For Farley, it's all about who's next

Phil Farley, owner of Farley's Barber Shop, has been cutting hair for nearly 50 years.

What is it about a barber shop? The adjustable chairs, the buzzing of the clippers, the snipping of the scissors? Is it the conversations? Maybe it's the whir of the blow dryer. All of those components are important and even as endearing as the snap of the cover cloth with the invitation of “Next?”

But a barber shop's smell might just be the trigger that sends us down memory lane while watching that red, white and blue pole.

The intoxicating aromas of tonics and talc come together to remind us of fathers and grandfathers that smelled like, well, men!

Phil Farley watched his dad cut hair when they lived in a makeshift barracks in Hanahan. The house was in one end, the barber shop in the other. Phil and his two brothers cut hair in a shop they opened in 1964 in Yeaman's Hall Plaza. His brothers aren't there anymore, but Phil still is as the shop closes in on its fifth decade.

The shop once had six chairs. Today, there are two. Phil and his co-worker for the last 10 years, Sharron Tiano, now clip, cut and sweep their way to a 50-hour week.

A busy day is 25 to 30 heads in the chair. Standing all day is the worst part of the job. Holding a child steady who doesn't want to be there is also a drawback.

The busiest day seems to be Tuesday.

Sharron says the “old guys” want a haircut on Tuesday so when in church on Sunday, they won't look like they just got one.

A barber is more than somebody who cuts, snips, dries and styles. Those who cut hair often also serve as counselors, confidants and co-conspirators. In Phil's case, add councilman to the list for his work with Berkeley County. There's nothing quite like a good haircut, or like a bad one, either, for that matter.

What's the standard line? “Don't worry, it'll always grow back.”

But the smells of the shop seem to mask a momentary mistake that's revealed in the mirror.

Whether it's the slight dusting on the back of the neck with the talc brush or the dab of fragrant rubbing alcohol that's applied to the top of the ears, when it's time to slide out of that adjustable leather chair, you walk a little taller as you leave.

A man once got his hair cut every two weeks. Now, it's every month or so. Why is that? Does hair grow slower than it once did?

At Farley's Barber Shop, the only thing sharper than the clippers might be the barbs exchanged by both barber and customers. In addition to getting your ears lowered, you might also receive a jab to your psyche about your waistline or wardrobe selection. The smells, the sounds, the conversations — they've stood the test of time.

Is there another Farley standing by when Phil retires? Not at the moment. Phil's pretty sure he can't wait for an 8-year-old grandson to make a career decision. He'll probably sell the business in a couple more years. For the moment, as long as there are customers and plenty of bottles of Clubman in the back room … he just says, “Next?”

I'm just sayin'… .