Written by Jim Murphy | Photos by Anthony Harden
Traditional barber shops have survived the lean, long-haired era of the ‘70s and the all-salon rage of the ‘90s. In Western North Carolina in 2019, they’re thriving.
Barbers got a bad rap in the Bible.
When Delilah gave Sampson that fateful haircut, she turned him into a helpless weakling and set in motion a cataclysmic chain of events that began with the destruction of the Philistine temple and continued for a couple of years, with the local men saying something to the effect of, “Get away from me with them scissors!” But their hair kept growing, and pretty soon it was getting in their eyes and preventing them from doing anything productive. So, they reluctantly submitted themselves to a fashionable trim—and the barbers were back in business.
And, yes, there were real barbers back in Sampson’s time. In fact, the word barber comes from the Latin, barba, meaning beard, and records dating back far as 3500 BC list barbers as the world’s second oldest profession—and the oldest legal one.
Since that Delilah fiasco, barbers have been thriving. Here in North Carolina there are about 7,000 to 8,000 licensed barbers working in no fewer than 2,500 shops, according to Dennis Seavers, executive director of the NC Board of Barber Examiners. A web search suggests close to a thousand of those barbers are working in the 16 counties of Western North Carolina.
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