BALTIMORE -- -- Stepping into Wayne and Garry Oster's barbershop is stepping into a time warp, Baltimore-style.
Two swivel chairs, a rack of dog-eared magazines, green counters and easy, neighborly chitchat, circa 1950. That's what you get. No glitz, no spritz.
"We don't shave. We don't blow-dry. We don't do styling," Garry Oster said. "Just the good old basics."
The basic price: $6, "and throw in a beard and mustache trim," Garry said. Want a light trim? $5.50. Bangs only: $4.
The basics also include the idlest conversation: weather, Orioles, gardening, auto mechanics, fishing. And when he's finished cutting, Wayne Oster holds up a mirror to the customer's face and says with ritual regularity. "Okay, let's take a gander."
Take a gander? When's the last time you heard that phrase inside the Capital Beltway?
Wayne, 53, and his brother, Garry, 44, have been cutting hair for almost 60 years between them, most of those years in their present shop tucked in a corner of a Hess Shoes store off busy York Road in north Baltimore.
They've become surrounded by trendy new stores such as the Gap and TCBY in the recently refurbished Belvedere Square shopping center. But that hasn't had much impact on Garry and Wayne.
"Cutting hair is cutting hair," Garry said.
And the customers keep coming back -- children and adults, men and women, blacks and whites.
Garry and Wayne are now into their second generation of customers: children of parents whose hair they started cutting a quarter of a century ago.
"I came here when I was in the fourth grade," said George Eaton, who dropped by recently while his sons, Clifton, 9, and Raymond, 6, got their locks lopped.
Things haven't changed much, Wayne said, "except the styles. There's a lot more fancy hairstyles now."
Crew cuts and flattops are coming back too, Garry said. But there are other newer styles: mushrooms, skateboards, fades.
High-top fades are popular with black youths, who often ask Garry or Wayne to inscribe letters, numbers and arrows on the close-shaved sides of their heads. Garry also cuts what he calls a "Caucasian fade," a "high 'n' tight" design "that a lot of white kids like, especially football players and Marines."
Wayne and Garry Oster grew up in Cumberland in Western Maryland and came to Baltimore to seek their fortunes in their teens. Both ended up cutting hair early on, Garry at 17.
"I was wearing a D.A. haircut with Levis and motorcycle boots," Garry said. "I didn't picture myself as a barber." But brother Wayne, nine years older, had already started barbering. "He was doing all right. He was rich," Garry said. So what's a younger brother to do?
Up to 1972, the barbershop, known officially as the Snippery, catered only to children, a kind of symbiotic ripple effect from the shoe store, which also specialized in children's wear.
"But long hair started coming into style," Garry said, "and kids were getting fewer haircuts . . . . So we branched out and started cutting adults' hair too."
Customers range from 6-month-old babies in their mothers' arms to centenarians. "I had one customer 103 years old," Garry said, "but he passed away last year." Another customer, 94-year-old William S. Langston, walks in from his nearby home for a monthly trim.
Saturday is the busiest day. Garry and Wayne cut 60 to 75 heads of hair, and the shop becomes a cheerfully noisy place teeming with children riding a hobbyhorse and tumbling down a slide while they wait their turn in the barber's chair. Sixty percent of their customers are children, Garry estimates.
Of the two brothers, Garry is the talker. "I'm a full-time talker," he admits. Wayne chats intermittently. "They both tell real bad jokes," added Kathy Fischbeck, assistant manager of the shoe store. "They have to be bad or else they'd give the customers jagged haircuts from the laughing. Believe me, that's not a problem . . . . Just kidding, guys."