Barbershop duet

Columbia’s Harris family is starting a basketball and barbershop legacy.
Sunday, January 30, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:22 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

It’s one of the only times you’ll see them adorned in Kansas State purple.

But that’s a concession Thomas Gardner, Jason Conley and Jimmy McKinney are willing to make for a hair cut.

For Alvin Harris, 48, the father of Kansas State sophomore guard Lance Harris, the purple cape he puts on his customers has added significance when the players visit.

“When the MU Tigers team comes, I have to drape them in purple,” Harris said.

Missouri players and coaches, who are some of Harris’ regular customers, tolerate the taunting because he knows what they like.

“Coop,” Jason Conley, likes not too much taken off, kind of taper the sides and fade the back out.

Gardner likes his all one level with the back and sides tapered out.

The last time McKinney visited he took his all the way down one level, just a line and no taper.

“He lines you up good, and he’s a great person,” McKinney said.

Missouri assistant coach Melvin Watkins also comes to Harris for a cut.

“Not too much off the top,” he always says, requesting that there be no line at the edges or around the top.

Assorted Tigers have visited Harris or his wife, Debra, for several years. They currently work at All About U hair salon in Columbia with several other stylists.

“Whoever needs it, they come in,” Harris said. “We do good work.”

Last January, Harris even found a customer who appreciated the purple cape, Charles Baker, an assistant coach at Kansas State.

Baker went to Harris for a hair cut, allowing Lance a chance to see his family.

Harris loves to have fun with his customers, talk about life and sometimes do a little coaching.

“Basically, I just tell them to do good and when they’ve got an opening, shoot it, you know like a coach would do,” Harris said.

McKinney said he enjoys cracking jokes with Harris, which doesn’t surprise Debra Harris, 44, who used to do Kareem Rush’s twists.

“Al’s pretty talkative so he kind of entertains them and they like that,” she said.

With a little convincing from his wife, Harris got started in the business.

Harris originally worked as an off-set printer, but when the family moved to Columbia from St. Louis, the $6 an hour salary didn’t suffice.

“I was like, ‘Honey, why don’t you just go to (cosmetology) school,’” said Debra Harris, who was about to graduate herself.


Geraldine Childs’ daughter Debra Harris cuts her hair at the All About U hair salon. Debra’s son is Kansas State guard Lance Harris. (Darren Breen/Missourian)

“Nah, I don’t want to do hair,” Harris replied.

It didn’t take long for Harris to change his mind.

“I guess it was more that he saw I was making money so he went to cosmetology school,” Debra Harris said. “It worked out good for him. It’s probably what he should have been doing all along.”

The couple has been cutting hair together in Columbia for 15 years and will celebrate their 24th anniversary in March.

In 1977, one of Debra’s distant cousins introduced her to Alvin at a picnic in St. Louis. They dated for several years before marrying.

“We’re the best of friends and that makes a big difference,” Debra Harris said. “Especially if you can work with them and be with them all the time and we’ve been together quite a bit.”

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