are you going out tonight?" "Booked your holiday yet?"
Standard hairdresser questions in England and for all I know the
standard questions of all hairdressers the world over.
Years ago I used to have a kind of fear of hairdressers. Why? Well
I don't know. Much the same reason why some people won't go visit
the dentist I suppose. Though it wasn't so much a fear with me,
more like an irrational aversion. [As an aside, I would say that
as far as dentists are concerned I don't fear them as much as I
fear their bill!]
When I moved 'up North' I chose a Barbers shop in Liverpool City
Centre. It was situated in a place called 'The Palace' which was
a kind of den of capitalist iniquity, full of shops selling incense
sticks, body piercings, posters of bands with guys looking angry
or miserable, clothes
that you thought looked cool until you saw someone else wearing
them a couple of years or so later, and loud music thumping and
thudding from every shop causing the inside of the building to
throb and vibrate with no particular rhythm at all.
You didn't need an appointment at the Barbers in the Palace, you
simply turned up and took a seat while you waited for one of the
call you over and give you the royal treatment, so to speak. I'd
leaf through the battle worn selection of magazines deemed suitable
other glossy magazines packed with page after page of barely clothed
women, fast cars, cool computers and various other boy toys. After
a while I would eventually realize that the magazine I was reading
was in actual fact the same one I read last time I was there and
the only reason it looked different is because it was simply more
beaten up than before.
Eventually it would be my turn. The guy would say "Do you
want to come over?" as if maybe I had just been sitting there
all that time for no reason and would say "No, it's alright,
I'm just sitting here."
I'd step up to the chair, a huge black chair that wouldn't look
out of place in a dental surgery. I'd take my seat then the guy
would pump a foot lever that elevated me to a higher level. And
now I'm in position. Ready to be de-styled in the same way that
sheep are by farmers.
We'd have a brief conversation about style and then the guy would
simply give me the same haircut he just gave the last guy and the
guy before him. Not a bad cut you understand, but in all honesty
not a particularly goon one either.
"So, you busy at work then?" he would ask, affording
me an opportunity to launch into a conversation of dullisms.
"No, not really."
Snip, snip. Snip snip snip.
There would be a silence while he worked and I starred awkwardly
at my reflection. Then he'd make conversation attempt number two.
"Did you see the game last night?"
Snip, snip. Snip snip snip.
Sometimes we would exchange a few sentences. We'd talk about music,
the weather, holidays or something as equally forgettable. Then
he'd remove the cape from around my shoulders, brush around my neck
with this huge brush that looked like Tina Turner in concert. He'd
show me the back of my head with a mirror and I would say "Great."
to which he would put the mirror down lower the chair and I'd stand
up and make my way over to the till.
"That's four pounds please mate"
I'd give him a five pound note and say "Keep the change."
To which he'd genuinely say "Cheers" and give me a 'come
It was a routine I kept for some years, even after I moved to my
current apartment which is above a hair dressing salon. It took
me nearly a year before one of the girls from downstairs cut my
You see the barber shop in Liverpool was good because even though
it wasn't the best cut ever, you knew it wouldn't be a long drawn
out thing. Getting a cut there was like going on a military sting
operation. You knew what you had to achieve, you went in, got
job done and got out, pronto! Shorter hair, mission accomplished.
Paula was a baptism of fire for a man with a fear of hairdressers.
Aside from being chatty and full of life, Paula was also much
on the eye than my previous 'stylist.' But she came with two very
big problems for a male customers, and they were right on eye
once you were sat in the chair!
I'd have to sit there mentally telling myself to look at my reflection
while she bent over me snipping away and asking me about something
nondescript. Better men than me must have cracked
under this pressure in the past surely. Now I understood why Barber
shops were invented. Though Bettie, the owner, once commented
that Paula was 'good for business' in that respect.
Snip snip, snip snip snip.
Eventually as I got to know the girls downstairs better they started
to mess around with my never before styled hair. They've given me
spiky blue hair three times so far, spiky green hair once, made
me blonde quite a few times and more recently got me wearing a kind
of messy Mohican kind of style.
These days the customers of the salon downstairs are very familiar
with me, 'Simon, the lad from upstairs'. I go out on staff nights
out and Christmas dinners with the girls, and more than a few people
around where I live assume that I am actually a hairdresser myself.
In fact, I've even helped out in the Salon on two occasions when
they've been short staffed. Washing hair and neutralizing perms.
It's always a laugh because it's such a break from the normal routine
for everyone when I've done that.
I'm not very good at it though I don't think. I get water in peoples
ears when I wash their hair, but having said that I made good tips
on both occasions. Last time one lady even tipped me despite the
fact I didn't even do anything for her. She just laughed and said
the tip was for the sheer comedy value of having me there.
And in a final twist of irony, the last time I helped out, while
I washed someone's hair I got to ask them a standard hairdresser
"So, have you got you're holiday booked this year then?"