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By THERESA HEGEL



Published: Sun, June 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By THERESA HEGEL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

"Do Bald Men Get Half-Price Haircuts? In Search of America's Great Barber Shops," by Vince Staten (Simon & amp; Schuster, $19.00)

You don't have to be a regular patron of Floyd's Barber Shop to enjoy Vince Staten's homage to one of the bastions of small-town America. Light-hearted and witty, the book is brimming with interesting anecdotes and bizarre facts about barber shops.

(For instance, there are about 23 barber shops in the country that go by "Floyd's," taking inspiration from the barber in The Andy Griffith Show.)

Oldest profession: Calling barbering the world's oldest legal profession, Staten provides a humorous and informative outline of the history of the barber shop, starting with the street-side barbers of ancient Egypt, traversing west to medieval European barbershops and finally moving to the golden age of American barber shops, which began at the turn of the last century and lasted until the Beatles made their first appearance in the states.

Staten explains that in medieval Europe barbers were responsible not only for giving you a handsome coif but also for relieving nagging toothaches and for ridding the body of bad humors (and a whole lot of blood in the process).

The barber/dentist/surgeon of the Middle Ages would often show evidence of his trade in his shop window -- yes, this meant they would display containers of drawn blood to entice new customers -- though an ordinance was eventually passed in London to prevent such practices.

In addition to exploring the barbering trade itself, Staten delves into the origins of many tools of the trade.

If you've ever wondered why the stripes on a barber's pole are red and white, who invented that comfy barber chair, or what brand of hair tonic would work best for you, then you need look no further.

Staten also devotes a chapter to male haircuts available through the ages. He includes the Ducktail as a contender "for the title of Greatest Haircut," and the Mullet (with its many aliases) as an example of just the opposite.

'Do don'ts: Though Staten waxes eloquent on the deficiencies of the Mullet, that particular 'do does not appear on his list of the "Top Ten Horrible Haircuts in History," but you'll have to read his book to find out which do.

Staten may not answer the tongue-in-cheek question posed in the book's title, but he does answer many other questions you may have had about barber shops (and probably many you wouldn't have otherwise pondered). His book is compact, easy-to-read and a lot of fun.

hegel@vindy.com




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