What's in a Name?




... these would make Shakespeare's head hurt Fact: Hair care establishments are either named for their proprietor or are christened with unbelievable puns, bordering on the ridiculous. In traveling New Hampshire, I couldn't help but notice the outrageous names of barber shops and salons. It's not the sort of thing that would generally leave an impression on a person - I hardly recall the many names of convenience stores, insurance agencies or antiques shops. So, what is it about hair care that makes an owner over-think and over-deliver on the moniker? It's as though there's a common belief that the more clever the name, the more lucrative the business. And even still, I've never known a person to choose a barber shop because of its name. For me, choosing a barber has, more or less, been an exercise of trial and error. Get a haircut, like the haircut, get more haircuts at the same shop. Get a bad haircut, wear a hat for a month, try a new place next time. Similarly, I would imagine people don't usually choose against a shop or salon based on its name, or why would so many bad names exist? Aside from a botched haircut, there are other reasons to reject a barber. For instance, on Capitol Hill, I refused to continue patronizing one Congressional coiffeur on the grounds that he cut hair while intoxicated. I also declined to sit with a barber because he was too twitchy around the eyes with his scissors. Bad hair cut is one thing, loss of sight is another. And then some barbers are just excessively chatty and few of us have 90 minutes for a trim. But for me the name of the establishment does weigh on my decision and I choose to avoid barbers who degrade their enterprise with cheesy or horrifying names. Fifty percent of the time, shops and salons have simple names, usually identifying the owner. For example, Wayne's in Hampton or Dick's in Concord. Straightforward, honest, personal. Equally, however, shops are flagged by such horrendous names that you question whether to allow them to practice their tonsorial arts on your head - and certainly not for money. In Concord, Sally's Hair'em and The Best Little Hair House purportedly cut hair. In Plymouth, you can be styled at Ahead Of Its Time. Get it? But down the road at a high-flying competitor, your new "do" awaits at Brenda's Hairport. And, not to be outdone by Brenda is Newport's Hair Force One. Hair Force One? I don't even know what that means, but their presidential cut is just $400. Not convinced yet? A cursory review of the phone book also reveals The Mane Element, Hairarchy, Mangles N Tangles, Hairtopia, Pandora's Locks, Curl Up & Dye, Hair For You, Hair's My Place, Get 'r Cut, Hair To Dye For, Hairthurium and Hairforce. But the most incredible one is Manchester's Hairpocalypse. Not only is this witticism completely over-the-top, but precisely what message is the owner trying to send customers? If you were naming any other business - say a pizza parlor - would you really equate the product with the end of the world? Armageddon Pizza? There are few exceptions to this rule. The Clip Joint in Portsmouth and Lucky's in Concord are not named for their owners, but are nevertheless appealing. The names are trouble-free and genuine, just like the service. In naming a hair care business, less is more. In fact, it's the exact opposite of hair itself, where more is more. Because when you go to a place called Hairpocalypse, there's no way you're getting away with just "a little off the top." NH
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