A year or so ago, the
ladies hairstylist in my village began to
advertise haircuts for men, so I gave it a try.
The results seemed fine to
me. Ive never been that discerning about
haircuts, and, in any case, I tend to see my own
on just a couple of occasions each day when I
glance in the bathroom mirror.
After my visits to the
local salon, however, my wife began to comment on
her dislike of the manner in which Janet, our
village hair designer (as she was
described on her sign), had cut my hair.
I never understood the
stylistic subtleties to which she was referring
and so had no way of describing them to Janet.
Come with me when I
next have a haircut, I suggested. Janet
tells me that shes been styling hair for
twenty-five years. Im sure shed
appreciate some innovative new suggestions for
improving her technique.
Sadly, my wife declined to
offer her expertise.
Photographs would have been
another way to convey the coiffuristic nuances
that my wife had in mind, and for a while I took
to pointing to celebrities on the television for
inspiration. Should I look more like Brad
Pitt, I questioned, or David Beckham
or Leonardo DiCaprio?
Personally, I was not too
keen on any such option being regularly
stopped in the High Street to sign autographs
might have become rather tedious. My wife felt
that the risks were probably small although she
never identified a suitable celebrity photograph.
Two factors then led to a
radical change in approach to the design of my
The first followed from the
nature of the conversations in which Janet
attempted to engage me while sculpting her next
Women hairstylists have
never really got the hang of proper barbershop
dialogue. Not once, for example, did Janet ever
mention football or horseracing. I have little
interest in either of those topics, but tradition
is tradition and not to have them broached while
sitting in a barbers chair feels to someone
of my generation like omitting Land of Hope
and Glory from the last night of the Proms.
This is not to say that no
aspects of barbershop dialogue have evolved over
the years. One is no longer offered something
for the weekend, for example which
excludes the possibility of requesting a copy of the
Radio Times or some nice bedding plants to
brighten up the herbaceous border.
In contrast to time-honoured
barbershop banter, Janets lines of
discourse frequently covered holidays, local
events and family celebrations. It was all rather
girly to the point that I feared she might one
day try to talk about feelings.
The second factor that
changed my coiffuristic direction in life emerged
at just the time when my hair had once again
begun to obscure my vision.
I was pondering the problem
of its forthcoming creative experience as I
walked through the shopping mall in my local town.
A space in the middle of one large thoroughfare
had been separated-off by low barriers. In that
space was a barber.
announced a sign at the entrance. That was half
the price charged by Janet.
A man sat in the barbers
chair, and just one other was waiting. It seemed
like a perfect opportunity.
I sat down in the waiting
area as the man in the barbers chair stood
up to pay for his cut. The next customer rose,
walked to the chair and sat down.
Howa ya doina, Boss?
said the barber as he came up behind the new
arrival. You wanna the usual?
He seems to know his
customers, I thought.
Judging from the barber's
accent, he was clearly Italian, and so, utilising
my in-depth knowledge of foreigners, I assumed
him to be called Luigi. I think it is true to say
that most Italians are called Luigi except
for the women, of course, who are mostly called
In what seemed like an
instant, the haircut was complete and Luigi was
beckoning for me to join him.
I walked to the chair and
Howa ya doina, Boss?
he said. You wanna the usual?
I reflected on the facts
that he and I had never met, he had used the same
introduction with the previous person and that
his last two customers had left with identical
He could have mistaken
me for one of his regulars, I speculated to
myself, but I doubt whether Brad Pitt, David
Beckham or Leonardo DiCaprio ever come here.
Ill have the
usual, Luigi, I replied, entering into the
spirit of the occasion and taking a chance on his
He did not seem to object
to being called Luigi, and so I never confirmed
that it was correct blokes dont like
to get too familiar.
Luigi started to remove my
hair with an electric clipper. Southampton,
they are nota doina so well in the Premiership,
Had I realised that I was
going to have my hair cut by a traditional barber,
I might have glanced at the sports pages and been
prepared for such a question. They havent
settled down since the start of the season,
I guessed, hoping I could get away with it
after all, if he was of the old school, he would
never listen to a customer's reply before moving
to the next topic.
You gotta any tipsa
for the races? he continued in the time-honoured
My best tip is dont
bet, my friend. I responded. The
bookies always win.
Ha ha. Familya wella?
he rapidly progressed.
I answered, slipping into barbershop banter of a
type I had not experienced for a very long time.
Hows Maria? I added before I
realised what I was saying.
Luigi responded with a hushed tone of caution in
You wife, Maria,
I guessed in the hope I could extricate myself
from the hole that I had just inadvertently begun
Oh, I thought you
might mean Maria Maria, Luigi
continued. We keepa that between us, yes?
If Maria ever founda out about Maria then Maria
woulda killa me.
I was awaiting our next
exchange when Luigi picked up a mirror to allow
me to see the back of my lead. The haircut was
over in less than four minutes.
No one willa
recognisea you, he said.
Ill be able to
go back into all the pubs Ive been banned
from, I replied, reflecting that this
response, together with my earlier quip about
racing tips, had not seen the light of day for
Youa needa to come
herea sooner ina the future, advised Luigi
as I was paying him. You hada too mucha
Ah, but you can
finish stuffing that mattress now, I
replied with another line that had lain dormant
for longer than I could remember.
haircut was a bit severe, but it would soon grow
Critically, however, Luigis
usual turned out to be the elusive
style sought by my wife.
Since that day I have
always had my hair cut by Luigi. He always
repeats his usual style and we engage
in much the same banter although I
tactfully avoid asking any further questions