The Trust in the Barber

The power to ruin your day … month even, in the palm of a stranger’s hand and scissors.

As I sat there, trapped in a chair cloth, and staring at my own reflection, I realised just how much power a barber wields over my short-term experiences going forward.

As always, I flashback to the moment when I decided to roll the dice and get a haircut at a local shopping centre unisex hairdresser.

My request for an undercut went … horribly wrong.

I remember looking at the mirror with an increasing amount of concern as the hairdresser continued to fuck up cut after cut, until the sight of my awful haircut was now too far removed what I imagined it should look like that I stopped her and said that was enough.

But the damage was already too much and there was no denying just how amateurish the whole style on my head was.

Aghast at the result, I tried to go to my usual barber whose instant feedback told me all I needed to know ….

What fucking pelican did this to you mate?

He did his best but couldn’t save it.

The timing of course, could not be worse. I was applying for a new job within the next 3 days and I looked like I had just left prison and had most of my hair shaven off.

My new manager was astonished at how bad it was, but fortunately during my trial shift, I worked so hard, that I impressed her enough to grant me the job.

But the lasting memory here is, just how much power there is, to ruin or improve your fortunes for the next few weeks, in the hands of a stranger.

And it is not only an aesthetic thing either … one mishap, they could cut your ear, burst a pimple or even draw blood across your throat with a close-shave.

Your life literally lies in their hands.

It’s fascinating how much trust we place in our hairdressers. Their entire profession is built around trust. We always go back to the same barbershop or salon and request the exact person who did our hair the last time. Some customers are so particular, that they will skip another free barber, just to wait for the guy who did their hair last time, extending their wait time by another whole half hour.

The importance of getting a good haircut is paramount.

For someone of my “aesthetic” shall we say, it can mean the difference between people considering me attractive or just plain average.

Knowing that fact, and realising when a haircut is done right, to my specifications and aesthetic, it is a huge relief to walk away happy, after parting with a considerable amount of money for a few snips.

And this is coming from a male perspective … and a lazy one at that.

I don’t put any products in my hair, whether it be dye or gel, nor do I style in a particularly extravagant way. It’s been the same for the past 6 years …. ever since I fell in love with Cillian Murphy’s style in the iconic Peaky Blinders.

A skin-fade on the side and just cut it short on top. Thank you.

15 words and then I fall silent and watch the barber go to work, shaping my head anew.

It’s a lazy, attractive style that suits me the best. I don’t need to do anything to it in the morning. Shampoo, conditioner and voila …. hair maintenance is performed during the shower. It also shows off my head shape the best too, and I have noticed the glances at me from the public are more frequent once I get a fresh cut.

But most importantly, it is functional in a fight, with nothing for people to grab if we get into a scrap.

During the COVID lockdown, my hair was the longest it had ever been since high school and I even took the drastic measure of buying a razor and cutting it off myself. The difference in weight and appearance was remarkable.

But in all honesty, it still looked shit and there was absolutely nothing I could do about that.

If you think that this is a strange topic to discuss, I can’t help but point out the history of hairdressing and its importance to us as vain human beings.

Ever since the ancient times, hair mattered a lot. Ancient Greece stressed the importance of the job in society. African people consider it a way of talking to the divine, because it was the closest part of your body to the heavens.

And if you look at it functionally, we don’t have much hair anywhere else, and it is an essential factor when judging the attractiveness of a person’s facial features. How we style it, like I’ve mentioned before, can be the crucial difference between a date and a quiet night. After all, there is only some much styling one can do with the pubic and chest hair … and those aren’t even seen on a regular basis.

If you look at the history of hairstyles too, you can see an incredible evolution of what has come and what is in current style. Men and women have gone from the 80s big hair style to the freedom to essentially wearing whatever retro or vogue style one wants. Dye is now more popular than ever, and there is an almost androgynous element to many styles that is popularised by the influx of Asian pop music in the mainstream.

Even going bald, and accepting that gracefully is almost the norm now.

To hammer in the importance of hairdressing in today’s society, I want to stress that in order to become one here, in Australia, you need 18 months of full-time study before you can become one.

18 months … to wield a pair of scissors and a comb.

I used to think that it was a simple job, after all, I cut my own hair during the lockdown, but the skill gap between my shabby effort and that of a professional is painfully obvious. The moment the lockdown ended, I walked out and into a barbershop and have never touched the razor again.

I never used to consider getting a haircut a priority, but nowadays, I can’t help but feel better about my own appearance, by scheduling in a monthly appointment. My hair grows relatively quickly and I actually detest how messy it can get up there.

Even when wearing hats, I notice that I look better with less hair. It is incredible the boost of confidence I get when I get a fresh fade. It just makes me feel lighter, better and more ready to tackle the world.

Hence I don’t mind the monthly maintenance cost.

So, think of this post in the vein of a PSA …

Show some more respect to your hairdresser and remember that they have the power to ruin you for a whole month. Or improve your standing in society for a solid 2 weeks.

So, you better tip them well.

~ Damocles.

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