Chair seats don’t have a chance to get cold very often during work hours at McPherson barber shops.

Chair seats don’t have a chance to get cold very often during work hours at McPherson barber shops.
“I’m surprised that any men go to salons,” Luke Aichele of Luke’s Barbershop, 214 S. Main St., said. “In barber school, you get about a 10-day crash course on cutting women’s hair, and at cosmetology school, they get about the same on cutting men’s hair. My wife was a beautician. They don’t really get excited about cutting men’s hair because that’s not what their specialty is.”
There are three barber shops in town, as far as any of the three are aware, and all are locally owned. The newest is nine years old and has been owned by Aichele since it opened. He has been barbering for 11 years. His first co-worker in his own shop was longtime McPherson barber, Ed Grothe, who had owned his own one-chair shop prior to that and now works only Saturdays.
Since moving to his location in 2009, Aichele has added two additional barbers, Kris Burge and Landon Wall. The three cover the shop’s six-day schedule, with someone working with Grothe on Saturdays.
The other two shops in McPherson have been going much longer.
Headquarters Hair Care, 106 N. Ash St., owned by Vail Henningson, has been around since 1974. Henningson has been a barber since 1970, and his co-worker and the former owner of the shop, semi-retired DeWayne Herrs, has been cutting hair a decade longer than that. Henningson has a different view of the barber trade.
“Ever so slowly, it seems to be going to the unisex thing,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s going to be a good thing.”
He said the small towns are begging for barbers, but “no one wants to go there. I have a friend in Hays who’s been trying to hire someone for 10 years with no luck.” Without the option of a barbershop, men are forced to go to salons.
At Family Barber Shop, 210 N. Main St., the question is moot.
Owner Ron Wolf, who has been cutting hair since 1961 and here since 1965, only cuts men’s hair, but his co-worker, Norma Miller, a trained barber for the past 36 years, has about a 50-50 split of men and women clientele. They don’t think it’s because of the store name, though.
“I think it’s because men come in and see Norma cutting a woman’s hair, and they tell their wives,” Wolf said. “We get a lot of couples who come in and get their hair cut at the same time.”
Barbershop hours are somewhat similar.
At Family, which only takes walk-ins, they are open from 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Headquarters is open  from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. While they will accept walk-ins, much of their trade is from standing appointments.
Luke’s is open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays , though they do accept appointments up to 6 p.m. On Saturdays they are open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Luke’s takes walk-ins and appointments.
All three shops cut children’s hair. Aichele has a reputation of being good at ethnic haircuts, including buzzed-in designs. Miller offers perms and color as well as styling. All have their share of young and old customers.
“The oldest person whose hair I’ve cut was 102, and the youngest was three months,” Miller said.
Buzz cuts didn’t used to be popular with men in business, but the styles have changed. Now, “most buzz cuts are on older men,” Aichele said. “It looks good.”
What doesn’t look good is agreed upon by every barber.
“Nobody looks good with a comb-over,” Herrs said with a grin, “but you can’t get some guys to believe that. They’ll ask you to part hair that doesn’t exist.”
“I have a client who calls me a miracle worker,” Aichele said, “but he still does that comb-over thing. You can’t tell people anything.”
All the barbers interviewed believe the sense of continuity, of “knowing who’s behind the chair,” as Wolf put it, and a feeling of familiarity and family connection is what makes barbershops important to clients and communities.
“I cut a girl’s hair all through her high school years,” Miller said, “and she brought both of her daughters back from their home in Topeka to get their first haircuts from me.”
Herrs, who had just finished a cut, said of that client, “I’m the only person who’s cut his hair in 30 or 40 years.”
Wolf said, “People come in, they sit down and wait for a chair, and someone else comes in that they know. Pretty soon they’re all talking like it’s old home week. They don’t mind the wait because they’re enjoying themselves.”
Aichele said, “I cut little kids’ hair and now they’re driving themselves here to get haircuts. There’s a sense of continuity.”
Aichele does wish, though, that barbers got together across town once in a while to talk about their craft and business. That used to happen, years ago, Herrs said.
“Fifty years ago we had a union, the Master Barbers’ Association,” Herrs said, “and there were local chapters.” The MBA shut down in the 1960s. There have been attempts to revive it without success.
Aichele said he thought the atmosphere in McPherson was conducive to keeping barbershops alive.
Herrs is philosophical about their survival.
“As long as people have hair and want it cut, there’ll always be a barbershop.”