An eight year old boy and his father get ready to partake in a bi-weekly trip to the local barber shop. As long as he can remember only one barber shop has cut his hair. This particular barber shop is located in a strip mall. As they approach the barber shop the sight of young and old sitting down patiently waiting for their turns as they watch sports on TV quickly floods the boys field of view. Upon entering the shop the sounds of laughter and muffled discussions fills the air. All the familiar smells and fragrances of musk and bay rum rushes into his nostrils as the father and son have a seat. Copies of Sports Illustrated and hunting magazines fill the shelves and it is the only time the young boy will have a chance to read these magazines. Suddenly his father signals the barber and the waiting begins.
Finally it is the young boys turn, as he gets up and looks around the barber shop he is fascinated by all the sports pennants hanging on the wood paneled walls. The only words that he is instructed to speak to the barber are, “please give me a trim and taper.” For the next 30 minutes the young boy sits on the same chair were young and old alike sit. Once the haircut is complete and he has examined it through the handheld mirror the boy slowly rises from the chair and once again becomes an eight year old but his father has given him one more responsibility because he must pay the barber. Not only will he pay for the cut but he will also give the tip. Before he leaves the cash register the barber produces a bowl full of candy and the man-child quickly obliges and walks away completely content.
Scenes such as these are played out all around the world and the setting may be different but barbering and life go hand-in-hand whether you’re young or old every man needs grooming. It seems like barbershops today are popping up on every corner and sometimes within a block or two of each other. Social media and superstar status have become the norm but in the college town of Fullerton, California one barbershop has been in business for over 50 years and its soul remains intact.
The shop is located a few miles from California State University Fullerton and Fullerton College. The city has a large college population and many people are only passing through but the barber shop is a constant. During the last 50 years a few cosmetic changes have taken place but the original barber chairs remain. The wood paneled walls and the back bar got a face lift but the shop layout and atmosphere is the same and the current owner has alot to do with that. Bruno Sanchez has been barbering since 1983 and took over the shop in 2011. Bruno is an old-fashion type of barber with the gift of gab. He may tell you stories that’ll make you question their validity but will be wholeheartedly entertaining. There is no sense of flare or “prima-donna-esque” tendencies.
Although Bruno may not have tens of thousands of followers on social media or possess any barber battle belts or trophies the shop is true to professional barbering. Make no mistake this is an old-fashion barber shop. What I mean by old-fashion is not a time warp or leap to another century because this shop is an original 1960’s men’s barber shop. We are talking pre-Beatles and pre-hippies! I cannot remember the last time I saw a shop in person or social media that had live plants. The colors just really pop and I am not sure if Bruno or anyone else realizes it but that is true 1800’s-early 1900’s barber decor.
The name of the shop has changed to American Razor Barber Shop and is an institution where men can receive grooming services. A place that is not work or home but is the magical third place where camaraderie and style are intertwined.
This is my childhood barbershop where I remained a patron well into my teen years and as an adult I have been back a few times and sat in the same chair. I may be older and have a few more accomplishments under my belt but that barber chair is not concerned whether I am a child, Mr. M, writer, publisher or a filmmaker because in that chair I am a patron.
Walking into American Razor barber Shop floods my mind and senses with memories of being a child and the awe in which I viewed barbers. That reverence continues because barbering is sacred and vital in all communities. I am sure if anyone would have mentioned barbering as a “game”, “hustle” or “brand” in this barber shop back in the day they would have been ridiculed and badgered.
I hope that barber shops, wherever they may be, will be encouraged to develop an institution that is built upon tradition and is conducted in a professional way because you never know who that child may grow up to be. Maybe a man who will one day write about you for his website and barber magazine. Never underestimate the influence of this ancient profession known as Barbering. Thank you for taking the trip down memory lane with me.