My Dad will be 84 years old in a few months, and as far as I know he still cuts hair occasionally … which means that he has been a barber for close to 60 years.
Obviously, I didn´t have to pay for a haircut until after I left home at age 18 to go to college, but even then I timed my trips home for a few years to save some money by getting my hair cut while I was in Toledo. Nonetheless, my trips back to Toledo soon became infrequent, and as I moved from Ohio to Tennessee to Texas while completing my college and graduate studies, I would always look for the cheapest haircut I could find.
In 1987 about halfway through my studies in Abilene, Texas, I found a barber who cut my hair for $4. That old feller was 90 years old if he was a day, and I don´t really know if he only charged me $4 because his hands shook so bad or because he had not raised his rates in quite awhile. In any case, he hacked me up pretty bad. It just so happened that I was in Toledo not long after getting that haircut, and my Dad took one look at me and said, “How much did you pay for that haircut?” And after I told him that I only paid $4, he said “Well you paid $4 too much!” So then my Dad kindly fixed my haircut at no charge.
That $4 haircut remained my king of cheap haircuts for a long time, and as time passed by it looked like it would never be beaten and remain the all-time cheapest haircut … until I got my haircut today in Perú. Today I got my haircut near the central market for only 4 Peruvian soles, which on the exchange means that I paid about $1.43. Now that´s what I´m talking about!
I may have received a comparably priced haircut about 3 years ago while in Guatemala, but as I recall it was about $2.50 on the exchange. But from now on, $1.43 for a haircut is the new benchmark and it will be tough to beat, and my Peruvian haircut was a full professional haircut that included whitewalls and a shaved neck with a brand new blade. The barber shop, or peluquería, looked like a space that had been carved out of the side of a building, but who cares! The peluquería had two barber chairs, and even some seating for those waiting for a haircut, and there was also barber-shop-like banter going on between the other peluquero and his client.
Of course, if I had paid for the amount of hair he cut off, I probably would have paid more. When I sat down in the chair the peluquero asked me (as all good barbers do) how I would like my hair cut, and I told him “solo un poco” … which to me meant I wanted only a little taken off. But evidently he thought that I meant “leave only a little” because he kept cutting and cutting and cutting. At one point I could feel myself tense up while thinking, “Please stop snipping,” but I quickly realized that there was nothing I could do at that point, so I relaxed and I resigned myself to fate. When he was done I gave him a 50% tip, which means I paid him 6 Peruvian soles which still is only $2.14 on the exchange.
Before I left I whipped out my camera and I held it at arm´s length to take a photo of me with my Peruvian Peluquero. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask him his name, but he will forever be remembered by me as the provider of the cheapest haircut I ever had … at least the cheapest I can remember having to pay for. I hope that my Dad does not have to fix it.