Meet Bill Stollberg: The Michigan Man who cuts Jim Harbaugh's hair
Three days before Jim Harbaugh's coaching debut at Michigan Stadium, Bill Stollberg stands in the corner of State Street Barber Shop, a razor in his hand. He has cut hair in this spot 41 years.
A shrine for Michigan football surrounds him. Jerseys of Wolverine legends line the walls, names like (Desmond) Howard, (Tom) Brady and, of course, Harbaugh, inscribed on the nameplates. References to legendary coach Bo Schembechler and famed announcer Bob Ufer fill the empty nooks and crannies. A sign that reads "State St. Barbershop Welcome Coach Harbaugh" sits on the sidewalk.
The small shop is a natural hotspot for Michigan sports, located just a few blocks from the Big House and down the street from most of the school's athletic administration offices. Stollberg counts the coaches of Michigan wrestling, field hockey, gymnastics and swimming and diving among his clients, in addition to numerous Wolverine fans who have received haircuts from Stollberg for decades.
"The man, the myth, the legend," customer Matt Helfen said of Stollberg as he received his haircut.
But it is one of Stollberg's newest clients who has created the most excitement around the shop. Harbaugh, who returned to Ann Arbor at the end of 2014 to turn around Michigan's football program, has been a frequent customer since his hiring. Stollberg even occasionally cut Harbaugh's hair when the coach was a young child and his father, Jack, was a coach at Michigan.
Stollberg treats Harbaugh no differently than he treats the rest of his customers, noting that the coach—like everyone else—pays for his haircuts. When he arrives, Harbaugh tends to sit down in a chair next to the entrance and read a newspaper while waiting his turn. If a younger child is present, he'll oblige selfie requests.
When Stollberg cuts Harbaugh's hair, he tries to make sure football isn't the main topic of conversation, figuring that's all everyone wants to talk to Harbaugh about. They instead discuss family, vacations and even the Detroit Tigers.
That is not the case with Stollberg's other customers. These days, all they want to talk about is Harbaugh and Michigan football.
Stollberg, in all of his years of facilitating conversation while cutting hair, has never seen the current level of excitement. His clients discuss wearing khakis in Harbaugh's honor during this weekend's game against Oregon State, and their expectations for this season. Stollberg says to give Harbaugh a couple of years before expecting national titles.
"Everybody's talking about it," Stollberg said. "People who never talked football before are talking about it. It's … everybody."
"I'm probably the only guy in the city that doesn't care," laughs Helfen, who swears by Stollberg's haircuts.
Ann Arbor's most famous resident apparently leaves the barber shop satisfied as well. Stollberg hung a framed copy of a May edition of Sports Illustrated with Harbaugh's picture on the front. It resides right next to where he works. The magazine cover includes a personal message:
"To Bill," it reads. "State Street Barber Shop—The best in North America!—Jim Harbaugh."
Stollberg has developed a sort of barber's rapport with Harbaugh. The coach's haircut request hardly varies, so Stollberg knows what he wants. The barber does his best to deliver, describing Harbaugh's preferred haircut like it could be a diagrammed football play.
"A nice high fade, combs over to the left," Stollberg said.
Max Cohen is SI's campus correspondent at the University of Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.