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Opening Arguments

The cutting edge

I've written before (can't remember if it was here or in the paper) about the disappearance of barber shops and my ongoing struggles to keep a barber. Every time I find one, he's already semi-retired and down to one chair. In some states, this is a result of the regulatory state, not just an unfortunate byproduct of changing times:

In the 70's and 80's many states merged their Barber and Cosmetology Boards into one. Suddenly a young man who could make a decent living as a Barber couldn't do a partly paid apprenticeship, taking just months to learn a career that could serve him for life. He had to pay to attend a Community College or private tech education program that could last two years, while making him learn a variety of skills he'd never employ. And he, or she was also taught to charge much more for the service.

And that doesn't include the regulation side, which went on to require every Barbershop to meet the standards of the largest women's Salon in terms of specialized sinks and facilities a traditional Barber would never need.

I looked up Indiana's rules and discovered we still have separate boards. But the interesting question is why barber shops (or beauty shops, for that matter) would be so regulated in the first place. I've had some really awful haircuts in my day and, guess what, the hair always grew back and hid the mistakes. Well, until lately, anyway. The rules and regulations for Indiana barbers  (pdf file) go on for 40 pages. A "barber school" is required to give strudents 1,500 hours of coursework, including:

(A) the scientific fundamentals for barbering, hygiene, and



(B) the histology of hair, skin, muscles, and nerves;

(C) the structure of the head, face, and neck;

(D) elementary chemistry relating to sterilization and


(E) cutting, shaving, arranging, dressing, coloring, bleaching,

tinting, and permanent waving of the hair; and

(F) at least ten (10) hours of study on skin and diseases of the

skin under a certified dermatologist;

Geez. Guess my mother with the bowl and scissors was guilty of at least a haircut misdemeanor.

Not to be sexist or anything, but an old-fashioned barbershop is about the last place left where guys can hang out with other guys and tell dirty jokes and talk about stuff like cars and old John Wayne movies. Just half an hour to 45 minutes once a month or so -- is that too much to ask? I'm like most men of about my age who remember the rite of passage involved with going with Dad to the barbershop for the first time. Whenever I'm in a real barbershop (not the unisex places in the mall), I can close my eyes and almost hear him and the barber arguing about the Cincinnati Reds.



Bob G.
Tue, 02/24/2009 - 12:18pm

I remember back in Philly...had a great barber shop..THREE chairs, and scads of comics from Batman to Daffy Duck to Green Lantern.
(talk about an education - I knew all the origins of super heroes before I entered the 2nd grade...LOL!)

And "Uncle" Phil (the owner/barber) would hum along with a song on the radio (usually some "easy listening, as we call it today) and somehow, the troubles of the world outside that shop's door seemed a LOT farther away.
At least for that hour or so.

God, how I miss that.

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 3:05pm

Back in my legislative drafting days, I had to draft a bill that would have licensed hair braiders. Fear the unregulated hair braiding peril!

Often enough, the biggest proponents of these licensure bills are the people who will eventually sell the continuing education credits.