Breaking Up With My Hairdresser

Mercian Man
4 min readJun 13, 2021

Taking back ownership of my hair

Atikah Akhtar — Unsplash

A colleague of mine once said you can either go for a tit rub or a haircut. I am not in that camp, his opinion is too polarized for me, but maybe there is some truth in his assertion.

The best haircut I ever had was in England from a traditional gentleman’s barber. No appointment, no fuss. You walked past the window, counted the number of men patiently waiting. In those days, prior to smartphones, they would be reading the tabloid papers and well-thumbed auto magazines. Each man would take 10 to 15 minutes to cut, and if there were not too many waiting, you walked in. I wasted many lunch hours walking to the barbers only to find too many waiting. He was always busy. You could wait an hour, maybe more. He was the best barber in town. He had two other men cutting alongside, but you wanted him. You let others go before you. You wanted Joe. This was a city, with a top football team, and the players came in here to be cut by Joe. All the team’s ex-pros came in. Not for silly haircuts but for a traditional man’s cut. Joe knew them all. He was focused and quiet, and the scissors cut fast and very precisely. He never washed my hair, just sprayed water from a plastic bottle to damp it down. As he cut you, you listened to the banter in the shop but there was no requirement to talk. You walked out looking a million dollars for 10 quid.

Joe cut my hair before my second wedding. Perfect, I actually look good in the photos. Then he died. So young, so unexpected. They boarded up his shop.

There followed a period in the wilderness of haircuts where I had no regular barber and I moved to America.

Here I discovered an aging Italian barber in my new home town, there was never a queue here. He liberally covered my neck in talcum powder and cut very slow, and I mean really slow. I suspect many days he had only one customer or less. The second cut was the last he gave me. I turned to my wife’s hairdresser in desperation.

First of all, I felt very awkward going into a lady’s hairdresser, this did not feel man-friendly. Alien is a word that comes to mind. The very word “hairdresser”, is girlie. My dad never in his life went to a hairdresser or used a hairdryer.

Second, I don’t really have much hair anymore. A quick polish is all I really need. However, my hair apparently now needs to be washed first. On entry, I am ushered to the back of the saloon, and Steph, the owner unbuttons my shirt collar. For a brief moment, I feel her touch on my neck. Her touch is not sexual, but it’s still intimate. She places a clean hot towel on my neck before I lie back against the cold rim of the sink and she starts to wash my scalp. I can smell the sink, a distinctive smell of hair saloon.

“How are you?”, what does one reply?

“Fine”.

I walk to her chair with a towel over my shoulders and damp hair. I am the only man in the saloon. An intruder. She removes the towel and wraps me in a black cape. I look at myself in her mirror.

Prior to COVID, I used to tell Steph about my business trips, but her grasp of geography is limited and her attention span is short, or maybe she’s just not that interested. With Joe, there was no need to speak. I liked that. She is an attractive 60 something, and ladies believe me you can be sixty-plus and very attractive. We chat until she is distracted. Fuck I hate that, halfway through a conversation and she walks off to attend to something else. She trims my eyebrows and then applies “Product”. All of this would be great if she cut my hair short but Steph likes me with longer hair.

When I turned up for my first post lockdown haircut, she almost refused to cut it. I looked like I was back in the 1970s. She loved it, showering me with praise. After some discussion, I managed to persuade her to take 1/2 inch off just to tidy it up.

Today I had asked her to cut it shorter.

“How’s that”.

I smile and agree. Tip Steph heavily and walk out into the early evening light.

The wife laughs as I come through the door with my hair smacked down across my bald head. What do I do?

I take the easy option and booked again for 4 weeks’ time.

I’ve lost control of my hair.

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Mercian Man

I write about life and the experiences that make us stronger. I enjoy Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile, Annie Proulx & Mervyn Peake.