Barbershops continuing tradition of classic cuts

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Curtis Howard, center, and Brian Coughlin, center, catch up with clients while cutting their hair at Howard’s Barbershop in Lodi.

LODI—It’s not Floyd’s place, but Howard’s Barbershop sure does feel like it could fit right in on “The Andy Griffith Show,” that classic TV series that takes place in small-town Mayberry.

In fact, most any modern-day barbershop feels like stepping into the not so-distant past, even in a city the size of Stockton or Modesto. Traditional barbershops are serving loyal and new clients alike, while training a new generation of barbers.

“Being a barber is a great profession. You get to relate to people, build relationships through the generations,” said Bobby Page Sr., owner and barber at Village Barbershop at Lincoln Center in Stockton. The challenge is making the profession appealing to those looking for a career, he said.

“To replace the barbers who are getting ready to retire, it’s tough. But it’s a great opportunity if somebody wanted to come in and apply themselves and be patient,” Page said.

California is the third highest state employing barbers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in a 2016 report. At the time of the report, there were 1,320 barbers throughout the state. Texas ranked No. 1 with 3,120 barbers and New York was second at 2,130.

In fact, the report shows that there are almost as many barbers in the Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas region (1,270) as there are in all of California.

The annual average wage for barbers in California is $29,980, according to the report, with an average hourly wage of $14.41.

Despite a majority of cosmetology schools being attended by female students, the barbershop industry is still male dominated. According to datausa.io, a statistical information website, 79.1 percent of barbers are male in the U.S.

That’s a statistic that can be seen in action at Howard’s Barbershop. Owner Curtis Howard is flanked by three other men, Victor Bagcal, Brian Coughlin and Danny Huynh. Out of the five barbers at Village, one is a woman, Page said.

No matter who is cutting hair, most barbers seem to agree that it’s a great career.

“What’s not to like,” Bagcal said. “I did road construction prior to this. In the summertime it’s cool in here; wintertime, I’m not sitting at home because it’s raining without work.”
Making a connection with clients over the course of his 13-year career is also one of the perks, Bagcal said.

“Just keeping up with regular customers, too. The kids are in sports, see how the folks are doing. It’s kind of like a Mayberry thing, it’s a small town,” Bagcal said.

One of the traditional services, shaving, is not routinely offered by shops today, according to Howard, because there’s not much demand. Some shops will still offer shaving, but it’s mostly a novelty these days.

The cuts are kept traditional as well because, as Howard points out, that’s what the customers want.

“The younger parents want to bring their kids in. They still remember [coming to the barber] when they were a kid, so it gets them wanting to come back into the old atmosphere,” Howard said. “When they were single, they were probably going to a salon or Clippertown or SuperCuts. Now they want to do the family thing.”

There is a trend, however, toward more stylized cuts.

“There’s a rockabilly phase going on right now. That’s pretty popular, especially in the bigger cities,” Howard said, referring to a particular style of cut that’s fashionable at the moment. Still, there’s something about the traditional barbershop that appeals. “Most of the guys, we know them by name.”

At Village, which has been in business for 66 years, there’s a host of regular clientele, but it’s the military veterans that hold a special place for the staff.

Bobby Page Sr., owner and barber at Village Barbershop in Lincoln Center in Stockton, has been cutting hair for 28 years. The shop has been open for 66 years.

“We just love our military,” Page said, surrounded by pictures of vets, ribbons, old newspapers and other memorabilia. Village Barbershop routinely holds fundraisers to benefit various organizations like Packed with Pride which would create care packages for deployed military personnel. “We’ve done 13 veteran fundraisers … this last one we did for Veteran Huey Pilots Association out of Sacramento.”

Barbershops are also a place of gathering. Although it might not be like the movie “Barbershop,” Page said, people still come in to socialize and shoot the breeze.

“It’s sort of like a community hub in a sense,” Coughlin said.

“It’s a poor man’s country club,” Bagcal said. “You don’t need a membership.”

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