21 November 2023

How much do you confide in your hairdresser?

| John Coleman

Do you chat to the barber? Photo: John Karlo Mendoza.

The relationship between hairdresser and client has to be more than simply transactional, or else we wouldn’t describe shopping around for a new haircut as ‘cheating’.

And we do describe it as cheating – when we’ve snuck back after a strange gap in appointments and tried to sit nonchalantly in the chair. A peer in the mirror shows Jean looking intently at our scalp.

“I didn’t do this, did I?”

No, Jean, you didn’t. I’m sorry. I’m back for good.

So it’s definitely more. And an adage runs thus: “You should have a good relationship with your doctor, your barber, and your tailor”. The question, though, is what defines good in such a relationship.

In my experience, good relationships are forged by plumbing the depths of human existence together with a wine, so how does this square with a 40-minute appointment?

Some hairdressers are onto the wine.

Locally, Truefitt and Hill on Genge Street offer a whisky alongside the haircut, though as a piece of trivia, the haircut costs exactly as much as the bottle. Bond Hair Religion in Green Square offers a chardonnay with the colour. But in each case, the hairdresser is not having one, so it feels a bit unequal. In fact, we must conclude that alcohol isn’t requisite for a good relationship with the barber.

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What about plumbing the depths of human existence in conversation? I have a friend who updates his barber on life and relationships. He came unstuck recently when regaling the failings of one individual.

“I know him,” his barber suddenly interrupted.

“Oh,” replied my friend, and the whirring of electric cutters filled the air for a good 10 minutes.

It reminded me of a passage from The Inspiration of Mr Budd by Dorothy Sayers: “It is a common jest among the unthinking that hairdressers are garrulous. This is their wisdom. The hairdresser hears many secrets and very many lies. In his discretion, he occupies his unruly tongue with the weather and the political situation, lest, restless with inaction, it plunge unbridled into a mad career of inconvenient candour”.

I wish they would plunge into a mad career of candour.

In the bridled small talk, I can’t think of what to say. I suspect hairdressers operate on the tacit code that Uber drivers operate on: ‘Let the other person lead the conversation’, but I’d be perfectly happy chiming in with an intermittent “you go, gurl”.

It’s not helped by the fact that if you proffer something too edgy, the freshly plucked eyebrows of the person next to you will go up, and if you utter something too vanilla, the razor will switch off and the hairdresser will lean in, only for you to repeat “WARM DAY TODAY ISN’T IT”.

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I know I can’t be alone in this agony because of the cartoon showing a dude trying to make chit-chat with his barber. “Yeah, I work down the road as an accountant. What do you do?” he asks.

“I’m a barber,” replies the barber.

Consequently, I think I’ve hit on the truth. Perhaps a relationship where you both trust each other implicitly, but in reality, say very little, is a good relationship.

Do you chat to your hairdresser/barber?

Original Article published by John Coleman on Riotact.

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