Perkins Barbershop was located in narrow room, with barber chairs on one side and seats for waiting on the other. I have early memories of my dad—not my mother since she would never enter a pool hall, bar or barbershop—taking me for a haircut. Percy Perkins would seat me on a board placed across the arms of the chair; then wrap my neck with tissue, cover me with a sheet and commence to clipping. I still remember the smell of Clubman Pinaud Talc he would brush on my neck.
I was 16, a high school junior and I had a date with an 18 year old senior and I wanted everything to be perfect. Saturday morning after cleaning, washing and waxing my car, I headed to the barbershop.
To impress upon the him how important it was for me to look good, I told the barber about my big date. He stopped cutting and said, “If you want to impress a girl you need a professional shave. She’s not going to rub her smooth cheek against your rough beard.”
Beard. I had a beard? He was right: why wash the car, get a haircut and dress up only to find the girl didn’t want to mar her gentle skin with my manly beard. “Yeah, you’re right. Go ahead with the shave.”
He placed a hot towel on my face; strapped his razor; brushed on shaving cream and began scraping the whiskers. With my eyes closed, I was thinking about being grownup and dreaming about the coming evening when the comments began.
“Turn the razor over, you don’t need the sharp side for that beard.”
“Heck you don’t need a razor: a good rub with a wet towel and that peach fuzz will come right off.”
The men waiting for their haircuts had found a target and I was it. Too late to leave, all I could do was to silently take the razzing.
Years later my bookkeeper convinced me to go to a styling salon rather than a barbershop.
Embarrassed about going to a “beauty shop,” I made an appointment to coincide with the salon’s opening. A beautiful woman greeted me and inquired as to how I wanted my hair cut. I didn’t know how to answer: this wasn’t a question Percy Perkins asked. I thought, “If this good looking woman likes the result, it will have to be the best haircut ever;” so I responded,“The way you think best.”
After every few clips with her scissors, the stylist would put her face next to mine and as we both stared into the mirror, inquire if everything was all right. With her cheek close and intoxicated by sweet perfume, I realized Percy Perkins had lost my business.
Bedazzled, not paying attention to what she was saying, I readily agreed to her suggestion to make me even more handsome.
She tilted the chair back, placed my neck on the edge of a sink and gently washed my hair: her hands massaging my head as she leaned over me. I drifted away, dreamily happy, until I open my eyes, gazed into the mirror and realized I had a “roller” in my hair. Panic ensued: what if someone who knew me walked in—I would be the laughing stock of Ocala. Fortunately, no one who mattered saw me and I escaped with my reputation intact.
My father taught me that grooming matters in building relationships and success. Well groomed and neatly dressed, you convey a message that you care enough about others to want to make a good impression. In turn, you boost your self-esteem and raise your confidence.
“If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good the pay’s good.” – “Neon” Deion Sanders