Barber nearing 35 years in the trade
From crew cuts to bowl cuts, Les Patterson handles the shears like a pro.
After 35 years manning the chair in Les’ Barber Shop on Winnie Lane in West Carson City, Patterson has it down pat.
Along the way, he has heard every imaginable fishing fable, seen hair styles come full circle, and has met just about every male Carsonite who isn’t bald.
“I’d say most of my customers are regulars who have been coming to me for awhile,” Patterson said, carefully putting the final touches on Dayton resident Larry Nicks. “We don’t get many walk-ins because of the location.”
But anyone familiar with Carson City can tell you exactly where Les plies his trade. Out front, he has the traditional barber pole, and inside the traditional barber’s chairs and laid-back atmosphere.
This is man territory. Here the stories easily flow and no one should be taken too seriously.
“Men don’t gossip,” a tongue-in-cheek Nicks asserted from Les’ chair on Thursday. “Women gossip. Men discuss issues.”
On Saturday, Patterson will celebrate his 65th birthday and nearly 35 years in the barber business. His wife Bobby will be throwing him a party from 1-2:30 p.m. at the shop. “Anyone that knows him and wants cake can come by,” she said.
Les’ Barber Shop opened March 22, 1967, when the population of Nevada’s capital, then part of Ormsby County, hovered around 3,000. And every day since has had its own measure of variety.
“I don’t know if there is a typical day,” Patterson said. “Some days you get that one customer that kind of ruins your whole day, but that’s rare. I’d say that 99.9 percent of my customers are really great guys.”
In a city where politics is king, Les said it’s the topic of constant barber shop fodder. “You learn that you’ve got to be careful who you talk politics with,” he said.
Moving toward retirement, Patterson brought in Adam Baker, a barber-shop veteran in his own right, last year.
After years of working alone, Patterson now takes a little extra time to hit the links. Golf is his passion, and a couple times a week he gets out, mostly to Eagle Valley Golf Course.
Like other golfers, he self-deprecatingly refers to the inconsistency of his shot. On the same hole he scored a birdie on Monday, he shot a 7 a few days before, he said. (Baker immediately quipped back, “I found a birdie on my doorstep; I think the cat dropped it off.”)
“Let me put it this way,” Patterson joked. “I go out there and swing a club.”
Inside the shop, Baker’s influence as a gifted painter can be seen on the walls. When a customer with an interesting face comes in, he grabs his camera, captures his image, and paints a picture.
In a prominent position at the top of the wall is a painting of Patterson leaning against his old barber’s chair, looking down on 35 years of history.