I think hairdressers do a very difficult job. If like me, you have been well affected by bad hair days then you probably know what I mean. I used to literally not want to get out of the house when my hair looked bad. Once I had my head shaved, only to change my mind half-way telling the person cutting my hair to stop. I was so ashamed by what my head looked like that it took me 3 days to feel confident enough again to see other people. I’m glad bad hair is not that much of an issue these days (I’m now obsessing over the size of my belly), but still my relationship with hairdressers is not that simple.
The time I’m writing this I haven’t had my hair cut for two-three months. I assume that going to the barber is a simple task for most people, especially because they found someone they like who they regularly go to. Living the nomad life forced me to have to visit different new barbers in different cities. Each barber a unique experience. Each experience one more reason not to want to have my hair cut ever again.
Reason no 1: Barbers like to talk
A lot of barbers like to engage in small-talk. I hate small talk. I think it’s sometimes necessary to warm things up, but what I find problematic about it is that small-talk usually leads to not so small-talk questions that underly assumptions. In Greece, for example I usually get asked if I have any children which implies that a) I’m straight, b) I’m married, c) our only purpose in life is to have children. I’d love to answer honestly, telling them why I think this question is problematic and how it makes me feel being asked something like this but when I have my hair cut I don’t really want to get into these sort of discussions. I want to relax and enjoy the attention. Also the last thing I want is to get in such a debate with a man who holds a pair of scissors in his hands.
Reason no 2: Barbers are businessmen
Barbers are business people. Some of them are very passionate about their businesses. They will be chatty and extremely friendly and that feels nice – only to realise later that it’s not because of their big, warm heart, but because they want your money. Wanting my money is not a problem per se, it’s the inauthentic behaviour I have a big problem with.
I’ve been to one such barber a few months back. His haircuts were one of the best ones I’ve had, but he was pushy like hell. Even if I was explicit in telling him I’m not interested in buying anything else, he offered to wash my beard with that beautiful new shampoo, brushed it with that nice wooden brush and asked me again and again if I’m sure I didn’t want to buy them. I eventually said yes, telling myself that it would be nice to treat myself to something like this. Before I left he wanted to connect on facebook and asked me to write a review for him on Google. I left feeling pissed off at myself for having spent £25 I didn’t plan spending and yet again for being so easily convinced by his charming manner. But what pissed me off even more was the ease in which he was playing his subtle manipulative game. It felt as if for him it was okay to do that – and it was actually okay because in his words “a business is a business and you got to do what you got to do”. I never went back and never wrote a review. Even now I’m thinking about writing one and actually telling the truth – which is that had he not been so pushy I’d have given him 5 stars without him asking and I’d have become his loyal customer.
Reason no 3: barbers have opinions
Here’s the thing: It’s been a long journey but I’m pretty happy with the way my head looks. I learned to love my baldy head, my scruffy beard, my moustache covering my lips and my hairy neck. It’s part of who I am. But It’s something only a few barbers seem to get.
Despite being clear about all this with many barbers, a lot of them don’t seem to get it. Most will shave my neck super clean, trim my moustache up high, cut my hair shorter than I want them to and almost all of them will leave the hair at the top side of my head longer so that it covers my baldness. Most of the times I’ll have to cut it a bit more myself when I go back home. And I get it; they have their own ideas about what looks good and what not – which is obviously affected by society’s standards of beauty. But who are the haircuts for? Me or them?
I recently became aware of Open Barbers, a barbers’ shop in London that addressed all these issues. They’ve created a safe space for people of all genders and sexualities and they seem to have an accepting, open and understanding quality in their approach. Unfortunately there’s nothing similar I found in Berlin or anywhere in Greece. There are a couple of barbers though that I enjoy going to – I explain what I like about them below.
With one of them we simply agree on how I’d like my head and beard to look like. He’s super cheap and super quick so there’s no window for uncomfortable conversations. It all works fine right now, but I doubt it will continue to work if my taste and what I’m looking for changes (it most definitely will at some point).
The other one is actually my favourite. He’s a bit expensive and his haircuts are not perfect, but that’s not the main reason I go there. Unlike other places, there’s no chit-chat. No one actually usually talks at all apart from the necessary. It’s a men only place but you’ll find all sorts of men: locals, tourists, straight, gay. It’s usually busy but I love sitting there quietly next to the other men, reading my book while waiting for my turn. The barber is a bit macho but kind and friendly, the music is nice and no matter how simple my haircut is, he will take his time. It feels like he’s enjoying the process as much as I do. I sit on the comfortable chair, I explain what I need briefly and then I just sit there enjoying the attention, the physical contact, the sweetness of the music and the relaxing atmosphere. It’s the perfect opportunity to be fully present; to enjoy being alive.