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At the Barbershop for a Shave or a Haircut

A barber chair goes up and down and swivels around. Little boys are not always happy to have their hair cut.
This red and white pole is the common symbol for a barbershop. This woman is having her hair styled.

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The traditional barbershop was a place where men gathered to relax and socialize while they waited for their turns in the comfortable, leather-cushioned barber chairs.  The barbers cut and trimmed hair, trimmed beards and mustaches, and shaved those customers who wanted that service and were not afraid of the very sharp straight razors that were used.  Sometimes fathers brought their sons to the shop for haircuts.  Sometimes mothers brought their sons, but they often just dropped them off and came back for them later.  The barbershop I went to as a child had a large, brightly-painted wooden horse, the type found on merry-go-rounds, standing by the front window.  It was a great treat for young boys to sit on the horse holding the reins as the barber cut their hair.  Of course, when the boys felt they were too old to sit on the horse, they moved to the regular barber chairs that the men used. 

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A barber's most useful tools - a comb and a pair of scissors Some men read the newspaper or a magazine while getting a haircut.
Women often go to a beauty shop to get a manicure.   It is a woman wearing a mudpack to reduce the wrinkles on her face.

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As I am writing this, many memories are crowding into my mind.  I remember the smell of Lilac water and talcum powder.  I remember the slight sting of the witch hazel the barber patted onto the newly-shaved back of my neck.  I remember the snick-snick-snick of the scissors and the buzzzzz  of the electric clippers.  I remember walking through the little piles of hair that had fallen to the floor and noticing the many different shades of hair all jumbled together. The barbershop also sold personal grooming products such as safety razors, shaving mugs and brushes, shaving soap in round cakes that fit into the mugs, shaving cream in tubes, various brands of facial astringents and hair tonics, combs and brushes in several shapes and sizes.  I remember using Hopalong Cassidy Hair Trainer when I was young.  It was a thick, grayish slimy-looking liquid that you worked into unruly hair with your fingertips.  You then combed the hair into whatever shape you (or your mother) wanted and waited.  Within 30 minutes, the hair trainer dried, cementing your hair in the decided-on shape.  It would withstand running, playing, blazing sun and hurricane-force winds.  Only large amounts of water or combing with a strong arm could break up the petrified clumps of hair.  It did the job.

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Many shops today employ female barbers or hair stylists. Here is a modern hair styling shop for men.
This woman is relaxing while her hair is being dried. This is a modern version of a traditional shaving brush and razor.

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Some men have a lot of hair and some men have no hair.  A man with no hair is bald.  A man can be bald because his hair has naturally fallen out over a period of time or because he has had his head shaved.  Many men are bald on the tops of their heads but have a fringe of hair around the sides and back.  Some men let the hair on the sides of their head grow long and then comb those long hairs over the top to cover the bald place.  Men's hair can be blond, brown, black, reddish, gray or white.  Middle-aged or old men may have white or gray hairs mixed in with their regular-colored hair.

Although one can still find these old-fashioned barbershops from time to time, especially in smaller towns, much of the business has changed.  Today, many shops employ hair stylists, not barbers.  Sometimes these stylists are even female.  You are as likely to see them using a hair blower and styling brush as the traditional scissors and comb.  Some barbershops call themselves Uni-sex shops , meaning that they cater to women as well as men.  There are even shops that provide manicures, facial treatments and massages for their male customers.  What is this world coming to?

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Expressions heard or used in a barbershop:

  • Who's next?
  • Just give me a trim.
  • How are you doing, Joe?
  • Just take a little off the sides.
  • Hold still. I don't want to nick your ear.
  • What side do you want your hair parted on?
  • Trim around my ears and take a little off the back.
  • Many barbers use an ultraviolet light to sterilize their equipment.
  • Shampoo my hair before you style it.
  • You can get a haircut in a barbershop or a beauty shop.
  • Many people today prefer to have their hair styled. 
  • Hair stylists use special combs, brushes, scissors and trimmers.
  • People use mousse or gel to make their hair stiff.
  • I wish you would get some new magazines.
  • Would you like a manicure while you're waiting?
  • Sit up straight, young man.
  • Hey, Sam.  Do you want a shave today?
  • How would you like your hair this time, Charlie?
  • Hello, Mr. Bernardo.  Can you give Tommy a buzz cut?
  • I want you to layer the sides and back.
  • Do you want a razor cut or should I use the clippers?
  • Boys and young men used to wear a hair style called a flattop.
  • Check the back of your head out with this mirror.
  • Some modern hair styles include shaving part of the head.
  • In a modern barbershop, you can have your hair cut, styled, washed, dyed or curled.
  • You cut too much off the top.
  • Were you here before me?
  • What do you think of a guy who gets a facial treatment?
  • Just give me a shave and slap some after shave on me.


Exercise A:  In the spaces below, write the meaning of each word and use each word in a sentence that you make up.  Use a dictionary to find the meanings of the words.

Word Meaning Use in a sentence
trim, trims, trimmed, trimming, trimmed    
nick, nicks, nicked, nicking, nicked    
dye, dyes, dyed, dyeing, dyed    
talcum powder    
straight razor    
curl, curls, curled, curling, curled    
style, styles, styled, styling, styled    
style (a noun)    
curl (a noun)    
shave (a noun)    
shave, shaves, shaved, shaving, shaved    

Exercise B: Use words from the sections above to fill in the blanks in the following sentences.

1. Jim went to the ____________ to get a _____________.

2. When Martha saw the gray hairs on her head, she went to the _____________ to have her hair _____________.

3. Mark decided to let the barber _____________ his beard.

4. The barber used ____________ and ___________ to cut the little boy's hair.

5. When very curly hair was the style, many men and women decided to get a ______________ at the ____________ or ________________.


Answers to Exercise B:

1. barbershop,  haircut

2. beauty shop, dyed

3. trim (shave, dye, cut)

4. a comb, scissors (clippers)

5. permanent, barbershop, beauty shop

2017 -  Montoursville, PA  17754 

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