Flat-top with Fenders

by Steve Lee

Someone always seemed to be keeping an eye on our heads, specifically on the length of our hair in grade school. Teachers would actually send notes home with shaggy students suggesting it was time for a visit to Tony’s barbershop, the haircuttorium within bicycling distance for the elementary school in our neighborhood.

It was in a black and white checkerboard tiled storefront with four gigantic barbers’ chairs equipped with levers for raising and lowering. The massive chairs silently revolved at a touch from the barber, allowing for angular access behind the ears, or to face the wall-length mirror for watching the haircut in process.

Tony the owner/maitre de barber had owned the place as long as anybody could remember. He directed the waiting customers to each barber in turn, I now just realized, to even out the tips the barbers would receive from the adults. School kids would come in with two dollars haircut money sealed in an envelope, so none of it would be lost at the candy and ice cream store around the corner on the way to Tony’s.

The magazine rack would be full of Outdoor Life magazines, if you were lucky it would be busy enough that you could surreptitiously slip in a copy of Argosy magazine without Tony noticing. The best part about getting a haircut at Tony’s was the Haircut Chart with twelve styles pictured, brought to you by Vitalis Hair Tonic Liquid.

My favorite selection, for the far-away in-the-future late-teenage years when I would be working an after-school job raking in $1.15 an hour, was the “Hollywood”.

Ah, the Hollywood. Long hair on both sides swept back behind the ears, flowing down to be square-cut below the shirt collar; the shirt collar would have a “ring-around” on the inside and on the outside, a challenge to the mightiest of laundry detergents.

For the barbers the worst thing that could happen was the return of a customer with the message “I sent my son in for a Haircut!” This meant that Tony would have to check the receipts on the spike next to the cash register to see which barber was responsible for sending the customer home without getting his mother’s moneys worth.

So, for me the Hollywood, with the bouffant pompadour front and topside would be in the almost-an-adult future.
The “Flat-Top with Fenders” was a combination of a carpenter’s leveled short top with long Vitalised sides swept back behind the ears, square-cut just above the collar. The really athletic, know-no-fear older kids were he only ones daring enough to front this style.

But a wise barber would suggest the “Young Dick Clark” because he knew that all the kids’ older sisters watched American Bandstand after school every day. So I would return home happy in the knowledge that even though I didn’t have the ultimate in hair styles, I was at least on the chart.

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