Karine Jean-Pierre
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#TBT: A Museum of Mid-Century Hair

#TBT: A Museum of Mid-Century Hair

When I was a little boy I had to go to my grandfather's barbershop to get my hair cut. I had two choices: "flat-top" and "butch." There was a large illustrated hairstyle chart on the wall with both the tlat-top and the nutch pictured. Both the men pictured for those hairdos were dreamy, collegiate-military types. Happy Caucasian men with college degrees and a new car. Maybe a nice sport coat. I wanted both to be them and wanted them at the same time, although what I wanted them for, exactly, was still kind of vague in my young buzz-cut head.

There was also a hairdo called "the wide part" that depicted a vital-looking middle-aged man totally bald on top. Being an overly literal kid, the humor was lost on me, like looking at the cartoons in my parents' New Yorker magazines.

I would hang out in the barbershop for hours and read the 20-year-old National Geographics while men would come and go until it was time for me to return home to dinner. The men would forget I was there, and sometimes the conversation would turn salty. I loved the ritual intimacy of the cape and the talc, and then a complete brushing off of clothing. Ever since then, the traditional barbershop and that relationship of two men — like mutual grooming among primates — has been a happy and somewhat sacred scene for me.

Of course, in 1964, when I was 10, a major rift happened with my love affair with the barbershop. The Beatles came to town. I begged my grandfather to let me grow my hair out of a butch, to stop using the heavy hairdressing stick known as Butch Wax. He finally relented and let me grow my hair out, making little trims here and there as it filled in. But he struck a sweetly sad deal with me: "Don't tell anyone your grandfather cuts your hair." He was being funny, of course, but as usual, the humor was lost on me.

See here, and on the following pages, a personal tonsorial museum of images ranging from the silly to the romantic to the frankly hot (Elvis!)

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I had the junior flat-top.


Tags: Comedy, Comedy

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