Jim Carpenter is a barber at the Town Barber, a five-chair shop at the corner of Apple and Wrondel behind the Park Lane movie theaters. This is his 50th year as a barber.
The Beatles came to the United States in 1964, and you were going to barber college in Sacramento that year. Did they teach you how to cut the new styles the Beatles brought?
No, we were just doing the standard short hair cuts back them because the impact really hadn’t hit yet.
So what did you do?
Well, I had to either learn how to cut long hair or move on to another job. I didn’t want to keep watching people walking past my shop on their way to beauty shops. And so I trained myself in the long hair and moved on to the styling.
You taught yourself?
Yes, and there’s classes you can take where you learn. Just like shaving and razor cutting and anything else, you have to do it to learn it. So you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but once you get it, you get it.
How else has the business changed in the 50 years you’ve been in it?
The difference now, I think, is you see all the different styles now. I mean, long, short, medium. Back in ’64, ’65, it went from short to long, pretty much everybody. A lot of kids left home over their hair. That was the big thing—hair.
My father had this old fashioned barber shop on Center Street right into the ’80s, with a Police Gazette to read and old Koken barber chairs and straight edge, hot lather razor shaves. Are there any shops around the valley now like that?
I can’t really say that, because things have reverted back to the shorter hair. But I think if it had continued on, you would have seen a lot of them because there’s guys today who still don’t know how to cut long hair. You either know how to cut it or don’t, so like any education, it’s good to know it all.
You’ve been around awhile. You must have quite a stable of regulars.
Our shop has been in business since 1976, and we have five barbers, three fairly young ones. But we’ve established quite a clientele. … This is our third location.
Do you still give shaves?
I do, but not many people ask for them anymore. It takes time, so the cost is more than most people want to pay.
Are you doing anything to celebrate half a century as a barber?
No, I guess I can celebrate still being here. But I hadn’t thought about doing anything for the anniversary.