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Nostalgia in the Hair

Done up with vintage lighting fixtures, antique barber chairs and, of course, a glass jar of blue Barbicide near, barber shops are offering the experience our fathers and grandfathers received.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
October 29, 2017

Some say barber shops are making a comeback. Maybe you haven’t noticed. Maybe you thought they were a thing of the past. Maybe after the decades of the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s tried to convince us that the barber shop was dead and the unisex approach was the only way left for a guy to get a haircut, you wrote the barber shop off completely.

Have you ever seen any of the Rocky movies? If you have, did you ever believe for a moment that Rocky wouldn’t win in the end? No. Period. End of story. Well, maybe not end of story. Those movies were all about keeping the audience in suspense until the final round, when all hope was lost and Rocky made what some might call a comeback. Isn’t that pretty much what’s happening in the haircut industry?

It seems like a growing phenomenon that has men flocking to barber shops in droves these days. They’re sitting down in throwback, leather bound, chrome-trimmed barber chairs and requesting the latest haircut like the skin fade undercut. In a strange sort of dichotomy between the nostalgic and trendy, barber shops are offering a setting that reminds men of the places their fathers or grandfathers brought them to, but also provides them with the absolute latest haircuts and the skillful consult-savvy barbers who know how to pull them off.

Lance Murrah, owner of Ford’s Barber Shop on 30th and Harvard, says the trend is about a desire to go back to the days of yesteryear, when things were simple and predictable.

In a strange sort of dichotomy between the nostalgic and trendy, barber shops are offering a setting that reminds men of the places their fathers or grandfathers brought them. (Photo: Marc Rains)
In a strange sort of dichotomy between the nostalgic and trendy, barber shops are offering a setting that reminds men of the places their fathers or grandfathers brought them. (Photo: Marc Rains)

“I think, as much as we like advancement and technology,” Murrah says, “people just want things simple. They want to know what to expect, and people come in here and they know they’re going to get a great haircut. They’re not going to be offered a facial. We’re not going to give them a scalp massage. Those things are great, but that’s not what we do here.”

Ford’s Barber Shop, located between the historic Mayo Meadow and Ranch Acres neighborhoods, has only been around a few years, but pays homage to the days when blue collar workers and businessmen alike from that side of Tulsa stopped by the neighborhood barber shop after work or on a Saturday to lean back in a Naugahyde chair for a haircut and a clean shave. Sporting vintage barber chairs, classic light fixtures and a pinball machine, Ford’s takes its customers back in time, all while providing excellent haircuts.

“You’re always going to have a barber shop,” says Murrah. “You’re always going to have salons. You’re always going to have guys that are stylists. But at the end of the day, I think people still want to go to the barber. They want the environment, the experience. Nothing fancy. All the pieces in the shop are from the 1950s, and the barbers like to combine the current trends in haircuts with those old-style cuts that were around back then, and they do a really good job at it.”

Razors Edge, the Cherokee Barber Shop, and Elephant in the Room, to name just a few, are some of the most frequented and revered barber shops and men’s salons in the Tulsa area. Shops like these and so many others have carried the tradition along through the years. Some bring in a touch of the salon experience but still give the feel of the old hole-in-the-wall stag from back in the day.

Ford’s Barber Shop takes its customers back in time, all while providing excellent haircuts. (Photo: Marc Rains)
‍Ford’s Barber Shop takes its customers back in time, all while providing excellent haircuts. (Photo: Marc Rains)

Craig Sommers, a consistent customer of Elephant in the Room, the men’s grooming lounge on Boston Avenue downtown, says it’s about the manly experience.

“I’ve got a pretty hefty, man-sized beard,” Craig says, “and they do a lot of the things you might see them do in a salon, but they put a manly twist on it. For example, the professional neck shaves and suggestions they make about my beard and ways I can keep it looking good. You can’t get that at the regular salon at the mall, or someplace like that.”

“I still go to the Cherokee Barber Shop,” says Samuel Jones, about the iconic shop on 21st and Garnett. “I’ve gone there my whole life, same with my dad. And I think my grandpa started going there when he was still in high school in the ‘60s. So, a long time. They know a lot of the latest styles but really, we’re just there to get a haircut. We come out of there happy and satisfied.”

Whether it’s the complete throwback, the original barber shop from the ‘60s with the red, white and blue striped spinning poles just outside the door, or the new men’s salon-type shops that give that added touch, men are still looking for the familiar as they get their hair cut. It’s the sensory experiences that are at the heart of it — the smell of talcum powder, the coolness of the aftershave, and the sights and sounds of men congregating to talk and yuck it up while they wait to be the next one up.

Maybe saying that the barber shop is making a comeback is a bit of an insult after all, to the communities where it’s never faded. Certain cities and neighborhoods all over the country have never lost their classic corner barber shop. They’ve been thriving all along.

After all, Rocky would never have called what he did time after time a comeback, even after receiving blow upon blow. He’d probably just say, “I was still standing, wasn’t I?”

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ALSO CHECK OUT

Belvedere Barber Co.
410 S. Main St. | Tulsa

Black Label Men’s Grooming
6373 S. Memorial Drive | Tulsa

Cherokee Barber Shop
11115 E. 21st St. | Tulsa

Clay’s Barbershop
6039 S. Sheridan Road | Tulsa

East Side Blends Barbershop
10984 E. 23rd St. | Tulsa

Elephant in the Room
1730 S. Boston Ave. | Tulsa

Fade Tite
2717 S. Memorial Drive | Tulsa

Ford’s Barber Shop
2913 S. Harvard Ave. | Tulsa

King’s Den
6128 S. Memorial Drive | Tulsa

Kut Me Up Barber Shop
3407 N. Lewis Ave. | Tulsa

Lookin’ Good Haircutters
1217 S. Houston Ave. | Tulsa

Nu Look Style Shop
782 E. Pine St. | Tulsa

Old Fashion Hair Shop
3316 E. Admiral Place | Tulsa

Razors Edge Barber Shop
2018 E. 11th St. | Tulsa

Skyline Barber Shop
1123 E. 52nd St. N. | Tulsa

Tee’s Barber Shop
120 N. Greenwood Ave. | Tulsa

Tekniqx
8238 E. 71st St. | Tulsa

Tonsorial
502 E. 3rd St. #36 | Tulsa

Tulsa Men’s Shop
1020 S. Rockford Ave. | Tulsa

Wayne’s Barber and Styling Shop
3735 S. Harvard Ave. | Tulsa

Whiskers Men’s Grooming
1706 Utica Square | Tulsa