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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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A snip of downtown Grinnell

Sam Catanzaro transitions from shaggy to suave. Photo by Alberto Vasquez.

Sam Catanzaro, Sports Editor,

Eva Lilienfeld, News Editor,

Everyone gets their hair cut, and every town needs at least one good barbershop or hair salon. This week, the S&B sent staffers Sam Catanzaro ’16, Sports editor, and Eva Lilienfeld ’17, News editor, to the Iowa Barbershop and First Impressions Salon respectively, to check out the chop ‘n’ style scene.

Iowa Barbershop

After one has settled into college life and has figured out how to do homework, clean laundry and eat meals, one big challenge remains: finding a place to get a haircut. Students can either let the locks grow, have a friend experiment with a scissors or find a barbershop in town. For the last option, Iowa Barbershop, located on 5th Avenue between Main and West Street in downtown, is a great place for a college student to get sheared.

Since 1976, Marv Reding has operated Iowa Barbershop. Jeff Standford joined the operation in 1979, when a haircut was only two dollars. While a haircut will run you back 12 dollars today, the shop retains the atmosphere of a simpler time.Taking a seat in the barber’s chair, one is asked how short they want their hair. The buzzer and scissors then get to work crafting a clean cut, while the Reding and Standford keep the conversation flowing.

Sam Catanzaro transitions from shaggy to suave. Photo by Alberto Vasquez.
Sam Catanzaro transitions from shaggy to suave.
Photo by Alberto Vasquez.

Throughout the course of my haircut, a handful of regular costumers walked into the shop and were greeted by Reding and Stanford by their first names. Topics of conversation overhead during the cut included, but were not limited to, hunting, fishing and college basketball. Listening to this banter, a big city dweller like me begins to see the appeal of living in a small town. It must be comforting to be able to walk into the barbershop, have the barber know exactly how you like your hair done and walk out with a fresh cut in the time it takes to find a parking spot in the city.

The haircut itself is quick, lasting no more than 15 minutes. During their process, both Reding and Stanford are nimble with their buzzers and scissors, almost to the point where one begins to worry their haircut will look sloppy. But after the chopping has subsided, the hair has been combed and the neck has been vacuumed clear of little hairs, one looks in the mirror and see a handsome, clean-cut version of themself, walking out of the shop oozing with confidence.

Iowa Barbershop is a barbershop and nothing more, and this is what makes it a special place. One doesn’t here go to get a 50-dollar, fashion-forward cut, nor do they come here to get their hair dyed. One comes here when their mane is getting a little too shaggy and needs trimming. The end result is nothing to write home about but is nonetheless a haircut that will serve its purpose until those luscious locks grow long again.

First Impressions

To be honest, I have sworn to myself that I will never get bangs again while I am living in Iowa, but my time at First Impressions may have side-swayed me.

I walked in expecting, perhaps wrongfully, that the salon would be as large as other nearby storefronts with maybe one barber’s chair. Instead, First Impressions features an entryway with couches and chairs, several hair cutting stations on either side of the room, multiple shampooing sinks, a hair color bar and a manicure/pedicure station.

My hairstylist, Tina, confirmed what I wanted and gave advice about layers and curly hair. She proceeded to shampoo and condition my hair while making the usual small talk salon-goers know well.

At one point when she trimmed my hair from different angles, Tina confessed to me that she is a perfectionist.

“On the second day, my hair instructor told me, ‘Oh, you’re one of those’,” Tina said. “She said, ‘You’re going to be good but you’re going to want to make it perfect’.”

Though Tina seems like a perfectionist, the most important determining factor for me is the talent in the hands of the haircutter. Not just because I am trying to avoid the botched bangs of ’07, but if I am going to go get my haircut, I most look forward to the scalp massage bit.

Tina was excellent. I was not even tired before the appointment, but I caught myself falling asleep a bit during her trimming. Even if she had not washed, cut and styled my hair, I would consider returning to First Impressions just for her head massaging services.

Eva Lilienfeld watches her stylist at work. Photo by Sydney Hamamoto.
Eva Lilienfeld watches her stylist at work.
Photo by Sydney Hamamoto.

After the haircut, I was very slightly disappointed with the styling. When she had asked my preference about if I wanted my hair curled under or out, I had requested under, only to emerge from the salon with a hairstyle that looks slightly more out of “Hairspray the musical” than I had hoped.

I will give First Impressions credit for upfront charging practice. They told me in advance that a shampoo and styling would each add five dollars to the 25 dollar base cut. They also charge an additional few bucks as a credit card fee, so Grinnellians should stop by the ATM on their way over.

All in all, I will probably stick with my home barber for my more drastic styling and because I have more time over breaks than I do at school. However, First Impressions certainly surpassed expectations and I would recommend Grinnellians who have the time try them out. Hopefully the second impressions are half as good as the first time around.

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