Some guys want to look like Jesus, and some girls want to look like Crystal Gayle, and that's fine. The rest of us need to get our hair cut, and unless we're still chopping away with Fiskars by ourselves in front of the medicine-cabinet mirror, we walk through the doors of a barbershop or salon every once in a while, sit down in a relaxing chair and pay someone to take care of the moppy mess atop our noggin.
For this year's fashion issue, we check in on these artists of hair. By a scientific process, we've pinpointed the number of barbershops and salons in the North Bay to be exactly 25 bazillion, and so we've whittled our profiles down to a manageable cross-section representative of different areas of expertise. You'll read about the barber in training cutting friends' hair for free in his living room on up to the $85 cut-and-style at a high-end salon in Marin—something, as they say, for everybody.
A recurring theme in speaking with these masters of the scissors was that of human connection. Barbershops and salons are where the rejuvenation happens—not just with hairstyles, but with camaraderie and conversation. For many, a hairstylist is also a therapist, a storyteller, a sex-advice columnist, a business adviser, a tour guide, a bartender, a political analyst, a confidant and much more. The community wouldn't be the same without them.
Look inside, and meet a handful of the area's best.—Gabe Meline
All photos by Sara Sanger.
Jerry de la Cruz, Maya Beauty Academy
Living in punk houses in the '90s, Jerry de la Cruz was always the roommate with the clippers, ready to cut his friends' hair. Instead of the barber's chair, though, he spent the next 20 years working behind counters—coffee shops, sandwich delis, record stores and lunch joints, always wishing he'd been able to go to barber school and live the dream of running a basic neighborhood barber shop. Every time he tried, though, his mom talked him out of it: "She wanted me to go to a real college and be some kind of a businessman or something," he shrugs.
This year, de la Cruz quit his job to start making his dream come true, but he found that the nearest barber college was all the way in Vallejo. To stay close to home, he enrolled at Maya Beauty Academy in a 12-month full cosmetology program; he's been the only male for most of the time he's been there, and in addition to hair cutting, styling and coloring, he's learning makeup, manicures, pedicures, perms, lash tinting, skin care and other things he might not use in a simple barber shop. The course is costing him $16,000. "As soon as I finish and get my license," he says, "I'm gonna need to start working immediately, 'cause I'm really worried about running out of money."
An important skill required of a barber is the ability to talk to virtually everyone, and de la Cruz's years of slinging coffee have more than given him that talent. Passion for the job should be no problem, either, planted in him by an old shop on Santa Rosa Avenue he used to frequent as a kid, and a genuine interest in hair. But mostly, de la Cruz is just looking for the simple things. The vibrator on the shoulders, the straight razor on the neck, the game on TV, what's in the paper. "Just being friendly and talking to people, that's all that someone who's cutting your hair does, really. You just chat," he says. "That's kind of, like, how I want to grow old."
Haircut: currently free, to friends and family, in his living room.
Maya Beauty Academy, 1030 Center Drive, Santa Rosa. 707.526.4962.
The Old School
Gene McAdon, Cougar's Den
When Gene McAdon started cutting hair 51 years ago in Los Angeles, a haircut cost about $1.75. Now it's $20, and long hair is extra. But McAdon's style never changed, even when he bought the Cougar's Den in 1974.
McAdon might just be the oldest barber in the North Bay. McAdon started cutting hair in 1961 at Hollywood Barber College, right out of high school. "I graduated on Thursday," he says, "and started barber college on Monday."
McAdon specializes in the "regular haircut," as he puts it. He calls his style the "isometric method," a phrase he's coined to mean "even all the way around." He cuts mostly men's hair, though women come in on occasion. "I cut one gal's hair who got her hair cut like a man," says McAdon. "I haven't seen her in a while, though."
Working in Southern California, he did give haircuts to celebrities like Roger Miller and Slim Pickens, but the better story is when he gave a hundred cuts in a single day. Working once a week on an Air Force base, he cut the hair of an entire platoon for an upcoming inspection. Regular cuts, too—not just a shave. "That was a 12-hour day," McAdon says. "And I had the flu that day."
While a barber's chair may be the best place for gossip, this shop is mostly quiet, save for the buzz of clippers, the low drone of talk radio and occasional remarks about McAdon's recent 18-day trip to Israel, his first time out of the country in his 71 years.
McAdon is friendly and an interesting conversationalist once he gets going, but while reticent, he uses his words effectively. When asked what it is about Ronald Reagan he admires—there are several glossy 8-by-10s on the wall—he shrugs. "Politics, I guess."
Long hair ("Must be clean"): $30
Cougar's Den, 528 E. Cotati Ave., Cotati. 707.795.1183.