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?
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.