CLYDE, Texas — What’s it like, working with your son?
“I guess I was concerned about it for a little while,” said Jaren Tate, 42. “I didn’t know what his habits would be — and working for Dad, you know?”
The Abilene Reporter-News reports he paused for a moment, then remarked how children seem to drift off as they grow up. They learn to “do their own thing”, and sometimes it’s nowhere near what a parent might have anticipated.
“But man, it’s really been enjoyable,” Jaren said. “It’s kind of re-established that relationship, we’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together and it’s been fun.
“And he’s turned out to be a heck of a barber.”
Jaren opened the Somewhere in Time Barber Shop at N. 1st and Cherry streets in September. He and Jaren Jr. — known to all as “JJ” — spend their days cutting hair, giving shaves and catching up with friends, who also happen to be customers.
What’s it like working with your dad?
“It’s great. Being able to work side-by-side with him is a really cool thing,” answered JJ, 20. “I don’t live at home, so it lets us still have our time together.”
The shop is located inside a former railroad building believed to be the second-oldest building in town. It dates from at least 1900, if not before.
“It was a T&P Railroad section house,” Jaren said. “A family that worked on the railroad lived in it, this was a foreman’s house.”
He had been a partner at an Abilene barber shop, but had always wanted to return to Clyde and open one there. “I remember when I was a kid down here on the corner (was) Wayne’s Barber Shop.” he recalled. “I was just absolutely fascinated by all the tonics. Wayne Stennett was the barber, he always had his hair all whupped-up.”
Another barber, Shorty Tennison, eventually took over from Stennett. Both men are retired now, but visit Jaren’s shop.
“It’s kind of funny; the guy that used to cut my hair, now he’s in my chair,” Jaren mused, then admitted to a small amount of anxiety.
“Yes, for some reason it’s always nerve-wracking when you’re cutting another barber’s hair. It’s a psychological thing,” he said.
“I always think of it as living up to their standards of a good haircut,” JJ quipped.
“And you know they did it for so many years,” answered his dad.
The shop occupies the front half of the building, the rest is home to the Mane Tamers ladies’ salon. A 1964 Union Pacific Railroad caboose sits out back, Jaren’s not sure yet how they’re going to use it.
“We’ve talked about putting a dog groomer in there if we could find the people to do it, I had some people interested in putting a floral shop in at one time,” he said. “One of my kids wanted me to make it into an apartment so they could live in it.”
When Jaren was in barber school, instructors asked the students how would they describe what their shop might look like. Naturally when they held an open house in September, Jaren invited an instructor to visit.
“He came out and said, ‘This is exactly what you told me in school what you wanted your shop to look like,’” Jaren recalled. “That’s what I always had in mind just because I like old stuff.”
Old highway signs dot the walls, fighting for space with several clocks from Jaren’s collection. A vintage desktop electric fan gleams brassily beside JJ’s station, a project he and his grandfather restored together.
Old movie theater seats line the walls, and a vintage Coke machine dispenses glass bottles beside the door. When he bought it, Jaren was told he could likely make more money if he stocked the machine with plastic bottles.
“Absolutely not, that’s just wrong,” was his answer. “I don’t care if it costs twice as much, I’m putting glass bottles in there. Just because, that’s the way it ought to be. That’s the way I remember it being.”
There are tonics and single-blade safety razors for sale, along with shaving mugs and brushes. Jaren has given lessons on how to use them for those interested. It’s against the law for him to use it in the shop, however, unless it belongs to the client.
“In a lot of the old barber shop pictures you’d see in the background a shelf that would have all these mugs on it,” he explained. “Well, that was all the regulars; you’d go get a haircut and a shave on a Saturday, and you’d go get your mug. Then he’d put it back on the shelf for the next week.”
Beards and other facial hair have been making a lustrous return in recent years and with that, the traditional barber shop.
Jaren’s own handlebar mustache might deserve a column all on its own. His brush curls up from the edge of his mouth, the tips of it cupping his cheekbones. Vaguely, it’s reminiscent of a longhorn.
“It won’t curl up on its own, I don’t care how many years I’ve been trying to curl it without wax,” Jaren explained.
With all that wax, might his mustache serve as a weather barometer? Across the room, JJ and the young customer he was working on both started laughing.
Jaren smiled, joining in.
“If it’s really hot, it uncurls and starts flattening out,” he said.
Luckily, he’s cool working with his son.