Today, I took what I consider to be a major risk by testing out a new barber. Since moving back here—to the DC area—last summer, I’ve went to the same barber I used from my Joint Base Andrews days to cut my hair…a guy named Mike Brown at MasterCuts in Waldorf. He was the 2nd guy to cut my hair in this area after the first guy failed miserably and left me with a mistake that took 6 weeks to recover from. I absolutely trust Mike to do what he does with the clippers and razor. Unlike that 2-year stretch from May 2010 until May 2012, where I lived in Waldorf, I live over 50 miles northwest in Montgomery County. I’ve typically had to burn a good chunk of my regular days off and gas mileage in the Capital Beltway traffic just to get a 30-minute haircut. I was in desperate need of finding someone local. After some extensive Google searches, I found a guy named Orville Haye, who owns and operates his own shop called Groomed by Haye…and it’s only 5 minutes from my residence. I just finished up with my 1st cut from Haye and I’m more than pleased. It looks like I won’t be venturing back down to Waldorf. The education that Haye gave me, in addition to the cut itself, was enough for me to consider him my guy going forward. I’m pretty serious about my haircuts and even more serious about the people who I pay to do them. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: Pon’s Barbershop.
How I first came across this moment? Officially, Pon’s Barbershop is called Dream Barber Shop. I call it Pon’s because no American goes there to get cut by her husband. I came across her shop during my initial walk through the Fussa neighborhood. I remember taking a photo of the outside because I saw that (1) she specialized in American-style haircuts, (2) only charged ¥1000, and (3) was open until 11pm. I decided to give her some run on June 7, 2007. I was actually surprised she spoke English quite well enough to fully grasp what I was wanting as far as hairstyling went. She was pretty good with the clippers. She did a damn good job with my sideburns and my mustache (as I couldn’t have the goatee I have now due to Air Force regulations). My cut was always fresh and smooth. I always felt like a new person when I walked out of her shop. After the first few cuts with Pon, I established a recurring schedule with her. The 1st and 3rd Sundays at 10:30pm was my usual time slot. Most times, I was the last one in before she closed it up for the night.
What it meant to me then? In the moment, happening upon Pon’s barbershop was a relief to me. Up until that point, my childhood barber—Nuke’s in Birmingham—and the dude who lined me up in Valdosta—Mack’s Barbershop, across the tracks in the badlands—were the only guys who ever touched my hair. At the time, I was 6800 miles away from my nearest regular barber…in a foreign country. The quality of Pon’s work in my initial cut relaxed me and I trusted her completely to take care of my cuts.
What it means to me now? It’s been well over 10 years since that first cut at Dream and 7 years since my full-time residency in Tokyo ended. Pon remains 1 of only 5 people in the world I trust to cut my hair. My trust for her is so deeply rooted that, when I did my year of military service in South Korea, I took overnight trips from Seoul to Tokyo just to have her cut my hair. No offense but there was absolutely no way I was testing out the waters of the local Korean barber stock. Pon delivered just as she normally did, making those ₩94000 one-day roundtrips on Jeju Air very much worth it. These days, I don’t really fret about haircuts ahead of Tokyo trips because I know I have her in my back pocket.