For nearly 40 years, King's Court Barber Shop has been
an old-fashioned meeting place
Photographs by Kathy De La Torre
are few places left in this valley where a man can let his hair
down (so to speak) with other men, jaw with old friends about his
day, or commiserate about his marriage, except perhaps at the
old-fashioned barber shop. At the King's Court Barber Shop, Tim
Burnett sits in the barber chair while Saratogan Lee Giraudo,
co-owner of the Los Gatos shop, drapes a plastic hair cloth over
him; Cliff Hibbitts, the youngest barber at the shop and the son
of co-owner Frank Hibbitts, rests in his seat for a few moments
until his next customer arrives. Sal Ferla, retired former
co-owner, leans against the counter. He's filling in for the
vacationing Frank. The four men banter and tease each other. They
have fun recalling old times.
been having fun for some 29 years, since the shop opened in 1961,
and so have their customers.
hair styles have changed over the years.
gone in circles," Giraudo says as he turns on the electric
clippers and sculpts Burnett's hair into a perfect crew cut.
"There was the Beatles haircut, then it was wash and wear, then
the razor cut. Now we are back to the '40s and short hair," he
says and flashes his radiant smile as if he's having a ball
cutting Burnett's hair.
travels all the way from IBM at Santa Teresa and Cottle to have
his haircut here. He's been coming back since 1965. "They are so
good," Burnett says.
four men laugh because, though they know they are good, they also
know it's more than a haircut Burnett comes for. He's an old Los
Gatos boy, graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1961.
King's Court Barber Shop is one of those Los Gatos treasures where
everyone has known everyone for a very long time, where men come
to share laughs and confidences, where they bring their sons and
their grandsons--some four generations of them.
only thing that's changed about the shop is the color of the
owner's hair to gray, and an accumulation of mementos hanging
around the shop. Some of these mementos might seem a little
unusual to newcomers.
along the top perimeter of the walls are some amazing animal
trophy heads, a massive cape buffalo, an antelope, a caribou, and
the head of a snarling wild boar. There are antler racks of a
moose, an elk and more. There are two huge mounted marlins and
several birds. And hanging from various antlers are some 20 or so
forgotten hats and an old hornet's nest.
ironically, no one at the shop hunts.
are save-your-marriage trophies," Giraudo says laughing. Our
customers bring them to us when their wives tell them, 'Either
that thing goes, or you go.'"
Frank Hibbitts carefully trims the hairline behind the ear
of one of his clients.
Photograph by Kathy De La Torre
Hibbitts says, "We get some really goofy things from our
customers." He points out a photocopy of Robert Alton Harris--the
California executed murderer's--death certificate hanging on the
wall. "See, it calls the state execution a 'Judicial Homicide',"
Hibbitts says. There's also a photocopy of Marilyn Monroe's
coroner's report, as well as a copy of the ticket issued to James
Dean just one hour before his death and, alongside that, a copy of
Dean's death certificate. Along the mall a mass of post cards
boast of trips here and there around the world.
the shop's longtime customers used to keep a daily log of Los
Gatos' rainfall. When he died his son brought in a computer print
out of the year's average rainfall in Los Gatos. There's a tiny
clipping from the Los Gatos Weekly Times taped to the wall that
declares: "The two places on earth with the most equitable climate
are Aswan, Egypt and Los Gatos."
the pictures hanging on the wall captures a very young Mike
Skrimet and his buddies when Skrimet first arrived in Los Gatos in
a 1929 Model-T Ford he'd bought for $15. Eighty-nine-year-old
Skrimet is a longtime customer.
at this," Giraudo says laughing as he pulls a framed note off the
wall. The note was written by a customer's wife and explains
exactly how she wanted her husband's haircut.
has been barbering for 48 years. "I'm now a Saturday barber," he
says. Recently he's been helping out full time until the shop
finds another barber since, Cliff (Steamboat) Ingham died a few
who is living at the Villages now, is helping out while Frank
Hibbitts vacations in England.
difficult to find barbers now, not many going into it." Giraudo
says. "It's a dying breed." There are about 25,000 or fewer
barbers in California today, he says. "About 10 years ago there
might have been 30,000. Besides, barbers can't earn enough to live
that's not for want of customers. "We get new customers all the
time," Giraudo says. "No one can cut men's hair the way a barber
at that," Giraudo says, swinging his barber's chair around to show
off the neatly clipped back of Chris Manganelo's hair. Manganelo,
who is heading out the next day for his first year at Cal Poly,
San Luis Obispo, has been coming to the shop since he was 4 or 5.
Hairdressers aren't trained to use clippers. "We can always
tell when a woman's cut a customer's hair," Hibbitts says. "They
always leave something sticking out somewhere." He says as he
clicks his scissors around his customer's hair.
Photograph by Kathy De La Torre
Frank Hibbitts, co-owner of King's Court Barber Shop, jokes
with his first client of the day, Dick Wilson of Los Gatos, at a 7
a.m. appointment. Wilson has been going to Hibbitts for the past
Thirty-two-year-old Hibbitts says his father, Frank, is the
one in the shop who likes to style hair. "He cuts hair for quite a
few women," Hibbitts says. "He's passionate about hair. He thinks
of it as an art." Hibbitts says his father signals people into the
shop after the doors are closed for the night and comes in at 7
a.m. for some customers.
would take a hair stylist at a salon a long time to do what we
do," Giraudo says as he shows off another neatly trimmed longtime
customer, Mort Sherin, another LGHS grad from 1961.
shop, men don't have to suffer through the smell of permanent
wave. If they want color, Hibbitts says, they usually go to a "fru
fru" shop, and then come back for a cut.
say barbering is one of the world's oldest professions. "The tools
haven't really changed, either, except for the electric clippers,"
he says. "All you need are a pair of sheers, some clippers and a
takes time to become good at barbering.
Hibbitts says the first time he cut a customer's hair, he
sweated like a pig. "It took me 2 1/2 hours to cut my first
customer's hair." He says he trimmed so little hair at a time that
the floor was covered with powder. While he was in barber school,
he invited his friends to the shop after hours for a free haircut
and a beer.
Hibbitts is now an eight-year veteran, the youngest in the
are tough," Hibbitts says. "But we'll do any kid." Just a few days
ago, a woman came from East San Jose to get haircuts for her three
are scared because we put the cape on and cover their arms and
then buzz around their ears with the clippers," Hibbitts says. He
says they relax after about three visits. "Then it can be worse
because they start playing with you, leaning into the clippers,
turning their heads."
One-year-old Eric Tsu's mother, Jacquelynn Tsu, gave her
son a lollipop to keep him happy on his third trip to the barber.
When his hair began to fall, he got upset, then the hair stuck to
his lollipop and he lost his patience. It was all in a day's work
for Lee Giraudo.
Photograph by Kathy De La Torre
picture on the wall shows a boy of 18 months, sitting high in
Frank Hibbitts' barber chair. Frank is straddling the chair with
his left leg as he snips away at the bawling, little tyke's hair.
jumps up and stands in his chair to show how he had to position
himself to cut a boy's hair while his tall father held the boy on
his shoulder. Ferla says he has gotten down on his knees to cut
the hair of a sick young man who couldn't hold up his head.
started in 1961 when Sal Ferla and Lee Giraudo opened up their
shop at King's Court at Blossom Hill and Los Gatos Boulevard.
"Everyone said we were nuts," Ferla says. "Nobody will come all
the way out there," people told them. "We knew it would work
because we had so many old friends from LGHS and knew many people
opening the shop, Lee and his wife made their home just down the
road in Saratoga in 1962, where their children attended Saratoga
schools and from where a number of customers came.
and Giraudo have roots in this area that go way back.
to grammar school at Old Town," Ferla says, referring to Old
Town's earlier life as University Avenue School. "Lee's father
came to Los Gatos in 1914 and panned gold up at the town of Alma,"
Ferla says. "His dad actually found a nugget."
seems the King's Court Barber Shop is a nugget of Los Gatos gold.
The kind of place Los Gatans love. The kind of place for which we
all yearn, where one can pause awhile and chew on old times. Where
before heading off to college, a young man can get a haircut from
some guy who's known him since he was a toddler. And for only
$13.75. Seniors $10.75.
Court Barber Shop is located at 710 Blossom Hill Rd. in Los Gatos.