Home Barbering—Is It for You?
A BARBER in Brooklyn, New York, recently visited some friends and, as he frequently does as a gesture of kindness, volunteered to cut the boy’s hair. When he finished fifteen minutes later, the mother said: “Do you know how much I paid for his last haircut that looked no better than that? Ten dollars!”
Prices for everything have gone up, but the cost of a haircut has risen more than most things. In St. Louis the regular price is $3. In downtown Philadelphia it is $4, but some shops in metropolitan areas charge much more, as evidenced by the experience above. In smaller towns haircuts cost between $1.50 and $3, and prices run around $2 in countries such as Denmark and Germany.
Thus, depending on where a person lives, he may pay $25 to $75 a year for haircuts. If there are three, four or more boys in the family, the expense can really add up.
It is not surprising, then, that in many families one of the parents does the hair cutting. This practice is more widespread than you may think. It is estimated that several million home hair clippers have been sold in America. Barbers who cut the hair of the more than 1,500 workers at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York report that more than one out of four of the workers, before coming to live here, had their hair cut at home rather than at a commercial barbershop.
However, saving money is not the only reason why many parents prefer to cut their children’s hair. This is evidenced by the experience of a professional barber who offered to cut the hair of a friend’s children regularly. The father thanked the barber for his kind offer, but said that he would rather do the cutting himself. He explained: “You see, this gives me an opportunity every two weeks or so to be alone to talk with my boys.”
Some parents find it more convenient to cut hair at home than to take young ones to a barbershop, wait for them, and then bring them home again. A young child’s first trip to a barbershop can be a frightening experience. So the home, some feel, is a more reassuring environment in which to introduce their young ones to buzzing clippers and snapping scissors.
It is noteworthy that commercial barbering has been in a decline recently. In the state of Michigan, for example, there were 1,000 fewer barbershops in 1970 than in 1965. However, the principal reason for this is not an increase in home barbering, but the change to longer hair styles.
Human hair grows a half inch to an inch a month. To control this growth, haircutting no doubt originally was done at home by a family member. But specialists apparently soon became common. Over 2,500 years ago the Bible spoke of the “barbers’ razor.” (Ezek. 5:1) And about that time the Greeks reportedly had lavish barber salons.
In those days barbering enjoyed considerable prestige, especially when barbers also began practicing surgery about 110 C.E. These so-called barber surgeons, besides cutting hair, pulled teeth, dressed wounds and, in particular, practiced bloodletting, a very common therapy in the Middle Ages. In 1292 there were 200 barbers in Paris.
The red-, white-and-blue-striped pole with a ball on top is the familiar barbershop identification in many places today. Originally on top of the pole was a basin, said to represent the vessel in which the leeches used in bloodletting were kept. And the red-and-white-painted stripes on the barber’s pole had their origin with the blood-stained bandages hanging out to dry, which once were the recognized emblem of the barber’s profession. The pole’s blue stripe is a later addition.
In 1745 barbering and surgery were separated in England, and there was a continued slow decline of the barbering art. By the end of the nineteenth century barbershops had generally become untidy and unsanitary.
In the present century, however, improvements have been made. Many barber schools have been established. These teach not only haircutting, but sanitation, scalp treatments and related subjects. Schooling consists of some 1,000 to 1,800 hours of training.
The barbering art thus has risen again in stature and, at the same time, so has the cost of a haircut. From as little as ten to fifteen cents at the turn of the century, the price has reached thirty and more times that amount today. It is particularly this price rise that has caused many families to turn to cutting hair at home.
Is home barbering for you? Can you learn to cut the hair of members of your family? It may not be as difficult as you think, especially since you need not contend with a variety of hair styles. Also, the hair of children can be the least complicated to cut.
Barbering Equipment and Its Use
Proper equipment is important in doing a presentable job. Home-barbering kits, which feature a barbershop-like electric clipper with snap-on clipper guides, can be purchased for as little as $15 to $30. These kits may have such accessories as a comb, barber scissors, neck brush, and so forth. In a family with several children, the kit can pay for itself in two or three months.
The snap-on clipper guides can be especially useful. These comblike devices simply snap onto the clipper’s cutting head. They hold the clipper’s cutting edge a certain distance from the person’s head, making it easy to obtain a uniform hair length.
Tapering the hair around the back hairline and sides of the head can be somewhat of a challenge.
However, barbering kits often have tapering guides. For example, there is one for the right side of the head and another for the left side. When these are snapped on, you can run the clippers over each side of the head (around the ears), and the hair will be cut shortest near the hairline and progressively longer higher up the head. By learning to use effectively the various clipper guides, you can do a good job of cutting the sides and back of the head.
You should remember that the hair should taper or graduate upward, getting progressively longer as you go higher from the hairline. A clipper guide that allows hair to be cut quite short, perhaps an eighth of an inch, may be used from the back hairline up the head about an inch or so. Imagine that the clippers are a little airplane, and that the end of the area to be cut using this clipper guide is the end of the runway. This means that as you get to the end of this area, the clippers should have made a slow takeoff and be in the air.
To cut the next section, an inch or two higher up the back of the head, another clipper guide should be used, one that does not permit the clippers to cut the hair as short. After completing these steps, work with the clippers is completed.
To finish the haircut from where your clippers have left off, the scissors and comb are the best instruments to use. The scissors and comb should be used to continue tapering the hair from the shorter length, making it progressively longer as you go higher up the head. Finally, to do the top of the head, some prefer to comb through the hair and grasp the strands between the middle and the index finger of one hand, and use the scissors in the other hand to cut the ends off at the desired length.
The razor comb is another home-barbering instrument, and it costs just a dollar or two. It is a plastic comb into which a razor blade can be inserted. Caution should be exercised in using it, however, for too much pressure on the comb can result in a botched-up job. But with practice some parents have become adept at giving haircuts with this simple device.
Should you decide to try your hand at home barbering, here are some general tips: For very young children, it is helpful while cutting their hair to have someone hold their head still. It is also wise not to try to give a haircut when either you or the child is tired. Seat the child high enough so you do not need to stoop over to cut. Choose a well-lighted room.
Also, be alert for lumps or bumps on the head. When the clippers hit these they can leave odd-looking bald spots. For safety, it is recommended, while the clippers are plugged in, to keep both the barber and the subject out of reach of other electrical appliances, radiators, or other plumbing.
It is good to work slowly. Do not dig or chop. Keep your fingers and hand relaxed, not stiff or tense. Hold your comb and other instruments lightly. Hair is a delicate fiber and cuts easily, so cut with a light action.
Do not expect excellent results right off. It takes practice. But with the advantage of working on the same persons time after time, many parents learn to give excellent haircuts, at great savings. You, too, may decide that home barbering is for you.