I’ve always had a bit of a phobia about having my hair cut. Back when I was living in a small town in North Wales, I guess I didn’t really have to worry about it too much, as I always went to the barbers shop owned by Chris Dawson. Chris was – and still is – a really good friend of the family, and going to see him was never a chore. But of course, Chris didn’t work alone, and I always lived in terror of getting Clive or any one of the revolving cast of co-barbers that Chris had at any point. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust anyone but Chris – it was just that I really didn’t trust anyone but Chris, and lived in perpetual fear of being given an accidental mohican.
So as a eleven year old boy, I used to sit one of the wicker chairs in the ‘waiting room’, trying to pretend to read the Daily Mirror, while all the time anxiously trying to work out whether I was going to be forced into having my hair cut by anyone other than Chris. Sometimes I’d be convinced that all was going to be OK, the numbers all falling into place at the right time. But then I’d realise that one of the customers ahead of me in the queue was actually waiting for his mate and didn’t need a hair cut at all, prompting a desperate mathematical rethink and further minutes of distress.
Of course, nothing ever went wrong. Although anybody looking at pictures of my hairstyle shortly after I left Buckley to head to university would surely disagree. At college I was out of my comfort zone, given that Chris wouldn’t travel 150 miles just to cut my barnet. Of course, I could (and probably did) try to last a whole term without a haircut. But having realised that girls weren’t particular fans of the moptop look in 1992, I knew that desperate times called for desperate measures. And that meant stepping into an American-themed hairdressers around the corner from college.
My theory with hair at that point – and it’s still true now – is that the more you have to pay, the less likely they are to make you look like Pat Sharpe. Back in 1992, paying the princely sum of £9.50 on a student grant was quite a stretch, especially as I was used to paying £1.50 (of my mum or dad’s money) for a haircut at Chris’s. But it was worth it, given that this was the first place I ever had my hair washed by someone who didn’t have the same surname as me. As I lay back, I always imagined it was Glynis Barber or Susan Dey from LA Law who was gently massaging my head. In reality, it was more often than not a spotty fourteen year old who picked her nose before she put conditioner into my hair.
Still, they at least managed to convince me to get rid of my floppy fringe, and from then on there was no stopping me. That’s a lie, actually. For about three years after I left university, I would travel back at great expense just to get my hair cut so that I didn’t have to pick a new place. When I eventually moved on, I found myself in a trendy place in Kentish Town called Kuttzone. Generally I live by a mantra that says ‘never trust any business that wilfully misspells its name’, but the fact that I remember Kuttzone’s name despite only living in Kentish Town for six months suggests that they did something right. It also suggests that I spent about four years going there, even after I moved to Wandsworth in South West London – a good hour or so away by national rail, tube and bus.
Since then, I’ve probably had about two more hairdressers, notably Northcut on Northcote Road in Battersea. The only time I ever freestyled with my hair was when I went to a place at the bottom of my road in Mortlake out of sheer desperation. So short was the haircut I received, that I barely required a cut for a good six months afterwards. Never again.
Of course, all this put me in a dilemma when I moved to New York six weeks ago. Clearly, I had my hair cut on my second to last day in the UK, to ensure that I was at least covered for a while. But with a wedding only five days away, today was the day to take my life into my own hands, and enter a hairdressing salon laughably known as a “beauty lab”.
When people say that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language, what they’re actually referring to is the world of hairdressing. Asking for a “grade four” was met with a quizzical look, and a question about what a “grayfull” was. “Blending in” was off the radar, and I probably took my life into my own hands by talking about my fringe rather than “my bangs”. I guess I needn’t describe her face when I told her that the only product I used in my hair was Fudge.
Actually the haircut hasn’t turned out too badly. As Soon To Be Wife said when I returned home, it could probably have done with being a bit shorter, as it looks like I had it done about two weeks ago. Given that I generally hate the first two weeks after I’ve had my hair cut though, maybe that’s no bad thing.
At least I’ve made that initial first leap into the unknown. I just hope I don’t ever move to Los Angeles though – a trip to a beauty lab in Manhattan every six weeks could start getting pricey.