$5 haircuts in Chicago

Yes, you can get a men’s haircut for $5. But is it worth it?

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In an effort to save money this summer, I tested the cheapest men’s haircuts I could find. Turns out, it doesn’t cost much to get a haircut on the corner of Kimball and Montrose Avenues. Nestled among the liquor stores, snack shops and taquerias sit two establishments offering new ’dos for less than $10: Betty and Nick’s Family Hair Care(4408 N Kimball Ave, 773-478-4372) and Ayyad Haircutters(4409 N Kimball Ave, 773-539-9933). Hoping to get a lot of bang for my buck, I walked into Ayyad and was quickly under the scissors of Robert. He later reintroduced himself as Roberto, and as he rubbed a raw leaf of aloe vera over my head, he told me how they kidnap journalists in Mexico. Apart from a visible clipper line where a small portion of my hair didn’t have a natural-looking fade in hair length (it was easily blended at home), the haircut didn’t look half bad. But over the next several weeks, it began to puff and bulge. Yes, you get what you pay for, but I was on a mission to defy the odds.

So I headed to Betty and Nick’s. The size of the place is a little overwhelming: pillars everywhere, with several chairs arranged around each one. I flashed a picture of the style I wanted—long on the top, short on the sides—and the woman nodded with recognition. I was out the door within 20 minutes—and for five bucks, I looked rather dapper.

The takeaway: Simple cuts are your best bet at discount barbers. And I learned that it’s smart to describe exactly what you want: whether the neckline should be tapered or square, how high the hairline should arch over your ears, how long the sideburns should be. If the cut you have in mind includes complex layers and precise scissoring, it’s worth spending the extra money.