Hi – could you do a Mahomes for me, please”
“Ah, not really”
“Is my hair too short?”
“Yes, it is. We can cut the sides like Mahomes, though”.
“I would prefer the Mahomes on top, too. What about me letting it grow maybe two inches?”
“Patrick Mahomes has very strong curls on top. I don’t think so”.
Too threadbare, the old lid. No Mahomes for this customer, the check-in-girl is right and honest. She can afford to be. Ever since the Kansas City Chiefs put themselves on the path to Super Bowl LIV, business is brisker than ever at Purple Label Barber Shop. Everybody wants the Mahomes cut here. In the waiting area for teenagers an the thirty-something are playing with their telephones, at the entrance is a father with a boy, in the salon all seats are taken. On a visit at the Forum, an old folks home nearby, one employee says that to date none of the males showed up with the ‘do of the hour, “but my 5-year-old grandson wanted a Mahomes and it looks great”.
In the Forum all the staff is working in Chiefs attire, the Super Bowl party is announced, and a raffle set up. There are rules for staff attire: “appropriate jeans …. no holes, tears” etc. The Price Chopper across the street hawks AFC-Championship shirts which come Sunday will lose their value, provided the Chiefs pull it off (a feat no one dares to doubt on). Every drugstore offers Chiefs paraphernalia, the rare local Bus on Metcalf Avenue flashes “Go Chiefs” before and after signalling the next stop, radio ads end with a rah. Etcetera, the usual hometown spiel before a championship game. The special thing here is the haircut Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the 24-year-old Wunderkind of American Football. Compared with the ridiculously elaborate concoctions of the average national soccer team player in Switzerland the Mahomes is simple and practical: The sides shaved, on top a semi-long thicket of strong strands going in all directions. Experts call it a kind of Mohawk. It requires curls, wiry ones. The price is a nice 25 dollars.
“Do you see older men getting a Mahomes here?”
“Oh yeah, there are older guys”.
“Maybe a little bit younger”.
Purple Label Luxury Barbershop is about 35 kilometres from Downtown Kansas City. In a small mall at the intersection of 119th and Quivira in Overland Park in the vast sprawl of uniform developments out into the endless land reserves of the West. Above the entrance it says BARBER in capitals. There is no rotating Barber pole. At the door it says, “multicultural haircuts”. Hairdresser DeJuan Bonds, for years serving the Chiefs and currently in Miami for last-minute pregame clippings, is signalling that his creation is not for black sports stars alone but equally fit for the white boys in the suburbs where he opened ten years ago. Patrick Mahomes is one of several professionals who stayed on as customers. His shirt hangs in the classily designed salon, on the mirror is a thank you note of the great one.
It is no surprise that a shop like Purple Label moves to barren suburbia because like a lot of American cities, downtown is even more barren. In addition, Kansas City is a complicated place. Statistically (as in “metropolitan area”) there sure is one “Kansas City”, but there are in fact two of them, spread across two states, one in the East in Missouri, the other in the West in Kansas. To the unschooled mind, perhaps following Interstate 35 from Overland Park KS in the South across the Missouri to the North, the West looks smaller and better and the East larger and poorer. But one is taught that things are way more complex and besides wealthy Mission Hills in Kansas there were utterly wealthy burbs in Missouri, too. Be that as it may, the great Kansas City entertainment is found in Missouri – the stadiums for football and baseball (the Chiefs are actually playing in Missouri), the Nelson Art Gallery, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the national World War One Museum – all spectacular sites and places to visit, but islands in a vast urban semi-desert. It is Overland Part (population 200 000) in Kansas that recently was elected “most liveable city in America”.
Metropolitan Kansas City, with 2 million people, is not a big market for professional sports enterprises. Besides the Chiefs there are professional teams in baseball and soccer, but no basketball and no ice hockey. National Championships are rare. The last ones were brought in by the Kansas City Royals in Baseball, 2015 and 1985. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl only once, in 1970. The rarity of the event makes for big excitement all over the city. Moreover, there is an important window closing for the Chiefs. Young Mahomes is playing his last season for the rookie’s salary of 4 million dollars per year. After the game on Sunday this will be renegotiated, and experts expect a tenfold increase of his earnings. Because the league limits the team’s overall salaries (salary cap) there will be less money for everybody else on the Kansas roster when Mahomes takes his greater share. It is now or never for the Chiefs.