In Search of America: One Barbershop at a Time: What's in a Name?
What's in a Name?
Names of Barbers
- Out of the 281 different barbershops that I have had my haircut in, I have recorded the barber's name in 239 shops or 85%.
- From these 239 barbershops come 119 barbers (43%) that have one syllable names: Frank, Tom, Art, Bill, Ray, Dave, Bud, Len, Lee, Tim, Ed, Brent, Bob, Matt, Sid, Red, John, Mike, Nate, Gene, Brad, Don, Blake, Ron, Paul, Jim, Lou, Bruce, Rod, Hugh, Norm, Ralph, Fred, Cliff, Dick, Mick, Joe, Clark, Garth, Glen, Doug, Eric, Adam, Juan, Rose, Ken, Dan, Mark, Mel, Jack, Ves, Max, and Floyd.
- Of that same group of barbershops, 109 barbers (39%) have two syllable names: Larry, Gary, Vernon, Richard, Barney, Billy, Willie, Perry, Jerry, Jason, Walter, Kenny, Eddie, Tony, Carmen, Carmine, Charlie, Ryan, Dennis, and Ronny.
- Out of the 239 barbershops, 102 barbers, almost 37%, have their name on the front of the shop and cut my hair. For example, Tom at Tom's Barber Shop in Spokane Valley, Washington, or Billy at Billy's Barber Shop on the North Shore of O'ahu, Hawaii.
- I have had my haircut by 59 female barbers, which is approximately 21% of the total. Some women barbers also cut women's hair but a substantial percentage cut only men's hair, and prefer it that way. There are women-owned barbershops while other women are contract employees. Most of the women have two or three syllabie names such as Jessica, Terrie, Tammi, Jackie, Lauri, Wendy, and Jacqueline.
- H. Edward Deluzian made this observation about names, "The sense of personal identity and uniqueness that a name gives us is at the heart of why names interest us and why they are important to us as individuals and to our society as a whole….in a very real sense, we are consumers of names."
Names of Barbershops
From my field studies, the vast majority of barbershops are named for the individual barber that started the shop. The name may carry on for many years, even past the death of the founder. As a profession, barbering is very personal: a one on one encounter with the customer providing the target (his hair) and the barber providing the talent, skills, and equipment to conquer and tame the target.
OWNER’S NAME: “…each traditional shop was named for its owner-operator, the barber. In sharp contrast, the hair salons had fashionable, fanciful names, often involving a play on words” (Hunter, pg. 13).
A sampling of Beauty Salons names from Ogden, Utah and Butte, Montana, come the following: Artistic Hair, The Look Hair & Nail Studio, Shear Dimensions, Profiles Salon & Spa, Sugar & Spice Salon, Hair Affair, Head Over Heels, Mane Getaway Salon, Beauty on Broadway.
“The barbershop was not just a men’s club with open membership: it was a study in democratic conviviality. You can see this in the names…whereas hardware stores carried the owner’s last name; the barbershop carried just his first. It’s Smith’s Hardware, Floyd’s Barbershop. Such conviviality is what historians call attributed back-formation” (Twitchell, pg. 112).
I have found some usual barbershops' names due to the need or desire for an additional income stream or to stay busy such as Tom's Barber Shop & Rubber Stamps in Bozeman, Montana or Mick's Barber Shop & Self-Storage in Vernal, Utah. Other side jobs include bus driver, landscape painter, minister, mayor, state or federal employees, where the barber cuts hair in his or her off hours.
Names of Major Streets
- Out of 279 U.S. barbershops, I have visited and had my haircut in 61 shops with Main Street addresses and locations in the heart of the city or town. This is almost one quarter (22%) of the barbershops that have Main Street addresses.
- This is one of the top ten items in defining a True Main Street Barbershop (see exhibit section titled "Side Burns").
- Other barbershops are located on major arterials with names like Broadway, Washington Boulevard, Center Street, Adams, Monroe or Lincoln Avenue, Harrison Boulevard, State Street, Market Street, Vine Street, High Street, Front Street, etc.
- City streets are laid out differently across the country but there are certain patterns using states, Presidents, cities, trees, historic figures, alphabet, and various numbering systems to designate north, south, east, and west, from the city center out or the from top down.
- Aaron Lauritsen found, “It's in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.”
- Elizabeth Berg, in her novel, The Year of Pleasures, describes her feelings from her travels in this way, “Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.”
- John Denver sang, "Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong."
In many larger cities and in smaller rural towns you often find a "tagline" or town motto. This becomes a catch phase or creates a brand of sorts to remember the town. Generally, as you drive into town there is a welcome sign that heralds the city name, sometimes the elevation or population, and a meaningful tagline to identify the quality of life, city character, personality or location. More often than not, these taglines are meant to be inspiring to those that live there and to those that visit. Barbershops do not generally use the hometown tagline but being a part of the fiber of the community, may reflect the slogan in their lifestyle or business. Most of the following samples come from driving across the Midwest:
- Poway, CA: "The City in the Country"
- Lawrence, KS: "River City - From Ashes to Immortality"
- Goodland, IN: "Our Name Says It All"
- Fairbury, IL: "Small Town America at its Finest"
- Audebon County, IA: "Where Dreams Take Flight"
- Gilman, IL: "The City of Crossroads"
- Yakima, WA: "The Heart of Central Washington"
- Chenoa, IL: "The Crossroads of Opportunity"
- Kentland, IN: "A Wonderful Place to Call Home"
- Crescent City, iL: "Small City, Big Spirit"
- Waverly, NE: "A Great Place to Grow"
- Piper City, IL: "A Great City to Raise a Family"
- Pella, IA: "A Touch of Holland"
- Glendive, MT: "Where the Best Begins"
- Watseka, IL: "Building Family & Community Spirit"
- Wayne County, UT: "Land of Solitude & Contrast"
- Keokuk, IA: "Make It Yours"
- Preston, ID: "Where the City Meets the Mountains"
- Deluzian, H. Edward. Names and Personal Identity. Behind the Name: The Etymology and History of First Names. Victoria, BC, Canada, 1996.
- Hunter, Mic. The American Barbershop – A Closer Look at a Disappearing Place. Mount Horeb, Wisconsin: Face to Face Books, pg. 13, 1996.
- Twitchell, James B. Where Men Hide. New York: Columbia University Press, pg. 112, 2006.
- Lauritsen, Aaron. 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road. Copyright by author, Calgary Alberta Canada, 2016
- Berg, Elizabeth. The Year of Pleasures. New York: Random House, 2005.