Jimmy Carter, Condoleezza Rice, Chelsea Clinton, Jesse Jackson and University President John Hennessy all have something in common—a barber. Carmelo Cogliandro, owner of Stanford Hair, has been a barber and salon owner at Stanford for 51 years. In those years, he has cut the hair of countless academics, provosts, presidents and national figures.
The son of a barber and a hairdresser, Carmelo moved to Palo Alto in his late teens when his father opened a barbershop in the Town and Country shopping center.
“My old man worked as a barber at Harvard until he decided to move to Palo Alto, where he sought the kind of high-performing college town feel of Cambridge,” Cogliandro said.
Then a 17-year-old keyboardist, Cogliandro wanted to pursue his musical career with his friends in Tri-Tone—his five-man jazz band—but his parents encouraged him to pursue a more stable job. So Cogliandro took an apprenticeship with Stanford Hair. Despite his burgeoning career as a barber, Cogliandro continued to pursue his love of music, and throughout his twenties and thirties he traveled around the country to perform with Tri-Tone.
“We [played] at one-horse towns, where you were the only attraction for the weekend so everyone would come down from three towns over,” he remembered.
In addition to harboring a wealth of stories about his time touring, Cogliando holds fond memories of his time at Stanford, as a barber at and later as owner of Stanford Hair. His favorite part of the job is connecting with his clients, with experiences that suggest his relationships with clients can often become genuine friendships.
“I share many special times with my clients,” he says, citing some moments during which he served as a confidant or received advice. “You touch people, people touch you.”
Anticipating a question about the changes he’s seen at Stanford in 51 years, he answered by putting his hands out in front of him and saying one word: “diversity.”
Cogliando pointed to the transition from a school primarily made up of “Caucasian males” to one that is now wonderfully eclectic, strengthening the sense that everyone is yearning to fulfill his or her “ultimate potential,” even as other aspects of the student experience—such as Greek life—have died down.
As far as hairstyles go, Cogliando hesitated to identify a persistent trend, saying only that “haircutting is like a pendulum—it goes one way, and then back again.” Although he does not have a favorite cut, he does have a least favorite—the mushroom/bowl cut. The early 90s were a tough time for Carmelo.
Some of his most extravagant requests have historically come around the time of the Big Game, when he claims he has to turn some clients away because of the obscenity of words or phrases students want shaved in their hair.
A man who looks straight into your eyes with disarming candor, Cogliandro is described by Joseph Isiai, a coworker, as “personal, generous, smart, laid back and always willing to help.”
At 70 years old, this bastion of Stanford life looks forward to serving for at least another decade as owner of Stanford Hair.
“I might work fewer hours, I’m starting to wear down a little, but I hope to be around for the next 10 years,” Cogliando said.
Although Cogliando is currently not cutting hair because of a foot injury, he comes in every day to help make his clients feel comfortable. He hopes to be back in action in a month.
“I have nine or 10 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners as regulars, and [University President] John Hennessy just came through an hour ago,” he said. “It’s not the job that has kept me, it’s the people.”
And although Cogliandro never cut Andrew Luck’s hair—the quarterback prefers to style it himself—Luck came into the shop on a regular basis to chat.
“It has been my privilege,” Cogliando said about his time at Stanford. “I always ask myself how I got so lucky.”