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"See You Next Time"

NM - Jerry's Barber Shop, Map, Raton

Raton, NM

WY - Thermopolis Barber Pole, Photo

Thermopolis, WY

Departing Shots

With the years, miles, and time invested, I still maintan a claim of "authority of experience" (Awkward, pg. 225). In Main Street Barbershops I have found America past, present, and future. The barbershops are the same yet different. It has been 72 years since Dohanos' illustration of a barber cutting the hair of another barber appeared in The Saturday Evening Post cover back in 1946. This same type of setting and physical attributes can be found today in a number of old school barbershops.

DISAPPEARANCE OF INDIVIDUALITY: “This is unfortunate. With the closing of each barbershop we lose something important, in the same way that each time a supermarket replaces a Mom and Pop grocery, or a fast-food franchise puts a local drive-in burger joint out of business, we suffer a loss, a disappearance of individuality. Perhaps America is a great melting pot, but variety is the spice of life. The more I travel, the fewer reasons I see to travel. America’s streets are lined with chain stores, each town becoming a carbon copy of the last” (Hunter, pg. 11).

GROWING UP: Staten tells of the transition of growing up from the perspective of a patron of Paul Lewis's Barbershop, "I don't remember the day Mr. Lewis moved me down off the board and into the regular seat. That was a big day in my life. I didn't know what a rite of passage was at the time but that was my first one" (Staten, pg. 62).

LAST DAY: Retirement without any fanfare is painful. “His last day after all these years…Sixty-five years, standing in the same four-foot circle, around the same chair. No cake. No party. No gold watch” (Hunter, pg. 156).

Barbershops have had a strong history, tradition and impact on Main Street America. Although many barbershops have closed and many old-time barbers are dying off, the barbershop is still part of the fabric and culture of America. Barbershops rule!

America, come home to find your "roots" by visiting a Main Street Barbershop.

Home - Placard Travel - Placard

The Take Away

In our high tech society, it is interesting that the Millennials and Generation Z are looking for some connection to the past or at least to things geniune. You cannot get much more geniune and real than in one of America's Main Street Barbershops. In the Shopping Center Business magazine, December 2017, while the article discusses a new gourmet hip hamburger joint, these words could just as easily describe what happens in the new old barbershops as well. "As Millennials and Generation Z continue to place a focus on experience...our standard customer is willing to go the extra mile and pay an extra dollar or two in order to receive the best experience. We also would like for it to be small enough to incorporate an at-home feeling."

My explorations have opened my mind to applications for connections to the past while living in the present and planning for the future. William Allen White was quoted as saying, "I am not afraid of tomorrow for I have seen yesterday and I love today." There seems to be a universal need for human beings to “come home." This may be in the form of finding themselves, redefining themselves or just rubbing shoulders with the concept and power of “The Home Place.” The barbershop can play a role in this process. 

Relationships can be fickle. People come back looking for sameness yet they find people do both, stay somewhat the same while also changing. Life is a flowing river. It has been said, “a person cannot step into the same river twice.” This is neither a good thing or a bad thing just a reality of mortality.

The America I know and have found on the byways, highways and Main Streets, matters to a lot of people. In barbershops I have found a goodness and place of peace. In virtually every encounter along the way, as I enter and when I depart, I have felt as if I have "come home" only to "leave home" again. Although the patterns and traditions of barbershops are old topics, there is a certain sameness and a certain freshness that exists. What was old is becoming young again; what is missing and greatly needed in our social connectivity is improving. My time in a barbershop is limited to often less than an hour. The power of the brief encounter continually manifests itself. In our society, we need civility and friendship. I have found both in barbers and barbershops.

Stephen Pell, who spearheaded the major restoration of Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, once said, "Life is a perpetual parade of moments." I have relished my moments searching for and finding America in its Main Street Barbershops. The parade and search continues.

Sources Cited:

  1. Awkward, Micheal, Negotiating Difference: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Postionality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pg. 225, 1995.
  2. Hunter, Mic. The American Barbershop – A Closer Look at a Disappearing Place. Mount Horeb, Wisconsin: Face to Face Books, pgs. 11, 156, 1996.
  3. Staten, Vince. Do Bald Men Get Half-Price Haircuts? In Search of America’s Great Barber Shops. New York: Simon & Schuster, pg. 62, 2001.

Credits of Gratitude

This digital exhibit is the result of years of informal research and field studies yet would not have been completed without the encouragement, support, and assistance of many "cheerleaders." My greatest fans have been family and friends over the years placing their faith and confidence in me and reinforcing the thought that I had a story to tell. I would like to thank my Utah State University family: other graduate students, staff, professors, and mentors including Randy Williams, Fife Folklore Archives Curator, Dr. Evelyn Funda, Dr. Jeannie Thomas, Dr. Lisa Gabbert, Dr. Stephen Siporin, Dr. Victoria Grieve, Dr. Lynne McNeill, and Dr. Keri Holt for their ongoing and unwavering patience and encouragement. The Bennion Workshop faculty and staff have been good to work with. The staff of the Digital Initiatives Department have been extremely helpful including Becky Thom, Alison Gardner, Alyssa Miller and several other students. Although difficult to initiallly get things going, I am indebted to Omeka software and Utah State University's Merrill-Cazier Library for making this incredible program available to me for this digital exhibit. I salute you. I thank you. Keith M. Buswell