‘As your hair grows, your relationship grows:’ Sixty years of hair cuts

Sep 21, 2023

Sixty years ago Ken Gouveia’s father said to him, “Hey come on down here, I’ve got a client for you.” That was the first time Mike Travers sat in Gouveia’s barber chair to get his haircut.

Gouveia continued to cut Travers hair every four weeks for the next sixty years, all at the Hair Center at 741 Dartmouth Street. Travers prides himself on being Gouveia’s first haircut in his professional career. 

“As your hair grows, your relationship grows,” Travers said about Gouveia.

Over six decades, Gouveia has perfected his craft. Not only in providing a good, quick haircut but also in developing relationships with his clients.

“What I like to see is every time my client goes out the door — and I say client because they’re not a customer, they’re a client and a friend — they always leave with a smile,” Gouveia said.

Gouveia claims that being a barber is in his blood: his father was a barber, and his father’s father was a barber. Gouveia married his high school sweetheart, who worked in the styling salon half of the Hair Center until she died in 2020.

“You know you're going to get there, you're going to get a good product, your hair is going to get cut the way you like it and you’re going to look good,” Travers said. “You can come to this place and just relax.”

The quality of the haircut is not just one man’s opinion. On July 4, 1976, the duo won “best shaped and color beard” at a bicentennial event hosted by the DYAA.

It was for that event that Travers grew a beard in the first place. He said he shaved it once right after his second son was born and Travers said he was unrecognizable to him and never shaved off his beard again.

“He cried and didn’t know who I was,” he said. “My wife Barbra was holding him and he looked at me and his eyes got [big] and he started crying. He didn’t want nothing to do with me, I had to grow it back.”

After Travers' son had his own son, he insisted on taking his grandson to Gouveia for his first haircut.

Gouveia admits that keeping his clients coming back for generations takes more than a good cut. There are two things he won’t talk about: politics and religion.

“I have lost a customer because of politics, that was a long time ago," Gouveia said. "So that we don’t discuss ... they have their feelings and I have mine.”

Even without those topics, Gouveia finds that he has plenty to talk about with the men in his chair. For happy and sad stories, he is there to listen and cut their hair.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Gouveia said about his time as a barber. “If I wanted to quit today I could, but these are all my friends, they’re not clients or customers, they’re my friends.”