This series was shot and written for the Rat Creek Press. 

MB’s Barber Shop

Ben Daneluik is an old man now, a thousand haircuts in his life. Every few weeks he travels from the southside of Edmonton to MBs Barber Shop. When it is his turn for a haircut, he moves stiffly from his chair by the window, his metal walker pushed in front of him. Mohamad gently holds Ben’s elbow, transferring him to the barber’s chair.

Mohamad immigrated to Canada in 1988 and “decided to be a hairstylist so I could be around women all the time”, he laughs as he selects his tools and looks around at the men in the shop. Short strands from Ben’s balding head shower down on the cape.

Park Plaza Barber Shop

Roy owns the Park Plaza Barber shop, which is located next door to a liquor store, so he has the craziest stories. A man caught in a knife fight, his severed finger tucked in his pocket while Roy cut his hair. NAIT students convincing him to barber a stuffed gorilla for a movie they were making for their film class.

Roy can remember all the men he worked for, including his first boss, a Chinese man in Brazil. “I came to be a barber by accident. My first customer was an old guy, a Chinese man who had a barber shop downstairs from where I lived. He was always drunk and let me play at cutting his hair.” After more prodding, Roy reveals he left civil engineering in university to follow a girl to Rio De Janeiro. When he returned, after 45 days, not the week he had intended, he was kicked out of university and needed a job. He was hired by the Chinese barber.

Roy focuses on his customer, his face furrows in concentration. Blue-green shafts of hair flip off the silver ends of the scissors. The full Mohawk is clipped. Roy finishes with the scissors, brushes hair off the cape and holds the mirror up for a closer inspection of the back of the head. Cory regards his haircut, nodding in satisfaction. After paying, he nods to Roy “see you soon,” and exits the barbershop. 

Stan’s Barber Shop

The stories told in barbershops layer one on top of each other, woven together like the hair shed on the floor, creating a mosaic of history. Kelly’s business is named Stan’s Barbershop, for the Ukrainian man who owned the business before Kelly. Barbering was one of the quickest trades he could learn as a new immigrant, and he was trained by several other barbers before opening his shop. “I apprenticed with two Italian brothers,” says Kelly. “They taught me a lot and were very helpful.” 

Stories are told. Old stories, new stories. Stories about wives and girlfriends. Jobs. Politics. The weather. “I hear good ones, sad ones, bad ones”, says Kelly. “We become like a bartender or a psychiatrist.” The stories shared between barber and client creates a bond. Men trust their hair and the details of their lives with the barber, and over time a relationship is cemented. Kelly talks highly of his customers, “It becomes like family.” 

Moe, Kelly’s partner, talks softly and reassuringly as he gently cups his hand on the scalp of the small boy in the chair. The boy flinches each time the clippers near his head; he squinches his face as a spray of water wets his hair. He squirms this way and that, until his father in the next chair asks him to sit quietly. He quiets his body, holding himself tight, determined to honour his father’s pride. When he finishes the haircut, Moe helps the boy off of the chair. “Would you like a sucker now?” The child nods, his face still solemn. He remembers the sucker from his last visit. He pops it in his mouth and watches as the clippers buzz the finishing touches to his father’s hair.