Until a few years ago, George’s Barber Shop had been owned by a “George” since 1902, when it opened. So it’s not surprising that some old-timers insist on calling current proprietor Mike Moriello by the name “George.” But Mike says he is not a George because “my father, laughing, said that three ‘Georges’ were enough, so he stopped the tradition,” said Moriello, a fourth generation master barber at the old-school Saugus shop. Known as America’s oldest barbershop, George’s Barbershop has stayed true to its roots, offering haircuts for $13, no frills, no hard sell. “Barbering is the oldest legal trade in the world,” said Moriello, who jokingly points out that only older profession is prostitution. Moriello talked to the Globe as he stood in the shop’s classic interior, with its black-and-white tile floor, sports photos on the wall, and chrome barber chairs.
“The barber chair nearest the door has always been the chair of the most senior barber. It was my grandfather’s chair, then my dad’s, and now it’s mine. Before that was my great-grandfather, and we still do have an old porcelain barber chair that is over 100 years old, although it’s not like the old-fashioned ’50s leather ones we use every day. I worked side by side with my father every day for 20 years until he passed away a few years ago. I was lucky I got to spend so much time with him; we got along great. Although I went to barber school, he was the one who really taught me to cut hair. But more than the actual haircut, he emphasized the importance of being part of the community, working hard and being nice to people. People used to call him the mayor of Saugus, and everyone loved him. I try to be like him – that’s half the reason people come here. It’s a friendly, happy atmosphere and holds to the tradition of the barbershop being the hub of town. So many customers have come here their whole lives, and then their kids, so we see generation after generation. Outside, we still have the old barber pole from the ’40s; I just put a new bulb in. It’s a vintage classic, with glass outside and an inner cylinder that rotates with red, white, and blue stripes. I do worry because it’s an old collectible, but it’s fastened to the building pretty good. I like to tell the story of the barber pole; it dates back to when the barber was also the surgeon and dentist, and they’d take the bloody red bandages, hang them outside on the pole, and the wind would twist them around. Of course we don’t pull teeth anymore, but our haircutting implements are clean, sharp and precise. Ironically, though, right now, I need a haircut. Up to a few years ago, the only one who cut my hair was my father. And now I just don’t get the time to do it. I need a haircut pretty bad.”