PRIMP MY HIDE, DUDE

Mother's Day was a no-brainer: flowers, breakfast in bed, maybe a trip to the spa. Women love that stuff. • But Father's Day, which comes around this Sunday, is trickier. Crepes Suzette and a mani-pedi don't do much for a dude. • To a guy, pampering means a quick haircut, a quality shave and the ability to be back home before the game comes on — or at least to watch the game while getting groomed. So skip the froo-froo stuff, save some dough and treat Dad to some manscaping at one of Tampa's best old (and new) school barbershops. — Dalia Colón and Susan Thurston

Boyz 2 Men Barbershop

8403 N Florida Ave., Tampa; (813) 932-CUTS (2887). myspace.com/boyz2menbarbershopinc.

Owner Ed Williams opened Boyz 2 Men in March 2007, and in its first year the shop earned a Steve Harvey Morning Show Hoodie Award for best barbershop in the country. In 2008, it won the Tampa Bay Hip Hop Award for barbershop of the year.

Everything about this Sulphur Springs shop is sleek. Instead of brushes, at each station hangs an air hose to blast loose hairs from clothing; close your eyes and the place it sounds like a mechanic's garage. Four flat screen TVs are fixed to the walls, and in the back are a pool table, two arcade games and a chess table . Each barber wears a coat with Isaiah 54:17 on the sleeve, which Williams says keeps them grounded and protected.

Clients like Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant, San Diego Chargers running back Michael Bennett, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and wrestler Dave Batista can also keep the place safe. Cupid (the guy who sings Cupid Shuffle), rapper Bubba Sparxxx and Jennifer Hudson's fiance, David "Punk" Otunga, also have stopped by.

Williams will open Boyz 2 Men 2 in University Mall on Aug. 1, followed by a Town 'n Country location. He's currently interviewing barbers.

Who's Next? NY Style Barbershop

10353 Cross Creek Blvd., Tampa, (813) 994-8167; whosnexttampa.com.

The Who's Next? Web site is way more souped-up than the no-frills shop itself, but the cuts deliver. Owner Jose Breton specializes in $15 "New York-style" fades and blowouts, using a straight razor to make clean lines. Flip through the photo album to choose a custom design, from Goofy to the NFL logo to the Puerto Rican flag.

Breton shows movies on a 30-inch flat screen TV with surround sound, but the beauty of the shop is that the barbers get you in and out so quickly, you won't have time to watch a full movie.

Breton opened Who's Next? in 2006, and a few months ago he doubled its space to 1,600 square feet. Washington Nationals leftfielder Wily Mo Pena and New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano have come by for a trim.

Lebowski Barber Salon

1254 Channelside Drive, Tampa; (813) 221-DUDE (3833); lebowskicuts.com.

For brothers Ken and James Fowler, creating the ultimate hair salon for men meant bringing in pool tables, air hockey and a golf driving range. It meant handing each customer a can of Bud when they walked through the door. It meant treating them to a shoe shine on the way out.

The "Fowler boys,'' as they like to call themselves, opened the Lebowski Barber Salon a few months ago from the Port of Tampa shipping docks. It's a 5,000-square-foot man cave "where dudes abide.'' No women or kids allowed.

Entering the Lebowski is like entering a nightclub on sink-or-swim nights. You pay $25 at the door (or $30 for three beers) and get the whole shebang. There's no nickel-and-diming you once inside, something men really hate, Ken says. The haircut includes a shampoo and scalp massage, hot towel treatment, shoe shine and access to all the toys. While one female stylist cuts your hair, another gives you a manicure because "it's a guy's dream'' to have two girls working on him at the same time, Ken says.

Everything in the shop chest-pounds man lair, from the Harley parked next to the Craftsman tool chest to the Red Bull dispensing machine shaped like a gas pump. Tools and fishing poles adorn the walls. The words "man cave" are painted in huge graffiti lettering on the main cutting stage. Most days, James walks around in sweatpants and a robe, a nod to the salon's namesake, the mack daddy of all slackers.

Backstage Barbershop

3260 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, (813) 321-0175; myspace.com/backstagebarbershop

It's easy to see how this new hair cuttery got its name: it's tucked into the upstairs rear of a shopping center, away from the hubbub of West Hillsborough Avenue — and a complete 180 from Wild Gentlemen's Club out front.

Open less than a month, the four-chair shop is still under the radar, so there's no waiting.

"It's real laid back. It's a lot more one-on-one with the client," said master barber Aaron Vargas, who specializes in designs. (Basic cuts are $15. Designs are $25 and up.) The owners expect business to pick up after this weekend's grand opening, and when that happens, they're prepared with a waiting room that's set apart from the main workspace so clients can entertain themselves. "That's why we have the separate room, so the clients don't make the barbers feel rushed. 'Cause a lot of mistakes can happen like that," Vargas said.

The waiting room offers a pool table and black leather chairs.

There's also a deejay station where DJ Joker of Puerto Rico will pump tunes into both spaces once a month or so. A Backstage Car Wash is scheduled to open downstairs in July.

Tim's Barber Shop

2527 Ninth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 898-8467 (TIMS); timsbarbershop.com.

Owner Tim Rinker likes to keep things cheap and simple.

Men's haircuts $7.95 (or $4.95 if you're over 55). Forget the appointments or fancy treatments. Just show up, jot your name on a pad next to the cash register and wait for a chair. The ample hours are easy to remember: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Rinker bought the shop 11 years ago when it was in the old Pennsylvania Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg, now the Courtyard by Marriott. Seven years ago, he moved it to its current location on Ninth Street.

Tim's has the original 1926 barber chairs, a 1940 Coke machine and antique barber poles. Female stylists wear tight T-shirts that say, "Don't cha wish your barber was hot like me."

During the World Series last year, Tim's gave free Rayhawks outside the stadium and at the Pier. Rinker hands out stickers to anyone who asks.

Do or Dye

8340 Stone Run Court, Suite 102, Tampa; (813) 884-9100; myspace.com/doordyetampa.

Mike and Leah Moore figure not everyone likes mauve-colored flowery salons and seedy tattoo parlors. But they do like edgy haircuts and bold tattoos.

So the couple combined the two in a new salon, Do or Dye, which opened a few months ago in a new strip plaza near Westchase. Many of the clients come in wanting a haircut but end up leaving with a tattoo or coming back once they muster the nerve.

"A lot of people don't want to step foot in a tattoo shop,'' Leah said. "Here, they can see it's accessible.''

Mike, 27, is in charge of the business side of the salon, and Leah, 28, does the hair with two other stylists. Brandon Campbell, 30, handles the ink. In honor of Father's Day, the shop is offering $15 haircuts and $120 hair and tattoo packages for dads through next week.

Upper Cut Barbershop

3514 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 388-6798; uppercutbarberspa.com

Owner Josh Connell, who bartends Fridays at Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen on Central Avenue, says both jobs are pretty much the same.

"Either I'm mixing you a drink down there or I'm cutting your hair. All we're doing is sitting back and talking," said Connell, who specializes in $9.95 precision scissor cuts.

And Upper Cut isn't a bad place to talk. Connell bought the 1947 building, originally Jack's Barbershop, in 2006. With the help of his father, Jim Connell, he gave the inside a much-needed face lift, including laying the birch floors by hand.

"I've got to give a shoutout to my dad, since it is Father's Day. He took three months off work, and we (renovated) this place," Connell said.

The cash register, neon sign, clock and 106-year-old barber chairs are all from the original shop. Each chair — cast iron and porcelain, covered with a leather seat — weighs about 600 pounds and takes three people to move. But the new stuff is what makes Upper Cut a cut above: a 60-inch flat screen (wireless PlayStation coming next month), a basketball hoop over the exit sign and, by the way, free Budweiser Select on tap all day, every day.

"Every guy has that fantasy to have that one room in their house where they can lounge, watch TV, sit in a comfy chair a cool barber's chair — and drink beer," Connell said.

Then there's the smell. Spas smell like aromatherapy candles. This place smells like meat. El Cap burger joint is right next door, and legend has it that Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle stopped by for a bite and a trim in baseball's glory days.

PRIMP MY HIDE, DUDE 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 3:41pm]

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