The barbershop: Still alive and well at Truckee-Tahoe
Special to the Sun
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Just saying the word “barber” brings to mind a simpler time — a black and white movie, with a man sitting in a barber chair on an ancient wooden floor.
He catches up on local gossip with the town’s men folk while getting his weekly trim. Here at Truckee and Lake Tahoe, you can still find such places.
Jo Knox has had a barbershop in Incline Village — Jo Knox Hair Design — for 36 years.
He says that an old fashioned barbershop still gives guys a special place to hang out, a place where they can talk sports, about their wives and girlfriends, or anything else — without judgment.
“I know everything about everybody and don’t say a thing,” he said.
Knox says the business changed a great deal when men started to grow their hair long in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
That’s when men started to go to hair stylists to manage their unwieldy locks. They also began paying a lot more for a haircut.
Knox remembers a big jump from 95 cents for a haircut to eight bucks or more when hair got long.
“Barbers back then were skin and grin guys,” he says, meaning those who liked their hair short, and preferred a quick cut, instead of hanging out with the girls getting perms and curls.
Now with all sorts of styles from short to long, successful barbers have adapted and keep a steady business clientele.
Barbers and hair stylists go to different schools for certification, but the only major difference in what they do for their clients is barbers can give shaves, while hair stylists cannot.
Stylists primarily focus on coloring, styling, curling and cutting women’s hair. Barbers, meanwhile, focus on cutting men’s hair. A stylist may do a few men’s haircuts a day, while a barber may do 10-15 cuts a day.
In addition to beauty shops, barbers find competition from the chain cutting shops like Super Cuts and Sports Clips.
While these businesses focus on men’s haircuts as well, the haircutters are mostly recent graduates from cosmetology schools as opposed to barber schools.
At The Loft Barber Shop in Downtown Truckee, you will find owner Bob Avis.
You will also find a loving dog Esha, two barber chairs, mirrors, an ancient wood floor, and a view of the train station in downtown Truckee.
A row of comfy chairs sits close enough to the barber to carry on a conversation while you are waiting your turn.
After completing the 1,500 hours of training required to become a barber, Avis took over the Loft in 2007. Its previous owner, John Curtis, ran the shop for 29 years.
Legend has it that this location has been a barbershop since the 1930s, and that at one time it was a front for more illicit activities downstairs including gambling and prostitution.
Perhaps the most classic part of the barber’s business is an old fashioned shave with a sharpened razor.
When the price of the barbers services went up, and the time it takes to give an effective shave stayed the same, the shave became too expensive for most customers to consider, and many barbers stopped doing them.
Ron Tucker, a weekend barber at The Loft, is one of the few left who will do them. Now a shave is more of a unique spa like experience — an item to cross off your bucket list.
After a haircut from Avis, I sat in one of the chairs and talked to Steven Adams, a recent transplant to the area.
He says that one of the things that was important to him when he moved to Truckee was to find a good barbershop.
“This one is great. I love the chairs and the people,” he said. “You have a connection with your barber. I enjoy coming here instead of ‘Ron from the Mall barbershop.’”
Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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