Clip go the shears, boys

There’s a barber on ev­ery cor­ner these days, cater­ing for ev­ery variation of short back and sides. Where did guys go be­fore now?

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - LEAH MCFALL -

You know, if you ever want some­one to cut your throat, Wellington’s your best bet. Can you be­lieve the num­ber of bar­ber­shops in this city? I’m not just talk­ing about the tra­di­tional ones – the lit­tle win­dow­less boxes often tucked be­side es­ca­la­tors in base­ment malls, where an older guy with a hang­dog ex­pres­sion word­lessly clip­pers the back of some­one’s head.

Not just the hip­ster ones ei­ther, made out like an Ed­war­dian gentle­men’s club, al­though there are plenty. I haven’t seen a curlicued mous­tache for sev­eral months, though for a while there, you couldn’t move for ex­trav­a­gantly waxed han­dle­bars down on Ghuznee and Cuba streets.

There seems to be a barber on ev­ery cor­ner these days, cater­ing for ev­ery variation of short back and sides. Where did guys go be­fore now? Did they sneak into big-mir­rored sa­lons, sit­ting self-con­sciously be­side wet-haired women in vinyl bibs stuck all over with foil squares (women who, un­der other cir­cum­stances, they might find at­trac­tive)?

They were wel­come in these sa­lons, of course. Oc­ca­sion­ally they’d find a Maxim in a pile of Vogues, and might re­lax. But did these men feel, what – out­num­bered? Like they shouldn’t re­ally be there to wit­ness the ri­tual of women they’d al­ways be­lieved to be blonde, hav­ing their blon­de­ness ap­plied? Did they yearn for some­thing more fun­da­men­tal? Bloke on bloke? No cof­fee? No bis­cuit?

Well, now they have a safe space (safe from the tang of am­mo­nia, or a shi­atsu scalp mas­sage, or hair gel that smells like kumquats). The barber! Where they can say noth­ing, if they pre­fer, af­ter a sim­ple greet­ing that’s ei­ther two mono­syl­la­bles (“Hey, bro”) or a hand­shake that’s a cross be­tween a fin­ger snap and a knuckle-bump. If only things were so low main­te­nance at Toni & Guy.

I did a Dian Fossey last week. I sat in the un­der­growth tak­ing notes, for the pur­poses of un­der­stand­ing a so­cial group that was not mine. Not that I’m sug­gest­ing the men I was study­ing (at The God­fa­ther bar­ber­shop on Ghuznee St, if you must know) are any­thing like the moun­tain go­ril­las of Rwanda. My point is, I was not their kind: but they ac­cepted me.

Ge­orge, 5, needed a hair­cut. His was stand­ing up in odd places, sit­ting heav­ily on his neck, and re­fus­ing to co-op­er­ate. Ge­orge’s hair is just like mine – fine, thick, with ideas of its own. It was hid­ing him.

I chose The God­fa­ther not be­cause of the shiny chrome mo­tor­bike cocked out­side, but be­cause some­one had told me they were pa­tient with chil­dren. This sur­prised me be­cause… how can I put this? The am­bi­ence is kind of dark.

For one thing, the tat­too and pierc­ing ra­tio is off the chain. For an­other, the decor is some­what chal­leng­ing. There are grin­ning skulls, Franken­steins, busty car­toon girls and bur­lesque stars framed on the walls. There’s also a boxed pair of slip­pers on a shelf, in the shape of breasts. Weirdly, though, none of it feels sex­ist or in­tim­i­dat­ing. If any­thing, it’s ironic.

I hus­tled Ge­orge and Mad­die in­side. We sat in a cor­ner and waited an hour and 15 min­utes to be seen. This is how pop­u­lar this place is on a Sun­day morn­ing. (I’ve never waited more than an hour for any­thing in my life. It didn’t even take that long to have Ge­orge. In fact, one day I’ll tell him: “TWENTY-FIVE MIN­UTES I was in labour with you. Now go up­stairs and tidy your room; it’s the least you can do.”)

The kids and I gog­gled at ev­ery­thing. The stacked jars of hair lac­quer, the dusty bot­tles, the vin­tage cards tacked to the mir­rors; the squat lit­tle hot towel warmer, the fat brushes and thin blades and the gen­eral para­pher­na­lia of a mas­cu­line space, buzzing with noise.

Yo! Motherf.....! boomed the beat­box. I tit­tered ner­vously, though the kids didn’t no­tice. I tried to eaves­drop over the hip-hop. “Yeah, Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book was cool, man,” I over­heard. “Jen­nifer Lawrence was hot in that.”

“Ex­cuse me,” I could have cleared my throat, “you know she plays a griev­ing wife with a men­tal ill­ness in that movie, right?” But what point would it have made? Jen­nifer Lawrence WAS hot in that.

They were wel­come in sa­lons, but did men yearn for some­thing more fun­da­men­tal? Bloke on bloke? No cof­fee? No bis­cuit?

When it was time, Ge­orge was lifted onto a skate­board strad­dled across the arms of the old-school barber’s chair. A curl of pa­per was tied around his neck, and then a cape.

“How did they get there?” he asked the barber, in­di­cat­ing his skull tat­toos. Of his nose ring: “How did THAT get in there?” The barber laughed. He was so softly spo­ken, I couldn’t hear his re­ply.

I felt a rush of some­thing. My Brycreemed, sharply parted grand­fa­thers had done this. My Dad, as a kid, did too. It felt sim­ple. Harm­less. Good.

“Thank you for be­ing so pa­tient,” I said at the end. We went out into the sun­shine, and it kissed my lit­tle boy’s neck.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.