BOSTON. Carmen di Scalzo has been a barber in this overwhelmingly liberal town for over half a century, but of late he has dropped his former gregarious manner for a more guarded approach when his customers start to talk politics. “Used to be alla time he jump in with his opinion,” says his shopmate Nicola Frienzi two chairs down. “Nobody mind, everybody knows alla politicans heinous jackals, so no hard feelings.”
But as a twenty-something college student who has dropped in for a trim launches into a diatribe about newly-elected President Donald Trump, di Scalzo keeps his political cards close to his vest. “Um-hmm,” he murmurs when his customer says Trump will turn his Mar-a-Lago resort into a concentration camp for abortion advocates and deposit bottle recyclers. When the young man stops to take a breath, di Scalzo adroitly changes the subject to the local pro football team’s chances in the upcoming Super Bowl. “Howa bouta them-a Patriots,” he asks, nipping a potentially poisonous conversation in the bud. “You want any mousse on that?”
Tonsorial consultants say di Scalzo and others of his overripe vintage are pinning their hopes on Trump for a revival of the “duck’s ass” haircut sported by the 45th president, a reliable sign of juvenile delinquency in the middle years of the twentieth century that justified a premium price and robust sales of haircut products to keep it in place. “The older generation of barbers recall the heyday of the duck’s ass as the golden years of the American barber shop,” says Quentin Motta, a partner in the service sector consulting practice of a Big 4 accounting firm. “You had the capital cost of building the thing, then the ongoing operating expenses to maintain the high, wavy sheen that separated a really classy do from the Butch Wax crew.”
The term “duck’s ass” is a metaphor used to describe a hairstyle in which greased hair is piled high on the top of the head, then swept back at the sides to form a ridge or seam at the back that resembles the buttocks of a duck. It was invented by Philadelphia barber Joe Cirello in the 1940s, and quickly adopted by disaffected young males in many English-speaking countries. “It was a badge of rebellion,” says cultural historian DeWitt Wilson, Jr. of Cookie Gilchrist Junior College in Cheektowaga, New York. “It can be effectively deployed both to express one’s alienation from cultural norms, and to alienate others on a random basis, which seems to be its primary function among older orange-American males today.”
Only AFL running back named after a baked good.
After the young man pays and leaves, di Scalzo becomes more candid with this reporter, who asks whether the barber’s conscience is troubled by his apparent commercial duplicity. “I gotta no 401k, you know?” he says by way of excuse. “I’ll make more money when America’s great again.”