Beauty salons and barbershops

1 January 2018

According to Mangum women usually go to beauty salons and men usually go to barbershops purportedly for the same reason: to avail herself or himself of professional personal-grooming services to enhance her or his appearance. That is not to say that this is a gender issue. Gender has nothing to do with a person’s choice to go to a beauty salon or a barbershop. Rather, it has something to do with the experience and the results that person wants to achieve.

A barbershop is typically a place of peace and tranquility; there’s little noise here—except, perhaps, the one coming from a television set or the occasional rustle of a newspaper. I cannot think of anything more relaxing than spending 20 minutes on getting a shave. Whether you are a fearless captain of industry or a shrewd political operative, having a virtual stranger hold a sharp blade to your throat requires a calm attitude. You are virtually helpless, and that feels good sometimes. You are forced to go with the flow.

A beauty salon, on the other hand, is generally filled with conversation, jokes, and stories. The music is playing and the hairdresser might suddenly break out into song. Machines designed to help create beauty are boisterously doing their job, from hair blowers to that steam thing, for which I have yet to understand its purpose. I find it difficult to believe that it is relaxing to have your hair wrapped in dozens of pieces of aluminum foil or other such things. The customer may be asked to constantly choose a particular shape or color.

Beyond the experience and the environment, beyond the basic idea of personal grooming, the beauty salon, and the barbershop have different purposes.
A person comes into a beauty salon with the expectation of not only being groomed but of receiving a certain “style.” Barbers remove extra hair from your head and face; beauticians create and give the customer a “look.”

I frequent a barbershop called “Royal Cut.” My barber Jun cuts and shaves like a woodsman, removing an unwanted tree with precision and brute force. My wife’s hairdresser is like Pablo Picasso, figuratively flinging paint on the canvas to create a masterpiece.
Look at a dozen men leaving the barber shop and you will notice that they all look pretty much the same: neat, trim and groomed. Look at a dozen women leaving the beauty salon, and each would be disappointed if they don’t look somewhat unique.

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