Glimpsing a Man’s World

I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a barber’s shop. I always tend to think of them as domains of men even though some of them are unisex these days.

Today, I was walking along Manor Street in Waterford City and found myself drawn back in time by a fleeting glimpse of contents in the window of a barber’s shop.

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While wondering about these implements, I drew back and to take a look at the shop itself and was intrigued to see that it had been established in 1952. This was not long after my father was transferred to Waterford as a young bank clerk and I know he lived in ‘digs’ near to this premises and that in the 1950s he would have been getting on and off the Tramore-Waterford train at the station which is pretty much just across the road from here.

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I wondered about venturing into the barbers but the sight of what seemed like a gowned customer made me think that I would be interrupting what I always think of as men’s time ~ and so often associated with Saturdays in my mind.

Perhaps some of my male readers would like to tell me more about the inner sanctum, practices and chat that’s associated with  their barber’s shops here in Ireland and elsewhere in the world.

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Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

27 thoughts on “Glimpsing a Man’s World”

  1. Being a Mom of grown men I was the one who took them to the barber shop when they were little as my husbands job prevented him from always taking them. I sat on the bench and read a magazine or sat quietly and watched the goings on. Sometimes a child was not happy and other times they would catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror and be mesmorized by their image. Some barbers would give a lollypop after the process was done. I have also gone with my husband who is 76 and sat in an old barber chair and they are so comfortable with the metal footrest and padded arm and neckrest. My husbands barber has an array of magazines that line the long built in bench and are free if one wants to take one or two home with them. I always like the sound of the clippers and the dusting of talc that perfumed the air. The barber and his customers talk about a multitude of subjects ranging from politics to the state of affairs that are happening in the town or state. Vacations are a favorite topic too as well as tool and car talks. It’s interesting to be the listener and almost feel invisible while this scenario is going on.

  2. I’ve pretty much always used unisex shops Jean. There are a number of large hair cutting chains here – First Choice and Magic Cuts are two – and I usually use one of them. I get a different stylist each time. Many of the stylists are female immigrants and I enjoy finding out more about them and their families. The shops allow the stylists to work the hours they wish – within a set of rules – so the job lends itself well to new mothers who want to work part time during school hours or when there is alternate child care available. I’m afraid the conversations are not very mystical. 😀

      1. That is a really good question Jean. I would have said no because I seldom see them in the malls and in areas where I frequent. However, I pulled up the phone book on line and discovered there are a large number of private shops still operating on side streets and in residential areas. I was surprised.

  3. There are many presumptions that can be made about what goes on in a barber shop when no women are present. I see several women made comment of what they observed, but their mere presence changed the terms, didn’t it. Maybe this short video will help clear up a few things:

  4. Once a fortnight on a Saturday Morning my Dad would take me on the bus and tube from where we lived to Chiswick Park . Dad worked for London Transport so he travelled free with his his pass which he called his “sticky!” and I travelled free because I was very young at the time.
    We went to the Barber’s shop, I can still see it , just down from the tube station, big windows, cream and brown decor and lots of mirrors. My dad always had a ‘short back and sides ‘ and occasionally a shave. I used to sit and watch all the men and the barbers the only little girl in the male domain!

  5. I was once thrown out of a barber shop! I used to have the back of my hair shaved and decided it would be quicker to go to the barbers on the corner than go to a hairdresser. I sat down and the guy looked at me a few times, before finally saying they didn’t cut women’s hair so I’d have to go 🙂

    1. Andrea, this makes me laugh so much. I’ve often been tempted to go into a barber shop as it seems so unfair that they charge so much less than women’s hairdressers.
      What age were you when this happened and what was your reaction? I got kicked out of a few men only bars in my time and was absolutely raaaaaaging!

  6. Ooh, I love this post. What atmospheric photos. I was in barber shops as a kid with my mother or father and my brother, and even had my hair lopped off in one once, but today I would feel odd.

  7. My home town was so small we only had a school to 8th grade, then went to a larger town to High School. The school bus picked up the kids from town, all together, at the Barber Shop every morning, then drove through the country for an hour (!) picking up the farm kids. So, we had some quality Barber Shop time, waiting for the bus. I wonder how many Barber Shops are open by 7:30 these days?
    I love the comments on what goes on…

  8. From what I can tell Ireland still pretty much separates the sexes when it comes to hair cutting, even in Dublin. Maybe the blokes still like a bloke to cut their hair. England went very unisex as far as the young crowd goes back in the early 70s and I think I’ve had female hairdressers ever since.

    However as a boy it was definitely the barber’s shop for me. The message from my mother was ‘short back and sides and a lot off the top’ 😦 All the barbers in their white coats, standing on the bench looking out of the window if business was slow. All sorts of funny sprays and creams including one that made my hair stay in position until the next time it was washed. No children on Friday evenings though – that was the men’s time.

    1. Roy, I think it’s gone pretty unisex here too ~ maybe a good deal later than England, though.
      Now, I wonder what went on on the Friday nights? That’s what I’m really keen to find out.

  9. If you had ever seen me, you would realise that I have never been in such establishments since I was last forced to go by my mum and dad. The length of my hair was always a hot topic. Holding onto it is now the bigger issue 🙂

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