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Melanie Mulligan
Edition: 7/1/2010

FOR MORE THAN half a century, Jerry Cottone has clipped, pampered, listened to and even offered advice to his Larchmont clientele.

From Perry Como to Figaro, Floyd of Mayberry to Sweeney Todd, you could probably count the number of famous barbers on the fingers of both hands. Here in the Larchmont area, we would be inclined to add one more name to that illustrious roster of follicle wranglers: Jerry Cottone, proprietor of the Larchmont Barbershop.

Everyone in the Village seems to know “Jerry the Barber.” He’s as much a fixture on the Boulevard as the 1926 classic red, white and blue barber pole which graces the window of his shop. (A second barber pole rotates outside and was handmade by Jerry.)

The oldest business on the street—it originally opened in the ‘20s—the Larchmont Barbershop has been in Jerry’s family since it was purchased by his father Vince in 1956. Jerry began working in the shop the following year (when the price of a haircut was a whopping buck and a quarter), and after serving in the army for two years he eventually bought out his father’s interest and became sole owner in 1964.

There are four chairs in the shop, and back in the day, cutting hair was a family affair: “Dad’s was the first chair, my younger brother Vince, Jr. handled the second, and mine was the third,” recalls Jerry. “Mom eventually became a manicurist, making the shop a true family business through and through.”

In those days Larchmont Village was “a sleepy little place,” in Jerry’s words. Things were so quiet, in fact, that he can remember Sundays spent watching cars drag race up and down the Boulevard.  He also remembers the time an Elvis Presley movie was shot on the street, with the director shouting to unsuspecting pedestrians he was hoping to use as extras, “Look normal! Just keep walking and go about your business!”

"Older than old school,” the shop takes you back to bygone days: lime green vinyl chairs for customers line one wood-paneled wall, with a smattering of framed articles about the shop and photos of famous and longtime loyal customers hanging above the cash register. A vintage console television set sits in one corner between a rack of postcards for sale and newspapers and magazines for customers to read while waiting.

Something else that remains unchanged: the tonsorial process itself. In an age of bewildering rapid-fire technological innovations from GPS to the iPAD to Cloud Computing, there’s something soothing in the fact that getting a haircut involves tools, technology and techniques your grandparents would be completely comfortable with: Jerry still uses the traditional straight-edge razor shave with warm foam, and finishes up with a massage. “There will never be a computer that can do what I do,” he smiles.  When asked whether barbering is an art or a science, without missing a beat he quips, “A little of both.”

Looking fit, the white-haired, gentlemanly Jerry takes good care of himself. Every three months he takes a week off and closes the shop. In April, Jerry and his wife Diane enjoyed a cruise to Hawaii in honor of their 45th wedding anniversary as a gift from their two sons.

For more than half a century, Jerry Cottone has clipped, pampered, listened to and even offered advice to his Larchmont clientele. “I’ve heard it all,” he smiles knowingly.

There’s a quiet dignity about him that makes it easy to picture customers sharing their deepest secrets with him – tempered with a deep humility that emerges when he is asked how he would describe himself.

“I’m just a peon barber,” he likes to say, eyes twinkling.