What does my hair have in common with a dog rolling around out in the yard? It’s shaggy, unkempt, and there’s no telling what it’ll do next.  

That’s how it was. That is, until my first visit to The Man Cave Cut and Style in Portsmouth.  

It was the shiny and smooth discount card that brought me in, but it was the high-quality haircut and friendly service that brought me back. The discount offered to service industry employees brings a $35-dollar haircut down to $20 – the price I usually pay for a haircut. I figured I’d go for it and see if the bargain was worth the trip to Portsmouth. 

10 Ladd St. sits in a back alley sandwiched between bustling Market Square and the back of the parking garage. If you don’t look close enough you might not even see it. It took a few looks at Google Maps, and sure enough there it was, sharing an entryway with an empty storeroom. 

Man Cave is about the size of a small bedroom, but there’s a lot to look at. In one corner lies a small leather couch with a mirror hanging on the wall above. The opposite side of the room is where the two salon chairs sit, accompanied with their own mirrors and haircut supplies. It is neatly organized. 

Conveniently placed (I really appreciated the style choice) adjacent to the mirrors on the opposite wall is a small TV showing ESPN’s “First Take.” The subtle hum of the razor can be heard under the barks of stats and analysis from Stephen A. Smith. Lots of subtle and cool pieces of décor are scattered among the rest of the furniture, like the old-style black-and-white Marilyn Monroe wallpaper on one wall, the London telephone booth trash can and the New England sports team logos scattered about. 

Only one of the chairs is occupied and there is a lone hairdresser at work. As the man reclines in his chair, Sheila McMahon begins to trim his beard, which he captures on video for what I assume was a Snapchat. “Portsmouth city man,” as he labeled himself, also known as Shane McCarthy, said he’s somewhat of a regular at Man Cave. He said the friendly staff and the quality of the cut keeps him coming back and he doesn’t even use any discounts. 

He was right, too. McMahon, the owner and my hairdresser, was very friendly; she’s been running Man Cave for six years and has been hairdressing for 19. She said she’s been trying to move to a bigger location for a while now, but her landlord doesn’t want her to expand into the vacant spot directly next door to her for some reason. She was looking at another place on Market Square as well, but apparently her landlord is friends with that landlord, and has convinced him that McMahon doesn’t need to move her business!  

“It really is a man’s world, and I’m a woman living in it,” she said laughing. It cracked me up, too. 

The cut was enjoyable. I asked for what I usually get, a three on the sides and on the back, with a decent amount off the top and the bangs so I can stick it up the way I like it. She recommended getting it buzzed shorter on the sides because “it looks more professional.” It sounded good to me; now I feel more professional too! She also snagged a strand of my hair (with my permission of course) because one of her other customers wants to have his hair colored just like mine (strawberry blond, not ginger). I was surprised at first, but flattered, I think? 

I left feeling more professional and gladder that I tried out the new place. I have since gone back to Man Cave, and the experience was equally pleasant with the haircut just as high quality as the first cut. The same echo of sports analysis from “First Take” could be heard over the razor although this time it was accompanied by an in-depth conversation between the other hairdresser, Fergie, and I. 

Fergie’s voice echoed through that little salon and he seemed like a pure, genuinely happy guy. He told me he “bleeds green,” having grown up in Massachusetts and playing basketball at a small college there. We chatted and joked about the new look of the NBA after the summer’s big moves, we speculated about where Kawhi Leonard would end up.  

At the end of it, I had the best haircut I had ever gotten, and it didn’t even feel like any time had passed! It was such an enjoyable experience that I am hooked to the Man Cave. That’s where I’ll be going for my haircuts from now on and for people who are eligible for the discount card, the high value haircut at a lower price is a deal that should not be passed up on.