August, and I’ve yet to get a second hair cut, due mostly to the fact that I’m a miserly old coot when it comes to my money. But I’ve been thinking: back in the 40s, getting a hair cut every two weeks would have been pretty much the norm for your average guy, especially if you wanted to maintain just how good you looked with that hair cut. Thanks to hippies, artists, and more hippies, the rules on personal hair care (and hygiene) have become something of a joke, and for a time, I was one of the folks who thought that maybe all that hair wasn’t much of a problem.

But these days, I look at my hair – hardly two months old! – and I think that I look bedraggled. And I’m thinking that while a hair cut every two weeks was a bit too excessive, one every three and a half weeks wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, look at it mathematically:

  1. There’s an average of 365 days in a year. If you divide that by an average of 24 days, you will end up with 16.
  2. Twenty four days is basically three and a half weeks. If you got a haircut every three and a half weeks, you’d be getting 15 – 16 haircuts in a year.
  3. If you pay your barber an average of Php60 per haircut, you’ll be spending around Php960 in a year. Php1280, if you include the tip to your barber.
  4. The average MyPhone mobile phone is Php2,000. Wanna look good? Ditch the phone, and have great hair.

Of course, I’ve considered getting myself an electric razor, just like what Bruce uses in order to make the process of cutting my hair more personal, and more automatic. There’s a certain precision and logic that comes with using one of those to keep your hair trim, and you hardly get strands that are longer than the rest. However, my father pointed out to me that my grandfather was once a barber, and the money a barber made from cutting hair didn’t just make you look good – it helped that barber make sure that he kept food on the table for himself.

So I’m going to get my hair cut before the month ends.

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