Joeblade

Getting a haircut

Like most metrosexual males, I get my hair cut at a hair salon. I stopped going to a barber after too many years of having my request for a grade 2 undercut blindly accepted when what I actually needed was an intervention of some kind. Hang on, are we still called metrosexuals? I lose track.

Anyway, my first visit to a hair salon had me hooked; suddenly there were people interested in making me look better, not in simply making sure that I left with less hair than I came in with. Also, they offered me drinks; tea, coffee, elderflower pressĂ©. Nice to be asked, but I couldn’t see how you could avoid drinking hair clippings, unless they served them in some sort of sippy cup. Actually now I think about it, there’s probably a hipster salon in Shoreditch somewhere where they do just that.

The only downside is the inane small talk. While a good barber maintains a dignified stoicism at all times and the visit is as conversational as a trip to the gents, a hair salon is a place of conversation and gossip. “What are you doing this weekend?” I’m asked, to which the answer is usually a brusk “Getting a haircut”. I’m not being rude or sarcastic here, this is genuinely all I’m likely to be doing.

To date there has been only one hairdresser that I was able to hold an actual conversation with, and then only after several months of haircuts spent cautiously and gently breaking down my resolve. She knew her stuff. You can’t just start talking to me and expect results; in conversational terms, one must approach me in the same way a horse whisperer approaches a horse. Eventually most hairdressers give up and do the whole thing in an awkward silence and we’re like a couple that’s had an argument just before the guests arrive. I’m pretty sure they add notes to my file because even stylists I’ve never seen before no longer bother trying to engage me. I would tell them I’m grateful for this, but, you know, that’d be a conversation.

After going to the same place for the last few years I was disappointed to find that my local hair salon had hired a barber. Not just a male hairdresser; they actually referred to him as ‘The Barber’ as if he was a Jason Statham film. I was left in the rough, calloused hands of a man with tattoos, a flat cap and a foot-wide forcefield of BrĂĽt. In fairness he got the “do not try and have a conversation with this customer” requirement down pat, but what used to be a relaxing 20 minutes of being gently touched and preened by a young woman dressed just to the edge of inappropriate sluttiness became more of a mild assault.

My head was pushed around, he made aggressive assumptions about blow-drying and product, he stopped at one point to check a text message and, in a major faux-pas, he attempted to remove my glasses for me. Just grabbed them without warning! Who the hell does that? If I had a hearing aid and it was in the way you wouldn’t just pull it out, would you? Well, maybe you would if you were a barber, I don’t know. This is important: do not take someone’s glasses from them, particularly not mine. I don’t care who you are; I will punch you in the face. Assuming I can see it, of course.

What makes this all worse is that he actually gave me the best haircut I’ve had in years, so in a couple of months when it’s all grown back and I’m once again looking like a cross between Ludo and Leo Sayer I’m going to end up asking for him again, crawling back to my abuser and thanking him for it. I envy the bald during these times, though of course the rest of the time I’m too busy running my hands through my thick, lustrous mane to worry about it.

By Paul Haine, in