When Bill Stolberg, the proprietor of the State Street Barber Shop, looks back on the 1960s and 1970s, his thoughts don’t jump to rock’n’roll, psychedelic drugs or hippies.
Instead, Stolberg remembers the time as the era of the “Jon-Jon,” or long hair for men, which borrowed its name from the pop icons John F. Kennedy and The Beatles.
The trend caused a bit of a “barbershop depression.”
Stolberg said his business took a hit when students, who comprise most his business, started going months in between haircuts.
“We had our regulars still,” he said. “We didn’t starve, but we were buying hotdogs instead of steaks.”
The 65-year-old State Street barber has seen Ann Arbor go through a number of transitions from his shop near Hill Street.
When Stolberg first settled in Ann Arbor and opened shop in 1974, he had to adjust to students’ sensibilities, which were different from those of his previous clients in Dearborn.
Because of its industrial roots, Dearborn wasn’t affected by the Jon-Jon or the British Invasion in the same way Ann Arbor was, Stolberg explained.
At first, the small shop faced stiff competition from a barber shop in the Michigan Union, but when the Union shop closed in the early 1980s, Stolberg’s business picked up.
Stolberg said cutting hair is like a hobby to him and that over the years, he has met people from all over the world working in his shop.
“You’re never going to get rich in this business, but you’re going to have fun,” he said.
Stolberg said he has earned the confidence of his customers and heard many stories he wouldn’t be willing to share.
“Any stories I hear stay between me and that lamppost outside,” he said.
Stolberg said that short hair has come back into style recently, boosting his business.
“Right now, in the past five to eight years, we’re seeing the short haircut come back, almost like in the old Princeton days,” Stolberg said.
Asked if that’s good or bad for business, he laughed.
“Things are better now. We eat two hotdogs a week instead of one.”