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Women in Barbershops

Barbers, who once served only men, in the 1920s found that the advent of bobbed hair styles for women brought a new class of customer into their shops. The Sunday World-Herald of August 1, 1926, published the candid opinions of a number of Omaha's barbers regarding the changes that new female clients had caused. The barbershop, a bastion of masculinity, had become "a place where modulated voices converse on subjects of general interest. Where speech is polite, and the click of high heeled shoes is heard on the tiling along with the shuffle of thicker soles. . . . "

"'First the men didn't like it at all. Bobbed hair was a subject of ridicule and worse. Resentment was evidenced on all sides by our regular male customers,' said a leading tonsorial artist, as the Bingville Bugle calls them. 'But a change has occurred. I have heard men say they are glad to have the women come. It has brought a softening atmosphere to the shop, and the men as a whole say it is a good thing.'"

Said one barber, "'There are many different kinds of bobs, facial messages, and shampoos, and women know just what they want. When they first commenced coming, there was a great deal of embarrassment on their part, and not a little on the part of the barber. But that is gone. They come in now to purchase what they want with as much ease and nonchalance as they would enter a department store and buy a bolt of ribbon. There are some shops that do not encourage women patrons, but they are few and far between.'"

Another barber believed there to be "more work accomplished today in the barber shop than ever before in its history. And woman deserves a great deal of the thanks for this increase. The answer given by the head barber is that men operatives naturally are anxious to show just how good they are when working with a woman customer. This desire may not be worked out definitely in their heads, but it is the instinct of the male to show to one of the opposite sex how wonderful are his accomplishments. The consequence is he wholly concentrates on the work in hand, and as a consequence not only does it well but quickly."

Female barbers as well as male barbers were interviewed by the World-Herald. "Now one would think in a barber shop where they employ only women barbers that women patrons would predominate. But such is not the case in the Ideal barber shop at 222 South Fourteenth street. Miss Anna Lampesis, proprietor, says that women as a rule prefer men operatives, but she gets some of their trade. 'Women are no more trouble than the men; they are generous and helpful, but I believe that shops where women are barbers will always have a larger percentage of the masculine trade.'"

Barber William M. Young said, "'We have lots of women and children; they come singly, but we are also building up a family group business. Father, mother and children often come here at one and the same time. Daughters, mothers and grandmothers are among my customers, and I am trying to keep them all as my steady patrons.'"

(July 2007)



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