Tonsorial Trends from Tufts to Tonsures

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for August 23, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            School has started up again in our town, and the last minute rush to get ready for the Big Day is over, so now, among other things, the barber shops won’t be crowded any more with kids’ last minute back-to-school grooming. Fortunately, haircuts in East Bernard are not as expensive as they are in the rest of the United States. I pay $12 for mine, and my tonsorial artist (barber) does excellent hair cutting.

            According to online Infographic, the cheapest men’s haircut (on average) today is found in Alaska, at $15. The average cost in Texas is $17 and in California, it’s $24. However, in the large cities, the cost is even higher; The average per cut in Dallas is $33, in Los Angeles, $35, and in New York City, $37. For women’s haircuts, it’s at least double these amounts. Tonsorial artistry can be expensive.

            Experts tell us that not only is hair the most easily changed physical feature of the human body, but also is the one human feature which can most drastically alter the way we look. I suppose that means if you’re bald-headed, then you’re destined to look like yourself.

            Currently, short hair is trendy for men, though some men think it’s stylish to wear hair long enough for a “man’s bun.” Whereas in the 1950’s, we traded in the BrylCream we used in the 1940’s for a jar of hair wax, so that our crew cut could stand up in a porcupine look. The “in” look today is the slightly longer crew cut with clustered-together, uneven tufts. Where the 2018 look differs from the 1950’s porcupine effect is seen in today’s trendiness exchanging the plastered-back ducktails on the sides of the 50’s to today’s shaved sides.

            Back in the 1920’s, the hair product of choice was a sweet-smelling hair oil that sold for about ten cents a bottle, because men wore their hair slicked down with oil in imitation of silent screen movie star, Rudolph Valentino. This slicked-down look was known as “patent leather hair.” I noticed in family photos that my father had that slicked-down look when he wasn’t wearing a hat. I don’t know what his hair was like underneath the hat he wore as a young man.

            Men don’t usually worry about having a “bad hair day,” as their wives often do, perhaps because so many male Texans wear hats or caps all the time, — even to bed, I suspect in some cases. Every day is a bad hair day for some of us. If you’ve ever looked at the ground just below your bird feeder and watched bird seed sprout and grow, you get some idea how my hair grows and looks (what there is left of it, though I have more than some men have). Only difference is my hair is usually not green.

            There is control for those of us with pates full of uncontrollable bird seed sprouts. It’s a gel. One powerful one I’ve tried is called Gorilla Glue, though a Dep type is the one I usually use. The use of this type hair product is highly recommended to avoid shocking your wife into a heart attack when you come into the kitchen in the morning for your first cup of coffee with your sprouted bird seed standing up in a peak.

            Women have a simple solution to hair problems, — hair spray (which has been around since the 1950’s). However, like a number of other older men, I have never wanted to use hair spray, no doubt because it just didn’t seem very manly to those of us who grew up in the male chauvinist era.

            We human beings are very strange creatures, aren’t we? The history of hair styles and tonsorial artists would prove that statement. If you think we do funny things with our hair in the 21st Century, take a look at what men did in the 18th Century. Wealthy men in the 1700’s didn’t get haircuts. They shaved their heads instead and wore wigs over their bald pates. Not only was wearing an elegantly curled wig a sign of trendiness, it was also a sign of wealth. Today’s trendiness includes the tonsure (shaved head) without the wig. Men’s hairstyle trends will come and go, and so will our hair.


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor


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