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Taking It Personally: Buying Local Makes Sense

Except when it comes to barber shops...

After two weeks at camp and not much attention since, a glance in the mirror revealed that my hair was looking much like the lawn (term loosely used) in front of the .

It was time to visit one of the many shops in the area that could help with this problem.

Most guys my age do not deal well with the idea of hair salons. I say “guys” because, while some men may visit salons, guys find it hard to do so. Trust me on this one.

The owner of the once assured me that she could do something with my hair.  I have not had the courage to find out exactly what she had in mind. 

Guys go to barbers.

There are several in Lexington, by the way, but here there is another tenet of guyhood: Changing barbers is not something a guy does lightly. I have known guys to continue going to the same barber even though the results were far from good.

And no matter how committed to buying in Lexington a guy may be, what barber you go to is far too important to let something like a town boundary dictate which one to choose.

I have been going to Ralph’s in Belmont for at least 25 years. He used to describe himself as "Ralph the Comb from Rome" until he got into razor cuts, after which he called himself "Ralph the Blade." I have never had anything but good haircuts from Ralph, who does great job on beards to boot. You always feel better-looking after you visit Ralph.

I have to admit that I have been trying some of the Lexington establishments over the past few months, just so I would know what was in my own town.

I think Ralph knows, because the last time I was in he looked at my head and said “Have you been doing something to your hair?”  Yeah, I was sure he had guessed the truth, but I did not have the courage to admit it.

The barber shop is a place to tie into local gossip. For instance, when Mitt Romney ran for Senator several years ago, I knew he was a goner before the polls said so. The guys at the barber shop were not on his wavelength and, the fact that one of his kids came to Ralph’s, but Mitt did not even though they were living in Belmont at the time, did nothing to help him on the “I’m just a normal guy” front.

Mitt, we all figured, was going to a salon. He was having his hair styled. I mean, does any real guy have his hair styled? Even if he does, there is little likelihood he will admit it.

You also get to read a bit while waiting and you pick up the latest jokes, some of which will be OK for use in polite company.

But as I said, I have been looking around at other barber shops. All of the local barbers have done good work, although I squirmed a bit because I knew that my loyalty should be to Ralph.

Then my Patch colleague, , pushed me over the edge when she showed up with a purple streak in her hair. It looks good, by the way, so tell her so when you see her.

That purple streak pushed me into trying SuperCuts, the new … ummmm … salon in town.  Plus, I had a coupon, which brought the price a little closer to what I pay Ralph.

I had been to a salon once before. The day before my wedding -- when my hair was quite a bit longer, quite a bit thicker, and brown -- I went to a place in Salt Lake City, Utah recommended by my brother–in-law. Things turned out well all around. The haircut looked good and the marriage has lasted 40 years. I will not mention that the shop was busted a few months later, for some questions about business dealings surrounding what the stylists did when they were not cutting hair.

I did some homework before going to SuperCuts. I had heard stories about salons and I was just a bit nervous. “Don’t worry,” I was told.  “It’s just like going to the barber.”  Of course, this was coming from people who had never been to a barber so I did not completely trust the advice.

But last Sunday I went, knowing that if things went horribly wrong I would have a week to grow it out a bit before the next selectmen’s meeting when I would be on television. Of course, I would have to crawl into Ralph’s, beg forgiveness, and hope he could clean it up a bit.

In the end, things went very well. Lisa, the stylist that day, did a great job, especially considering what she had to work with -- although I still don’t have an answer to “How do you want it?”  I don’t know—maybe hack it up a bit on the sides, chop it up a bit in back and cut it unevenly in front.  Seriously, Ralph doesn’t need to ask that question because he just knows how to do it. Of course, I just told Lisa to cut it fairly short and it looks fine.

Next month, I suspect I will go back to Ralph’s. I will bring him a copy of the column by way of apology and I will promise not to go astray again. 

Good barbers are hard to find and we need to keep them in business.  On the other hand, SuperCuts is super close …  If they could just do beards …  Or maybe Ralph could hire Lisa and open a second location in Lexington …

Denise J. Dubé September 07, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Ralph will forgive you and just might give you a purple streak too -- or red if you want. Alas, my purple streak is fading fast -- and must have it done once again.
Hank Manz September 07, 2011 at 06:21 PM
An awful lot of fans are practically demanding a picture of you with your purple streak ... And I hear Lisa from SuperCuts is considering a photo op ... That last may be just a rumor.
Denise J. Dubé September 07, 2011 at 06:38 PM
I have a picture of the first week. Now there are only a few strands. Will email it to you.
Beth September 08, 2011 at 10:04 PM
" maybe Ralph could hire Lisa and open a second location " -- I have a name for a new enterprise: Manz Barber Styling Salon" :)
Hank Manz September 09, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Even better would be something like "Chopping Locally". I stole that from the editor, by the way. In Alexandria, Virginia there used to be a barber shop called Sweeney Todd's. It was on the second floor. On the first floor was, you guessed it, a butcher shop. It was a good barbershop, but there was just the tiniest element of fear when the razor came out ...
Denise J. Dubé September 09, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Chopping locally! What a great name. Sweeney Todd's is lucky they stayed in business. I don't think I'd go ...

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