LONG BEACH — It was a time of buzz cuts, flat tops and Ivy League haircuts. The worst of the Vietnam War was still ahead and The Beatles had yet to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The year was 1964 and 18-year-old Dick Jeffers was just beginning his career as a barber on the Long Beach Peninsula.
“I’ve been cutting hair here on the beach for more than 50 years,” Jeffers, 73, said reflecting on his career in early March, one that has spanned 55 years.
Beginning at the beach
Jeffers was introduced to barbering by his late aunt, Wilma Bayne, who once operated eight beauty shops in Yakima Valley.
“She wanted me to be a male beautician, but I didn’t want to do ladies’ hair so I decided to take up barbering,” Jeffers said. He went to barber college in Vancouver and graduated in 1964 before opening up his shop on the Peninsula later the same year.
At the time, it was all about buzz cuts, flattops and Ivy League haircuts, a type of crew cut. But later that same year, The Beatles would make their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and usher in a new era of hairstyles.
“We went though a hippy trend in the 60s with long hair, the so called ‘Beatle’ cut,”’ Jeffers said.
“Now it’s all about shaved heads, but everything eventually evolves back. I’ve done every style there is from long to short.” The mid-length pompadour, a haircut immortalized by James Dean and Elvis Presley, is among his favorite styles, which he considers “a good, clean haircut.”
The personal connection Jeffers established with customers has kept them coming back, some for more than 30 years. One longtime customer, Jack Bradley, 97, of Ocean Park, has been coming for haircuts more than 35 years.
“He’s a craftsman and a gentleman,” said customer Craig Lester. “I always feel like a new person when I walk out.”
Jeffers cherishes the daily interaction with customers.
“I’m a people person and I still enjoy my trade after standing behind this chair for 55 years,” he said. “A pleased customer is the best form of advertising.”
Despite his loyal local following, Jeffers has watched barbershops fade from the American fabric. From 1992 to 2012, there was a 23 percent decrease in barbershops across the country, according to U.S. census data.
“The big franchise shops like Perfect Look, Supercuts and Great Clips are forcing the little guy out,” Jeffers said. “For traditional barbershops like mine, there aren’t very many left.”
As a closing note, Jeffers’ career in barbering hasn’t been all “rainbows and butterflies.” In the early 1970s, he briefly experimented with moving back to Vancouver, only to have his barbershop utterly destroyed — while he was in it — by the infamous F3 tornado that struck on April 5, 1972. For a fascinating story, ask him about it while getting your hair cut.