Classic barbering
barber shop

       The Good Old Way

 Shove in the door. Guys all around. Lively talk in the air. Football on the screen. The barber in the back motions to you and gestures at his empty chair. You slide into the leather seat. Neckcloth, and then the cape. He inverts a bottle of red tonic over your head, holding the bottle's neck between two fingers, shaking the red oil out, working it vigorously in with the other hand.
       "The usual today?" he asks rhetorically, putting down the bottle and selecting a comb from a jar of disinfectant. "You bet," you say with a sure nod, glancing up to catch a tackle while he picks out a part with the comb. Then he starts with the clippers. One hand firmly shoves your head forward, while the other applies the blade to your neck, moving upward from the nape. There is some movement on top with a comb and clippers, then your head is shoved sideways as he mows out whitewalls around your ear.

       As you watch another play, the buzzing stops and the whirr of the lather machine takes over. He pulls down the neck cloth and rubs the lather into your neck, smearing it up and over your ear, smoothing it around the sideburn with his thumb. Another generous portion goes up the other side, and the river of heat leaves the smell of soap in the air.


        Then you hear the scraping of the strop. A cold blade begins nibbling by your ear, carving out the sidewall, while the other hand stretches the skin. You watch another play. From the TV, the cheers of the crowd, and then the sound of water in the sink. A wet, cold cloth roughly rubs the lather from around your ears and then your neck. The cooling, stinging splash of aftershave follows, with its pungent aroma. Then a dusting with talc, as the powder briefly clouds the air.

       Now a towel is tucked in where the neck cloth was. Another bottle is inverted over your head, worked in generously like the tonic, but more thoroughly. The barber moves your head forward and side to side, until every hair is soaked. Then there's a warmer splash of water, and he begins lathering the scalp. More water, more kneading --"scalp manipulations" they're called in the Barber School text book-- until your head is a mass of lather. One soaped-up hand firmly holds your head while the other scrubs it with a small brush.

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