BONNERS FERRY — Boundary County has a new barber shop called The Bonners Ferry Barber Shop, and it is located in the small building between Conoco Gas Station and Chic N-Chop.
Master Barber James Harless is the owner and operator of the business, and he specializes in traditional barber techniques and brings tradition to how he runs his shop.
He does walk-ins only, does not have an online page, and has only his personal cell phone.
“I want it to be traditional,” said Harless. “I want people to walk in and say hi, even if they don’t want a haircut.”
“What made me decide to become a barber — during my last semester under a philosophy major — was I walked into a barber shop,” said Harless.
After watching the happenings in the shop, he was attracted to the laid-back atmosphere, as his job was stressful at the time. He did research on becoming a barber, number crunches to see if he could support his family on the income, and finally convincing his wife to let him make the change. After completing barber school at The Barber School in Salt Lake City, Utah, he was quickly invited back to be an instructor. He worked next to Master Barber Tim Hite, who taught his techniques to many, over his 60 years as a barber.
“It was an honor,” said Harless about working next to Hite, who recently passed away.
The school he attended is one of very few, if not the only, traditional barber schools in the country, teaching the scissor over comb method of haircutting, straight razor shaving, and proper use of clippers.
After visiting Bonners Ferry, from Salt Lake City, Harless and his family decided to move here. They wanted to get out of the big city and find a better place to raise their family.
“We made a trip up because we were looking for a new location to move,” said Harless. “We met so many nice people.”
There is a difference between cosmetology school and barber school. There are cosmetologists who do barber work, but being trained as a barber is different. The barber’s license covers the use of straight razors, as they are taught how to properly use them, while cosmetologists are not usually trained to use them.
“If I were to try and cut hair like a cosmetologist, I would hurt myself,” said Harless. “If they were to try and use a straight razor, they would hurt themselves or others.”
“I cut hair differently than a cosmetologist, I mainly just do short hairstyles. I can do longer styles, but I am not as proficient,” said Harless. “Most of the work I do is freehand with a comb and scissors.”
There are areas in the hair that are lighter or darker, different lengths, and thicknesses. Using clippers with a guard makes the hair all one length, but visually it can look uneven. With the scissor over comb method, it is visually more even and clean.
“Every haircut is an individual work of art,” said Harless “It’s cut to that person.”
He builds a relationship with his clients, which also assists with knowing their style and being able to cut their hair to that style increasingly efficiently each visit.
Harless utilizes a dispenser that pumps out warm shaving cream and has hot towels that he uses as well. Each shave gets a bay oil neck massage, while the haircuts get a hair tonic scalp massage. He also offers a small selection of things for sale such as hair products and razors.
The shop is equipped with a lounge area as soon as one walks in the door. There are two chess tables and a sitting area for clients to chat and hang out.
“I think social media distances us from one another,” said Harless, who intends to break that barrier. “Why not just come in and say hi. I like to chat.”
Utilizing not only traditional methods and how he runs the business, Harless brought back to Boundary County a traditional barber shop where gentlemen can lounge and get pampered.
His business hours are Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.