RT Cunningham


Barber Shops in the United States and the Philippines

barber shops It’s hard to find regular barber shops these days, at least in the big cities of the United States. There, you’re lucky if you can find anything other than hair salons.

Sure, hair salons cut hair, but they do so much more. More than what I will ever need.

Most of the people doing the cutting aren’t even called barbers anymore. They’re hair stylists, hairdressers or something else. Thankfully, the military bases still have barber shops. The places outside of the military bases where I got my hair cut before 1997 don’t even exist anymore.

Barber Shops in Phoenix, Arizona

When I worked at the recruiting station from 1992 to 1996, I got my hair cut by an old guy at a barber shop on 7th Street and Thomas Road. He was an Italian immigrant and a World War II veteran. While there were other barbers in the shop, I liked listening to the things he talked about while he cut my hair. He passed away after I retired from the military in 1998.

I don’t know where any regular barber shops now exist outside of Luke Air Force Base. That’s where I got my hair cut after I retired. When I told one of the barbers there I wanted a Marine Corps haircut, I usually had to explain it.

I experienced “sticker shock” the last time I was there (2013). Haircuts were almost $10.00, at least twice as much as they cost before I left in 2006. It was still inexpensive compared to how much the hair salons in the city charged for a simple haircut.

Barber Shops in Olongapo City, Philippines

When I moved to the Philippines in 2006, I was pleasantly surprised traditional barber shops still existed in downtown Olongapo City. I know for a fact that at least two are still open today. I used to get my hair cut at the one next to a foreign money exchange on Magsaysay Drive. My regular barber is now somewhere else, but that’s a topic for another article.

The only thing I don’t like about haircuts in Olongapo is the barbers insist on giving a neck massage when they’re done. It was like that on Okinawa from 1987 to 1988 as well, except those were Japanese barbers instead of Filipino.

These barber shops are holdovers from when the Subic Bay Freeport Zone was still a United States naval base. They cut hair for Sailors and Marines alike (since Marines were often deployed on Navy ships). If I happened to get a younger barber, I usually had to specify “two fingers” above the ears to get the kind of haircut I wanted.

The last time I got a haircut, the price was 50 pesos. Including the tip I always give, I spent no more than 100 pesos (which is around two United States dollars).

Saving Money on Haircuts

I know people who are too cheap to pay for haircuts no matter how low the prices are. They’ll cut their own hair or have a friend do it for them. The only thing they usually invest in are hair clippers and barber scissors.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I prefer leaving the haircuts to the barbers who work inside barber shops. If I can get cheap haircuts, that’s great. If not, oh well. I’d rather spend a little extra than having to resort to getting my head shaved.

Originally published in March of 2014. Updated for readability and minor corrections.

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By RT Cunningham
September 29, 2017