The Hawkeye Barbers experience

It had been a while since I last got a haircut — sometime in March, maybe — so today I walked downtown for my first experience at the famous Hawkeye Barbers. (I have decided to write about it, too — perhaps gratuitously. It’s my blog and you ain’t my daddy. I can do what I want! This is consumerism in action, people!)

I have no clue if HB truly is famous, but it seems to have a loyal clientele and I know a couple people who get their hair cut there. I decided to give HB a shot because my sister’s friend, who has cut my hair the last couple times, is on maternity leave and I could not get a hold of the woman who has cut my hair since I was a little kid.

HB welcomes walk-ins, which was convenient because I did not have an appointment. I walked in and the place was noisy with chatter and music. A woman beckoned me into a barber chair and asked, “How short are we going?”


HB was small and simple. There really was not much décor except the barber stations, the barber chairs, and shelves with hair products. There was an aerial photo of Kinnick Stadium during the 1977 Iowa State-Iowa game, a Hawkeye football poster, and a 2013 Arkansas Razorbacks poster signed by Bret Bielema. According the woman who cut my hair, Arkansas’ new “video guy” worked at Iowa and got his hair cut at HB. My barber said the store always displays the football posters of every Big Ten team — which is definitely a fitting quirk. (None of them were up yet. Someone connected to HB goes to the conference media day in Chicago every summer to collect them.)

Admittedly, I have always been a little leery of barber shops. One of the hairdressers at the Super Cuts in Huntington Beach told me barber shops are not as clean because fewer health codes govern them. I do not know how true that is, but there are different licenses for barbers and cosmetologists — at least in Iowa. My sister’s friend has a cosmetology license, but she cannot shave customers because she does not have a barbers’ license. HB looked clean and well-worn, so the only differences I could see where choices of aesthetics.

(Despite my leeriness, the best haircut I have ever had was at the little barber shop on Pecan Avenue in downtown Huntington Beach.)

My barber wasted no time. She got busy with the electric trimmer, almost sheering me like I was a sheep. I was a little alarmed when I saw huge chunks of hair falling onto the lap of the barber cloth, but it was mostly out of efficiency; she was buzzing off most of my hair instead of using the clippers to save time. Perhaps she was doing that because I did not have an appointment and wanted to make quick work of me. She did pretty well, though. In a hand-held mirror she showed me how short she was cutting. I asked her to cut shorter. After a few more swipes with the trimmer she had me check in the mirror again. It was just what I wanted.

Other than those quick peeks in the mirror, though, I could not see what she was doing. I am accustomed to getting my hair cut in front of a mirror, being able to see how the work is progressing. That was not the case at HB. The barber chairs faced away from the mirrors — at least I think there were mirrors on the wall behind me. She buzzed and cut and buzzed, making me a little nervous. What’s going on up there? I wondered as my mane fell around me.

Her next appointment arrived and was waiting in the little anteroom at the front, but she continued to trim carefully. She thinned my hair, made a couple adjustments with the clippers, and then vacuumed all the stray and potentially itchy clippings from my neck and ears. Yes: vacuumed. It was interesting. When she finished she gave me the hand-held mirror to finally reveal her work. She did well, doing exactly what I wanted: my hair was short and summer-ready. The damage to my wallet: $20, plus a $4 tip.

I do not think I am going to make a habit of getting my hair cut at a different place every time (or blogging about it), but I now know of a reliable backup that is nearby and within walking distance. Plus, no retirement home buses are parked outside and there are no elderly women, with carefully shaped and sprayed white hair, scowling at me.

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