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Quiet Desperation

In a world of too many soulless salons, old-fashioned barber makes the cut


Alfredo Hidalgo has been cutting my hair since 1977.

I have been unfaithful to him, because of weather or location, fewer than 10 times.

Alfred cut my hair when it was over my ears and the color of Masonite, when the Grays started to move in, and when the Grays completely took over the block.

Across 40 years, I have heard about his loving marriage, his accomplished children, his devotion to fishing, his days at West High School, where he was class president and a star athlete, memories of mouth-watering Rockybilt hamburgers, and riding his bicycle from the area that is now the Auraria Higher Education Center to Red Rocks - something I find hard to believe.

I asked Alfred what his job title is, and he said, "hairstylist."

No one went to a hairstylist in the 1950s or 1960s, but by the 1970s, men were ready for stylists and salons. Barbershops started to disappear.

There are still some barbershops all over the country, in small towns primarily, where you sit and wait for Floyd.

However, there are over 4,100 Great Clips in the United States, to go along with a slew of other salons that can get the job done, one way or another, in under 10 minutes.

Alfred owns and manages The Hair-Porte. If you call during working hours, you will speak directly with Alfred, or one of the other five stylists. If you call after hours, you won't get an answering service.

His appointment book is all handwritten, and he doesn't keep track of your birthday. That means you won't get a computer-generated birthday card that makes you feel about as special as a used saltine.

One of the hair salon chains assigns your head a couple of numbers. I think my top is a 4 and my sides are a 5. A No. 4 attachment goes on the clipper and buzz, buzz, buzz.

Then a No. 5, and buzz, buzz, buzz. It's an induction haircut.

Alfred went to barber college and beauty school. I looked at him quizzically when he said "beauty school," and he explained that's where a student learns how to color hair, and it's where a student learns how to work on wigs and hairpieces.

He said a wig or hairpiece customer would come in and be taken to a back room, behind a curtain. The customer would sit in one chair, and the wig or hairpiece would sit in another chair.

(That's not entirely true, but that's how I pictured it.)

Your car was built by a robot, but a robot is never going to cut your hair.

Alfred uses electric trimmers and clippers, just like the ones he used in 1977.

Shakespeare said, "There's many a man has more hair than wit."

Alfred never hands you a calendar, a coupon, or a comb with his name on it. He does his job, day after day, the way jobs used to be done.

I would have found somewhere else to go to a long time ago, if all I wanted was a haircut. That should tell you something.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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