Jacksonville Daily Progress
Walking into Miles Barbershop in downtown Jacksonville is almost like stepping back in time.
A row of four chairs line the wall with barbers talking and laughing with customers about their children and grandchildren.
One barber is giving a man a shave with a straight razor following years of tradition while another dusts off her client’s head to brush away hair she just cut off.
At the end of the row was S.D. Miles, the owner of the shop, cutting hair the same way he has been for the past 55 years.
Miles, who turns 78 this week, got into barbering after a chance conversation with a family member.
“I had just gotten out of the service building airplanes. My wife’s uncle was a barber and he was going to build a new shop in Shelby County across the river on 84,” Miles said. “He asked me if I wanted to go to barber school and come down there and help him.”
After looking into the cost of the school and speaking with his wife, he decided to only pay for two weeks of school but then quickly realized he had found his calling.
“During those two weeks, I fell in love with it and realized that’s what I wanted to do so we toughed it out and paid the $45 a month,” Miles said. “I started in September of 1957 and finished June 10, 1958.”
Miles worked for his wife’s uncle for five and a half years before he decided to move back to Jacksonville, his hometown. He bought a shop where he worked for three and a half years before relocating and buying his current shop on April 1, 1967. Since then he has seen many trends come and go, one of which caused him to pursue additional jobs.
“The main on was the long hair trend in the late '60s and early '70s. People would go so much longer between haircuts,” Miles said. “That’s the main reason I started farming and raising hogs. I also bought a beauty shop, sold Woodmen of the World insurance, and got my real estate license to buy and sell real estate.”
Miles added that he’s also seen changes in his own shop since then.
“When I started out, the price for a haircut was $1 and now it’s $14. But $1 seems to buy more it back then than $14 now,” Miles said. “I pay more for insurance on this building now that I ever paid rent on the shop when I was starting out.”
Miles bought the building the barbershop is in back in the 1980s. He also had a member of the family join him in the business.
“My son has a separate business. He does a lot of women’s hair. He’s been here about 30 years,” Miles said. “But my oldest son is in Waxahachie and he’s been barbering since 1977. He’s done it for probably 35 years.”
Despite new barbershops and beauty salons developing over the years, Miles said he’s never felt pressure to adapt or try to beat them in business.
“We shave around the ears and do all of the old stuff. When they drag me out of here I want them to say ‘Well Old Miles had himself an old-time barbershop.’ I don’t even have a machine for credit cards. I’ve never wanted to get any more modern,” Miles said. “I’ve gotten acquainted with my competitors. They are some of the nicest people and we’ve always had good relationship with them. We even all call each other to let each other know when the inspector is in town.”
After many years of being a barber, Miles said he can’t imagine doing anything else and hopes to continue for years to come.
“I have really enjoyed barbering. I don’t mind working. I’ve enjoyed working and barbering isn’t work for me. It’s fun,” Miles said. “I don’t know of anything else I could have done because I look forward to coming to the shop every morning after all these years. It’s like family now.”