In the four years since the Seattle Sounders, the local Major League Soccer team, began playing in town I’ve been to some twenty home games. By no means am I a die-hard fan: I don’t know a large number of the players and I’m yet to paint my face blue-and-green, but I enjoy going to the games, follow the team’s progress online and am generally excited to have professional soccer in town.
Since the Sounders inaugural game Great Clips, a national hair salon with several local franchises, has advertised a promotion at all home games: if Seattle score 3+ goals in a game everyone with a ticket to that game gets a free haircut. In four years I’ve never been to a game where that’s happened—until last Sunday, when we beat our rivals from Portland by a score of 3-1.
And so, bright and early the following morning I headed off to the local Great Clips. I proudly entered the store waving my ticket before me like some zealous fan displaying a backstage concert pass to a gruff roadie. After a very brief wait I sat down, an eager-beaver, excited and ready to go.
Perhaps, due to penurious circumstances or a simple absence of self-respect, you’ve had your hair cut at Great Clips or have visited one of their comparable competitiors: Supercuts, HairMasters or MasterCuts. Without having sampled them all I hate to feed the stereotype that they’re but one and the same; however, having once ridden in a car I feel reasonably confident typecasting automobiles as four-wheeled machines fueled by combustion engines that permit directional acceleration.
Without splitting hairs over the differences between these esteemed salons (and I am using the term liberally), perhaps it’s simplest for this tale if you imagine a blighted, fluorescent-lighted landscape populated by sharp-cornered formica furniture and a handful of out-of-date US-Weekly magazines. If you’re capable of thinking in terms of time, this Great Clips was designed to exude the same sense of permanence as a movie set, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if a strong wind blew through and, after clearing my eyes from the dust, I found myself seated in a Dominos or a TCBY instead.
But the most noticeable facet of any Great Clips space has to be the people who’ve chosen to place themselves within its walls. There is a certain easily-imaginable type of human who chooses to get her hair cut at a Great Clips, as surely as there’s equally a certain type who finds working in such a place professionally rewarding. Looking about I couldn’t help feel that staff and customers both gave off a generalized air of simply having settled for things, exactly as they are, right now.
I don’t mean to sound condescending nor do I wish to imply anything horribly negative: nobody’s a bad human being for being involved with Great Clips. But honestly—if you’re working in such a place or regularly getting your hair cut there, you’ve most likely thrown in the towel on some important Dale Carnegie concepts such as Style, Healthy Diet, and Positive Self-Promotion.
What was oddly curious to me about the situation was the contrast between the slouch-slumping manners of those within the Great Clips walls, folks projecting a certain resigned and despairing acceptance of life, and the sweet, sky’s-the-limit air of hope that a haircut promises. Because the reality is that getting your hair cut anywhere is a really great way to feel good about yourself.
I once got my hair cut in Tunisia by a man with whom I shared no common language; I spoke my requests in French to a friend who translated them to the barber in Arabic, and even though it took nearly an hour to get what was for all intents-and-purposes a buzz-cut, I recall the experience fondly. Last summer I got a cut and a shave in Guatemala after not having put a razor to my face for over a month: the barber had to change blades four times while shaving me but I walked out of that chair with my face smooth as a baby’s butt and my spirits completely refreshed.
A haircut is a rare and to-be-cherished opportunity at renewed self-expression: depending upon your follicle fecundity you can do anything from simply cleaning yourself up to completely changing the way people perceive you. It’s a uniquely powerful opportunity to do something we’re all striving after every day: to improve the way we’re regarded by the world around us.
In case these sound like overly grandiose claims, just recall how upset you or a friend, especially one of the female persuasion, were the last time you got a haircut that you hated.
It was with such hopes in my heart and fond memories in my mind that I sat down in the faded black chair at Great Clips. Given that Time and Genetics have acted upon my scalp to make it look as if it’s been repeatedly napalmed, I usually just run a pair of old clippers across my head every couple weeks and call it good. I hadn’t had my hair cut by a professional since I’d been in Guatemala last summer, and I was excited.
The outcome of my Great Clips haircut, as well as some interesting tales about the barber who performed it, will be the subject of my next entry.