The two oldest barber shops in Sandpoint invite more than men simply wanting a little off the top. These landmarks with their small, glass fronts Winks Barber Shop on Main Street and Mikes Sportsmans Barber Shop on First often catch the curious eyes of passersby, sometimes luring them inside to take a closer look.
Both shops cater exclusively to men, although the guys at Winks admit to cutting hair for a few women who have amenable hairstyles either very short or long, one-length. Both also have the traditional barber poles outside and the distinctive, manly, leather-upholstered chairs inside. Overall, they exude that unmistakable masculine atmosphere so typical of old-time barber shops.
Men dont like it too clean, says Barry Taylor, the co-owner of Winks. As he gestures around the shop, he points out, Nothing matches, and weve got hair piled in the corner.
His partner, Del Hathaway, is quick to add that barber shops are conservative, and most customers are hardworking, family men who believe in old-fashioned values. A lot of them are loggers, who are the salt of the earth.
Mike Winslow, the owner of Mikes Sportsmans Barber Shop, simply calls his customers great guys. People are real upbeat who come in here.
They all agree that their customers dont want to be hassled with appointments and dont want frills.
If they want to be pampered, they have to go to a beauty shop, says Hathaway, a barber for 43 years whose tattooed forearms move briskly as he expertly clips hair.
Taylor adds, The shops been here since the 1940s, and there are customers whove been coming since theyre knee high. They dont care whos here. Theyre like the cow who goes to the same stanchion and doesnt care who milks it.
Winks has three barber chairs the shops original red one and the two black ones that Taylor brought from New Hampshire as well as two enormous pedestal sinks. Taylor proudly points out that this is the only shop in North Idaho where men get the backs of their necks shaved with a straight-edge blade.
Winslow, meantime, has been cutting the locks off Sandpoints men for 41 years. He first worked at Verns Barber Shop on Main now Winks from 1961 to 1969. In 1970 he came to work for Frank Fletcher at the then-brand-new Sportsmans Barber Shop. When Frank left 10 years later, Winslow bought him out.
The tiny shop is chock full of things sportsman a cougar mount, the bust of a white-tailed deer, a tangled mass of fishing lures, hand-tied flies, numerous mounted fish and no less than 70 framed photos, mostly related to fishing and hunting and a few of old-time Sandpoint. In the corner on the floor, a toy logging truck made of wood keeps boys occupied while their fathers get clipped or they wait their own turn.
The two sturdy chairs at Mikes, incidentally, came from Farragut Naval Training Base after it closed in the late 40s and are still covered in their original, black leather upholstery. While Winslow whittles away with scissors and clippers, his customers relax in the barber chair, and they share a story or two and, always, a laugh.
Sandpoint native Brad Keegan has been coming to Mikes shop for up to a dozen years. Mikes got character here, he says. I come here for the stories. Mikes always got a story.
And when his customers come to the shop in the fall and see a closed sign on a day when its normally open, they understand. They know that Winslow, who, aptly enough, is a sportsman, has gone hunting. They also know that theyll most likely be treated to some venison jerky and maybe even a nip of whiskey in the weeks following hunting season.
Evidently, old-time barber shops such as Winks and Mikes may well be what Taylor and Hathaway claim on their business card: The Last Male Outpost.
Billie Jean Plaster