By ANDREW MCGINN
For the first time in a generation, Jefferson is halfway to a barbershop quartet.
The arrival of a second chair — and a second barber — at Chuck’s Barber Shop is a big deal in a small town, sort of on par with the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park.
At one time, Jefferson’s ecosystem supported five or more competing barbershops, with enough heads to go around.
Charlie Bradshaw recently started barbering at his dad’s shop just off the Square — giving Jefferson its first two-chair barbershop in years — and he’s doing it in style, bringing back a practice once as synonymous with barbering as the striped pole out front.
Charlie is all set up to offer hot shaves, complete with a straight razor.
“Women go and get their nails done. It’s kind of something a guy can pamper himself with,” Charlie said, “without being too big of a sissy.”
Believe it or not, the practice is still taught at the 118-year-old barber college in Des Moines, now known as the American College of Hairstyling, that produced three generations of Bradshaw barbers (all, by the way, named Charles).
“It’s something that sets us apart from the beauty shops,” Charlie, 33, said.
Arguably, the men who’ve come of age in the era of disposable safety razors have never so much as even seen a straight razor, except in maybe a movie.
And despite the cool, 21st century names of safety razors — names like Mach 3 Turbo and Hydro 5 — you’re really no better off than with a sharpened rock, like in prehistoric times.
Not to mention the fact that a rock is infinitely cheaper than a package of those blade cartridges.
A straight razor produces sharper, cleaner lines, Charlie said.
Cuts are almost impossible, he said, the way barbers are trained.
“The key,” he said, “is to keep the skin tight.”
Shop owner Chuck Bradshaw II, Charlie’s dad and a barber for the better part of 35 years, is glad to be able to offer the service.
Charlie’s arrival in Jefferson from southwest Iowa couldn’t have come at a better time.
“He was ready to make a move up here,” Chuck, 53, said, “and I was ready for him to get here.”
Chuck — a native of the Yale area who saved Jefferson from being barberless with his 2011 purchase of Ferrol’s Place — admittedly couldn’t handle much more himself.
After all, that’s a lot of talking for just one guy.
Chuck has been at it for so long, he knows what kind of conversation to strike up almost as soon as the customer walks in.
Naturally, they try to steer clear of politics and religion. (And that’s especially wise now that straight razors are present.)
“We hear a lot,” Chuck said.
“I wouldn’t believe everything I hear,” he added.
Together, the father-son barbers are proud to run a business that’s unabashedly old school.
“For the most part,” Charlie said, “we’re a men’s barbershop.”
That means an appointment is never needed.
“With the both of us in here,” Chuck said, “you won’t have to wait long.”
They also take separate lunch breaks, ensuring the clippers are ready when you’re ready.
And the Bradshaws need little direction from regular customers shy of the words “like you normally do it.”
Every so often, though, someone will still confuse them with a salon.
“A guy asked if I’d do highlights,” Chuck said.
Ya’ll know how that one ended.
Only the lingo has changed, and that’s where Charlie comes in again.
The first time someone asked Chuck for a “fade,” he drew a blank.
Chuck knew it as a tapered cut.
“We’ve got to use their lingo,” said Charlie, who graduated from barber college in 2006.
What once was known as a whitewall — with skin showing around the sides — is today a “bald fade,” according to Charlie.
Another trend, Charlie explained, is a hard part, with a part shaved into the hair.
The Bradshaws are either the last in a long line of Jefferson barbers or the first in their resurgence — only time will tell.
Around the time Chuck learned that Ferrol Miner might be itching to retire after 45 years of barbering in Jefferson, he was freshly divorced and looking to move back to the area from Missouri.
Only the name out front changed.
Everything else appears as if Ferrol just up and walked out one afternoon.
Chuck’s father — also named Chuck — had gone to barber college with Ferrol.
Ferrol originally set up shop in Jefferson in 1966 with the purchase of Gordon Hanisch’s barbershop in what was then called the Arcade (today’s defunct Pizza Ranch building). Hanisch had, in turn, purchased Leo Kahoe’s shop, which had been located beneath the cigar store until its relocation in 1957 to the Arcade.
In 1966 — an era when high school principals still had nothing better to do than to ensure that no boy could ever pass for a Beatle — Jefferson was home to five barbershops.
Ferrol and Dick Justice were at the Arcade Barber Shop. Clyde Barr and Del Bauer were at the A-OK Barber Shop. Forrest McClurg had his Barber Service. Glen’s Barber Shop boasted Glen Umbaugh and Lowell Littrell. And Vince Phillips and Don Slock made up the Phillips Barber Shop.
“We plan on being around here for the long haul,” Chuck said.
What initially spelled doom for barbers was when high school principals gave up their war on mop-tops.
Suddenly, men had long hair, and they were entrusting their flowing locks to beauticians, not barbers, according to Chuck.
Both Chuck and Charlie got their start at Chuck’s Barber Shop — that is, the Chuck’s Barber Shop formerly owned for about 30 years in Panora by Chuck Bradshaw I.
“Real original with our names,” Charlie remarked.
Charlie became Charlie out of sheer necessity.
“Just to half-ass try to keep things straight,” Chuck said. “Obviously we weren’t too creative on name choices.”
Jefferson resident Dennis Kemble, a former resident of Panora, has had his hair cut through the years by all three Bradshaws.
On this day, as he sat in Chuck’s chair, he was asked which of them does the best work.
But at 75, “I’m beyond caring now,” Kemble quipped.