For decades, barbershops were a safe, dependable and consistently profitable business. "You didn't have to worry about the plant closing, you didn't have to worry about a bad crop," says Charles Kirkpatrick, executive officer of the National Association of Barber Boards of America (NABBA) and also a practicing barber in Little Rock, Ark., since 1958. "The barber was, and still is, the most independent business in town." It was also a part of the American cultural fabric, serving as the unofficial Elks club, where men could gather while they waited for a shave and a cut and discuss the all-important issues of the day, such as who should be playing third base for the Cubs and whether a Mustang or a Corvette was the sweeter ride. In 1960, there 350,000 licensed barbers in the U.S., according the NABBA. Then the Beatles came along and ruined everything.
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