As a boy, I had my barnet barbered by Mr. Frank Shakespeare. He was among the last of a dying breed of local men’s hairdressers, with a large clientele of men who had never patronised any other cutter. He was desperately old fashioned, and as a child I hated going there. He knew two cuts: short back and sides, slicked back with a side part, and the crew cut. The place reeked of oils and treatments, old men and old leather. He knew all the talk, but then, he knew everyone inside out. No appointment necessary – everyone waited his turn – Mr. Shakespeare did a good trade. On a Saturday, you might have waited for two hours. I reminisce with a faint nostalgia. I don’t think he was a good barber, but he was certainly better than the all those who followed, with the buzzed bonces they created. Shakespeare lacked drama, but he had character.
Most men couldn’t care less about their hair. Many of those who do so spend hours making themselves look like a sticky greasy mess, except for at the back, which gets no attention at all. Well-groomed men top their image with an incongruous ‘messy look’, and elegance everywhere is confused with ruggedness. The occasional individual pulls off a look, but for each of these there are ten who labour under the misapprehension that mullets, pony tails, and clipper-art still look good, if in fact they ever did. My hair is the least likeable thing about me (I think). It is limp, straight, unruly, and seems deliberately to confound all attempts to make it neat. It does these things despite the treatment I furnish upon it, and despite its bespoke tailoring by the best barber I’ve ever had.
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