The long and short of hair


On one of our recent walks through the Foothills, my wife and I began to notice how many hair salons there were along the street. As we passed one salon after the other, we got to talking about how many of them we could recall throughout Montrose, La Crescenta and La Canada.

The more we walked and talked, the more I began to ask questions like, what’s the difference between a hair salon and a beauty parlor? Or between a beauty college and a barber school? Or what’s the difference between a barber and a hair stylist? (Answer: about $85 … rimshot! Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be here all week.)

As it so often happens with me, one topic led to another and the subject evolved to hair in general – or lack of it, in my case.

As my own kids lovingly point out at every opportunity, the shiny round patch on top of Mt. Balding — I like to think of it as my own private crop circle — has been growing noticeably with every year since sometime in my early forties.

My dear, departed Dad would no doubt have considered this condition ironic justice for all the grief I put him through as a teenage Ringo Starr rock n’ roll drummer wannabe – often arguing — but never winning — to be allowed to let my locks grow past the tops of my ears and over my shirt collar. Unfortunately, with a former Army sergeant-member-of-the-local-draft-board-Scoutmaster-white-short-sleeved-shirt-and-ployester-necktie-pocket-protector-wearing-computer-engineer for a father, long hair simply wasn’t in my destiny.

My haircuts were either of the homemade variety, administered by said father with a pair of electric clippers I swear came from a sheep ranch auction, or they were given by the barber next door to the John Henry’s ice cream parlor on Foothill (“One ‘boy’s cut,’ taper the back, please”).

Later in life — the early 90s, to be exact — I used the deep-seated trauma brought on by those frequent hair battles of my youth to justify an affinity for wearing the dreaded mullet. Even so, I’m ashamed of my actions during those days and find myself apologizing to my wife to this day. But I digress.

While my brothers and I were either hiding from our clipper-wielding father or lined up dejectedly at the local barbershop, our Mom would visit some sort of professional hair dresser-type person to get what was called a “permanent.” I always wondered why they called them permanents, since the hair-dos — while definitely rock-hard and seemingly petrified in nature for a few days at least — rarely held their shape for more than a week or so.

In between her glamour appointments, Mom would carefully wrap her “do” in toilet paper to better preserve the sculptured work of beauty between sessions. (For the record, the image of his mother with her head wrapped in toilet paper is one that sticks in a young man’s mind for far too many years, thank you very much. How I function with any normalcy today is truly a mystery!)

I also remember when Mom brought home what must have been one of the planet’s first portable home hair dryers. It was almost as exciting as when our neighbors up the street bought the first color TV on the block. Okay, maybe not quite as exciting, but it was pretty cool. The hair dryer contraption had a crinkly vinyl hood that attached to a hose that attached to a plastic, turquoise-colored box that made a horrible motorized sound so loud you couldn’t talk over the din. You’d have to sit under the stupid thing for seemingly hours while it dried your hair. Frankly, I’m pretty sure the water just evaporated on its own.

Regardless of the efficiency and volume of the thing, it was the forerunner to the hand-held blow dryers that would revolutionize hair care for all time. Even for those of us with the dreaded “boy’s cut.”

I’ll see you ‘round town.

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