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Miles of Style

From buzz to snip, from follicle to tip, meet the North Bay's hair experts

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The Kids

Stephanie Zaharin, Xclusive Kidz Kutz

If there's one thing that defines Stephanie Zaharin's Xclusive Kidz Kutz in downtown Santa Rosa, it's the frog.

"He's outlived horses, trucks, racecars and an elephant, I think," Zaharin explains, running a finger along the scratches and grooves in her seat-shaped amphibian's aqua paint. She bought her plastic mascot—a rideable frog, like the kind you'd find on a grocery-store merry-go-round in the '80s, attached to a salon stool—at a West Coast Beauty Supply consignment sale 20 years ago. He's never been named, but he's been with her ever since.

Xclusive has deep Sonoma County roots, but the D Street children's parlor went under the name Just Kidz Kutz until 2009. Zaharin owned the business, but, busy with adult clients in the adjacent Xclusive Salon, she says she let the atmosphere stray from her original vision.

"It became like a Supercuts," she says, explaining that between crying children, stressed parents and a walk-in environment, keeping hairdressers long-term at the kids-only venue became a challenge. After 18 years, she shuttered the studio and reopened it in 2011 with fewer hairdressers, a commission and an emphasis on appointments, so the stylists can pay closer attention to their eight-month- to 14-year-old clients.

Now, Xclusive's current incarnation is what Zaharin wanted when, pregnant with her son, she opened Just Kidz in 1992. Lately, she says, the studio's been cutting a second generation of children's hair, as kids whose hair was cut at the first salon bring their offspring to the second. Xclusive also provides stations with screens so the kids can watch movies or play games, and sugary treats for post-grooming. And of course, there's always the frog.

Basic cut and style: $20

Buzz cut: $10

Bang trim: $5

—Rachel Dovey

Xclusive Kidz Kutz, 312 D St., Santa Rosa. 707.544.2766.

The Classic

Shawn McConlogue, Barber Shop

Working at the insurance company sucked, and on one particularly lousy day, Shawn McConlogue escaped the office to get his hair cut. There, in the barber's chair, "it just kind of hit me that I should be thinking about working in an environment that I like every day," he says. "Six months later, I enrolled in barber school."

That school sat on the rough intersection of Sixth and Mission in San Francisco. Working with greasy, gnarled hair was one thing, but drug deals, fights and junkies nodding off mid-haircut were a near-daily occurrence, too. "It was entertaining," McConlogue deadpans.

McConlogue's small building has been a barber shop since the late 1950s. Today, a black-and-white checkered tile floor, a chess board, a touch-tone desk phone and a leather strop that's still in use for authentic straight-razor shaves are just a part of the timeless atmosphere. Most of it, McConlogue says, is the clientele.

"We get everybody from judges to guys that the judges have just sentenced. Professionals, blue-collar guys. We get the whole political spectrum, guys who are really far right, really far left. There's interesting discussions in here, sometimes kind of heated even. It really paints the whole spectrum of the community."

With Bobby Williams on the chair to his right, McConlogue's got a sidekick who also fled the same insurance company. Together, they keep an American tradition going. "It seems like barber shops are coming back a little bit," McConlogue says, "but there's a lot of them where you get the sense that they're kind of trying to celebrate something that's old but doesn't exist anymore. But we do still exist. We're not trying to be a retro or throwback thing; we're just doing what we've always done. That's rewarding to me."

"The Usual": $20

"The Unusual": also $20

Straight shave: $25

—Gabe Meline

Barber Shop, 103 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa. 707.396.8452.

The Gateway

Melissa Williams, Daredevils Barbershop

Opened just 10 months ago, Daredevils Barbershop in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square has the usual accessories of vintage barber chairs, hanging clippers and a classic-looking cash register. But there's decidedly updated, ungrizzled touches as well. Instead of photos of bygone NFL stars, the walls host portraits of current pro cyclists. Instead of a shared whiskey flask from the cabinet, visitors are offered complimentary beer. Instead of baseball, it's usually softball on the flatscreen TVs, and instead of old men, young women, mostly, cut the hair.

"We have one guy! We have our token man!" jokes Melissa Williams, 30, who affirms that, yes, curmudgeonly men looking for a good ol' boys place have walked in and walked right out upon seeing a row of women at the semi-salon-like barbershop.

Williams, working a thoroughly modern style on a client's hair one recent Saturday, says the unisex salons of the '80s redefined the standard mass-produced men's cut. In some circles, barbers became thought of as hacks. "You know, we've got a reputation of doing the old military cuts, and you'd be surprised at how much the barber industry has transformed," she says. "I mean, we had to step it up."

Barbering was a family trade for Melissa Williams. Her mother, her grandfather and three of her aunts are all barbers, and she got her start in the family shop in Cotati. When Travis Kennedy, owner of the adjoining Daredevils & Queens Salon, decided to expand and open a men's barbershop, Williams was a natural fit.

In addition to the shop's embrace of the gay community, what does Williams like most about the job? Her answer mirrors even the oldest veteran of the barber pole. "I like getting to know people," she says. "I've always been social, I've always been a talker. You've got to have the gift of gab."

Haircut: $25

Straight shave: $45

—Gabe Meline

Daredevils Barbershop, 122 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.575.5123.

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