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Throwback Lawrenceville barber champions a dying art

Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts.


Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts. Ty Tippett, of Buckhead, received his 40th anniversary hair cut from "Barber Wayne" on Saturday, in Lawrenceville.

Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts. Ty Tippett, of Buckhead, received his 40th anniversary hair cut from "Barber Wayne" on Saturday, in Lawrenceville.

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Master barber Wayne Magness

Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts.

Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts.

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Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts. Ty Tippett, of Buckhead, receives his 40th anniversary hair cut from "Barber Wayne" on Saturday, in Lawrenceville.

photo

Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts. Ty Tippett, of Buckhead, receives his 40th anniversary hair cut from "Barber Wayne" on Saturday, in Lawrenceville.

photo

Barber Wayne Magness has an extremely devoted clientele, many of whom travel long distances for his unique "Roffler technique" haircuts. Ty Tippett, of Buckhead, received his 40th anniversary hair cut from "Barber Wayne" on Saturday in Lawrenceville. Magness holds a 40 year old electric cutter that he used at the early stage of his career.

CONTACT WAYNE

To contact Wayne's, call 770-962-4247. The shop's address is 509 Hurricane Shoals Road in Lawrenceville, across Hurricane Shoals from the Gwinnett airport.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- As the sun rises Saturday over the eastern fringes of Lawrenceville, master barber Wayne Magness is forging a milestone in his one-chair shop, a utilitarian space he calls a "mall" because it shares a roof with a service center and T-shirt printing business. Wayne splashes Osage Rub -- a burst of eucalyptus and menthol -- on the tidied-up neck of his client, Ty Tippett, and now it is official:

Wayne has been Ty's barber for exactly 40 years.

In this throwback, first-name-basis kind of place, where they chew the fat about high school football and God, Ty is hardly alone in his devotion.

Since Watergate broke and "The Godfather" debuted, no other human being has cut the former attorney's hair. Once a month he has a ritual -- french toast at Cracker Barrel and a "Roffler cut" from Wayne. From his Buckhead home to Wayne's chair is a 60-mile round-trip, but Ty doesn't care, because he knows what he wants, and he knows nobody has the surgeon's tact and ministerial fellowship of Wayne.

"It makes no sense logistically, financially and otherwise," says Ty of his monthly jaunt.

Wayne joins a handful of master barbers who champion a dying tonsorial art known as the "Roffler Sculptor Kut," a method of using a razor and comb to lift and slice hair to such fine points it grows out in locked uniformity, like shingles on a house. One official estimates that only a dozen "Roffler men" still operate in Georgia. Wayne and clients swear he's an anomaly in Gwinnett and across metro Atlanta -- so rare that Wayne can't get a Roffler cut himself after another stalwart on the southside bowed out. So the devotion to Wayne is nothing short of extreme.

On a word-of-mouth-built client roster of roughly 500, Wayne estimates that 10 are true "old-timers," those who have lined up at his appointment book in January, charted the coming year and never missed, in sickness or health, for four decades. They consider Wayne family, invite him to weddings, christen sons and daughters under his German razor blades and scissors of cobalt steel.

For instance: Roswell resident Tom Perkins.

In 41 years, the miles Tom has driven to Wayne's various shops would get him from Atlanta to Los Angeles 10 times. When Tom's job as a business manager moved him 1,600 miles to Puerto Rico -- no matter. He'd time hair appointments with monthly business conferences in Atlanta.

"What he does is a dying skill," says Tom, a 72-year-old retiree. "Most people these days run into Great Clips and get a haircut. For a lot of us, to do that would be sacrosanct -- we couldn't think of it."

Well before Wayne, the Magness household in Winder was known as a place of beautification. His father's 12 siblings took barbering matters into their own hands, and were often seen cutting each other's hair on the back porch. His father would later cut hair in the U.S. Army, before a career in hospital maintenance.

But the true seminal moments for Wayne came as he watched the barbers his father had carefully chosen at work. Barber shops to Wayne became havens, chatter-filled spaces with Field & Stream back-issues and comic books.

"It was a place to kick back," says Wayne, now 58. "It drew me in."

Fresh from Winder-Barrow High School, Wayne attended Moler Barber College in downtown Atlanta. An admitted hayseed back then, he learned his craft on the heads of homeless men who lined up for barber-student rates of 50 cents. He had a knack for it, never bungled a single head, he says. Using his father as a mannequin, he won first place in two barbering competitions and still keeps that trophy near his shop door.

Wayne earned his spurs in upscale mens' shops in Buckhead (hooking some current clients like Ty) for 19 years, before uprooting to launch his Lawrenceville Hairport in 1990. Property sales, leasing changes and general opportunism led Wayne over the years to a former dentist's office, a house, the defunct Cuttin Caboose, a hot dog-and-malt outfit called the Rx Shop and finally his current "Wayne's," where clients watch jets land across the road at Briscoe Field.

Wayne figured each move would shed clients. But he brought his anti-assembly line mentality with him, and they followed. And they brought their kids. As Atlanta's traffic thickened, one client started flying his personal helicopter from Peachtree City, landing it in the parking lot in a process dubbed "Droppin' In For A Trim."

"He's the only one that can cut my hair," says Dave Cochrane, 72, a newbie with five years' patronage. "When you go to Wayne, you get the same cut every time -- like going to McDonald's to get a hamburger."

Cuts are $16, no matter which of Wayne's three categories a client's hair belongs to: parted, unparted or departed. Tradition holds that shop owners get no tips. He can cut up to 18 heads a day.

David Jones, Georgia State Board of Barbers chairman, recalls a time when the referral book for Roffler-certified barbers was as thick as a Sears catalogue. Now there's a smattering across the nation, and about 12 in Georgia, he says.

Instructors haven't taught the Roffler method since 1982, when the originators sold the company. The namesake Edmund "Pop" Roffler and his original partners are dead, and of the next wave that included David, a few are still flown to demonstrate at conventions across the United States, he says.

"People are on stage, watching every move we make," says David, a Warner Robbins shop owner and "Roffler man" since 1972. "It has to go on."

Industrywide, there are bright spots.

The Georgia Secretary of State counts about 6,000 licensed "master barbers" at 1,800 barber shops -- with 24 more barbers certified in the past two weeks. CNN reported that the number of barber shops spiked nationwide 18 percent between 2007 to 2009, in the heart of a recession.

Conversely, the U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts the overall employment of barbers will grow 7 percent between 2010 and 2020. That's roughly half the rate of all occupations.

Wayne thinks of himself as many things: a minister, mentor, psychiatrist, even a giant ear, into which people profess their everyday problems. He's a calming presence, a deep voice. He wears comfy Asics, pleated khakis and a black polo. He works on a two-inch foam pad (spares the knees) and ends each cut with an engrossing massage, by way of a hand-held electrical device that keeps arthritis from his hand. A Sunday school teacher, he's empowered by one verse in particular, Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ ..."

He'll say he has no idea why his clients are devoted, that he just cuts hair and they come. He'll point to the antique spittoon in the corner, the forged "Floyd the Barber" autograph from Mayberry on the wall, even the ubiquitous barber poles -- and he'll call them meaningless. But they are part of allure, and hardly gimmicks.

Near the end of his anniversary cut, Ty taps the deeper value of visiting an old-school barber shop.

"Just having somebody to listen to you is worth a lot in this day and age," he says.

The haircut, Wayne says, is free of charge. Ty is blown aback. For a second, he insists on paying, but folds his wallet away. The barber and client have a long, long handshake.

Says Wayne: "I hope we can do it 40 more."

Comments

Tapsson 1 year, 7 months ago

Mr. Wayne has been my barber for 23 years. He is a great barber and a tremendous human being.

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