The bar­ber-shop canon

Country Life Every Week - - Spectator -

WE’VE got a lot to do today,’ says Will, a few days be­fore leav­ing for univer­sity. ‘I need to be a me­dieval jester to­mor­row night. And I need a hair­cut.’ The first of th­ese state­ments means I rig up a very pe­cu­liar pair of trousers on the sewing ma­chine, made from a table­cloth he has bought at the charity shop and on which I no­tice some an­cient crusti­ness. ‘I think this needs a wash,’ I sug­gest. ‘Nah, don’t bother,’ he replies. I move on to the elas­ti­cated ruff.

The sec­ond re­quest means a chair, a bot­tle of wine and the kitchen scis­sors. ‘Have you no­ticed how many bar­ber shops there are th­ese days?’ I ask. I re­cently walked down a Lon­don street where there are now three, when last year, there were none. ‘Not re­ally,’ comes the muf­fled re­sponse from be­hind a cur­tain of hair.

Hav­ing just re­vised by watch­ing the Youtube video that first told me how to give a de­cent trim, I know you have to start with all the hair for­ward to get your base­line. I tilt my own head this way and that, but noth­ing seems to line up as I’d hoped. This may be be­cause we can’t find a comb. ‘Ever thought of visit­ing one?’ I ven­ture. ‘I pre­fer the kitchen,’ he coun­ters.

‘And have you no­ticed how many women do their make-up on pub­lic trans­port?’ I go on, as hair­dresser to client. He shakes his head: an er­ror.

I de­scribe the woman sit­ting op­po­site me yes­ter­day, who made the whole tran­si­tion from naked face to full mask with breath­tak­ing skill: the base layer, foun­da­tion, spot con­cealer, un­der-the-eye bag con­cealer, the sculpt­ing of cheek­bones with three types of blusher, eye­shadow, eye­liner, mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions of mas­cara, li­pliner and, fi­nally, lip­stick—dur­ing eight stops on the Cir­cle line.

I know it’s rude to stare, but I don’t think it mat­tered as she had a sort of in­vis­i­ble cube around her and her phone while bal­anc­ing all th­ese items on her lap. I felt I was watch­ing some­thing I shouldn’t—and, to me, this per­for­mance is about as per­sonal as get­ting dressed in pub­lic— but this is my prob­lem; she couldn’t see me. ‘What’s your point?’ asks the client.

‘I think my point is that some peo­ple now com­mit the most per­sonal of acts in front of strangers, but you want your hair cut in the pri­vacy of our kitchen…’ Be­fore I can con­tinue with this vague train of thought, which might any­way lead to a break­down in the client re­la­tion­ship, Zam re­turns home, hav­ing ear­lier left his wal­let in a Lon­don taxi.

This was mirac­u­lously re­turned to him, be­cause the driver found his Salmon & Trout Con­ser­va­tion UK mem­ber­ship card, rang the as­so­ci­a­tion, which rang his of­fice, which rang Zam, who rang the driver and who, ‘be­cause I’m in the area, as it hap­pens’, agreed to meet him at Water­loo. ‘Amaz­ing,’ I say. ‘Have you no­ticed how many bar­ber shops there are th­ese days?’ asks Zam.

The client groans at the repet­i­tive na­ture of his par­ents’ ob­ser­va­tions and I de­cide to leave the rest of the hair­cut to a friend who is stay­ing with us, which means nei­ther of us can take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for what’s hap­pen­ing to Will’s head.

‘It’s of­fi­cial,’ I tell Zam tri­umphantly. ‘Bar­ber shops are num­ber one.’ I’ve looked at the Lo­cal Data Com­pany re­port on shops open­ing and clos­ing in the UK and bar­ber shops top the list of the 10 most-opened shops. They are fol­lowed by mo­bile-phone shops, to­bac­conists/e-cig­a­rette ven­dors, cafes, restau­rants, hair sa­lons, nail sa­lons, beauty sa­lons, Amer­i­can restau­rants and health clubs. In that or­der.

On the most-closed list, hair­dressers come ninth. I don’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese and hair sa­lons, but I do know that bar­bers are on the in­crease. I pour an­other glass of wine and look at the client. It re­ally is time he went to one.

‘To me, do­ing make-up is like get­ting dressed in pub­lic

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