1. Well, Duh! They have to have a barber pole out front! Not some bogus barber pole painted on the building's front glass either. A real, attached to the wall outside the front door, red, white, and blue barber pole. Extra points if the barber pole spins too.
2. When you walk inside, you must smell a strong smell of hair tonic. You know, the old-school, spice aftershave kinda smell? Yeah, that one.
3. When you look around, you MUST see a broad cross section of working men waiting for a haircut. Plumbers with beards, engineers in white shirts, pizza delivery guy, and a couple of known good men from church helps too.
4. Beware of walking into an empty barber shop. Sure, there are certain times of day when it's possible for a barber shop to be empty, but it's almost impossible to find a GOOD barber shop that's empty. Waiting is part of getting your hair cut, so suck it up!
5. Although this is getting harder and harder to find in this day of AIDs and all, but if you walk into a barber shop and see a customer with shaving foam over the tops of his ears and a barber carefully shaving around his ears with a straight razor, you can take it to the bank, this is your barber shop. Some barber shops only do this on request these days.
6. If there are mounted deer heads and fish on the walls, this is a very good sign.
7. If there are ten years of back issues of Field And Stream and Guns And Ammo magazines, and lots of sections of today's newspaper laying around, this is also a very good sign. (If they have Maxim and GQ, then RUN, do not walk, RUN out the door. That's a deal breaker there.)
8. If you happen to see someone get a world-class flat-top in the shop, even if you just want a regular hair cut yourself, you've found your new barber. If he can do a killer flat-top, he can do a great regular man's haircut in his sleep. With fingernail clippers.
9. If you see a stack of those padded booster seat/boards leaning against the wall for young boys to be set at the proper height for a haircut, that's a good sign this might be your barber shop.
10. Real barber chairs. They have to look like they were made and mounted to the floor in 1935, and have that big arm on the side so the barber can raise you up with a satisfying ker-klunk, ker-klunk, ker-klunk. This is also the sign of a good barber shop.
11. If the barber shop is full of barbers and customers who are all on first name basis with one another, this is a good sign also. Part B of this is if you can detect early on that some of the guys in the shop just come in to visit and hang out. Real barber shops are also somewhat of a hangout for regular guys.
12. They have to have mirrors both behind and in front of you so you can sit there and contemplate the infinity of your own reflection in the receding views. This is also a must.
13. If the barbers have those little wooden handled brushes with the cream colored bristles to brush the hair off of your neck and face, this is another good sign. Add bonus points if the last thing he does is to shake a little talcum powder on the brush for your final brush down.
I could go on and on here. There is much to the makeup of a good barber shop. A good barber shop and a particular barber you're willing to sit and wait on because he cuts your hair really well is a hard thing to find.
The barber I have gone to for years here in Palm Bay doesn't have the mounted deer heads and fish, but the owner and his son are both barbers there, and the owner's grandson is an up and coming stock car racer in the southeast, so there are racing pictures and car photos of the boy through the years on the walls instead. I don't like NASCAR, but I can sure relate to the pride of a boy's dad and grandad in his efforts to make something of himself in a competitive sport like that.
Plus, the John Wayne clock on the wall there makes up for any missing stuffed deer heads and fish.
Can't go wrong with men who still honor John Wayne like that, now can you?