posted by Matt W on April 30th, 2014

When I was in college, my roommate Danny, like most starving students, had very long hair and very little money. One day, he had had enough of his mop top and asked where he could get it cut “inexpensively.” I mostly ignored his question, until a spectacular idea popped into my head. I said “I’ve got an idea,” and I would get it taken care of later that evening.

Earlier that year, my grandmother had gone to Mexico. And as all grandmothers traveling in a different country are bound to do, she bought gifts for all her grandchildren. She had proudly given me two guayabara (the dress shirts with the ornate stitching down the front and the big pockets about waist height). As Joe A. was one of only a handful  of Latino’s I had ever actually met in the Pacific Northwest at the time, I was pretty clueless regarding Latino culture, and as they looked like what every barber I had ever gone to wore, I called them my Mexican barber shirts. As I figured the only way Dan was going to let me near his hair was if I was properly attired, I went and got the shirts. A smooth sales job (and free food) was the only thing left between my scissors and Dan’s hair.

As you can imagine, Dan was not initially thrilled with the “Matt W., Latino Barber” idea. But being his only free option at the time and since I had bought pizza, he warmed to the idea quickly. My “how hard can cutting hair actually be?” comment surprisingly seemed to calm him; it must have been the barber shirt.

“Awesome, let’s do it,” was his reply as he took his first slice of pizza.

Even though I looked the part, which was obviously the most important aspect of cutting hair, I soon found out actual experience would have also been helpful. While every one of my haircuts had been less than 5 minutes and consisted of a #2 guard clippers on the sides and finger length on top, shoulder length hair is an entirely different beast. After many minutes of internal debate, looking at his hair from all different angles, I finally just said, “Trust me” and started lopping off 6” chunks. A huge pile of hair covered our dorm room floor. While his hair was indeed much shorter after this initial butchery, it looked truly awful. I figured I would try a little while longer to make it look more like a human’s hair cut, while at the same time deciding how much hair I had to leave in order to pay a real barber to fix it.

And then Matt W. “Latino Barber” hit his stride.

I started just doing barber-y type things with my hands and it actually started to look OK. I tried to speak any words of Spanish I knew but since that was pretty much limited to the numbers 1-10; I think I mostly spoke Americanized German. I walked around him a lot, made semi-uniform type cuts fairly often, and miraculously, a reasonable haircut emerged. I was indeed a Latino Barber, or at least the closest thing a small northwest college dorm had to offer at the time.

I pulled out the Latino Barber shirt a few more times while at college, typically when guys in the dorm who didn’t have girlfriends wanted a free haircut, but soon put down the shears for good. As I grew from a Medium to an Extra Large over the next few years, the guayabara found new homes through the Salvation Army. I hope some Latino Barber put them to good use.

File Under Jack of all Trades