When I was growing up, I would get my hair cut at Tony’s Italian Barber in Bedford. There was a big Italian community in the town, due to the brickworks I think. Tony the owner would snip away, while his friends would sit around playing with strange cards. While waiting I would take the opportunity to “read” the Sun and the Mirror, and listen to Chiltern FM (“transmitted from the mighty Sandy Heath transmitter“) – not my usual media. It was a spare but efficient place – I remember Tony’s straight razor scraping the back of my neck several times. They had the amusing black-and-white photos of the haircuts you could get, but would never want, and aftershave and cologne in bottles that looked like pinecones. Next to the rattly old cash register was hung a card of styptic pencils, which would stop any bleeding you walked out with. There may have been a topless pinup.
I had long hair for a while.
At college I got a set of electric clippers and would cut my own hair, No. 2 all over. Alternatively I would go to the 3-chair barber inside Afflecks Palace, and watch TV or listen to the latest 808 State while getting a £5 trim.
In London I went to a small local place, and sometimes a place at Euston Station where they vacuumed your head afterward to avoid post-snip neck tickle. When I moved to the US, Cassie insisted I go to her stylist in LA. A very pleasant experience, complete with hair washing, fashionable magazines and comfortable sofas, but it did take up to three hours, especially when she was having her hair done at the same time. In San Francisco I have succumbed to Supercuts a couple of times, through necessity and convenience, but I’ve never been happy with the results.
Finally I tried to find a regular gent’s barber downtown near where I work. There are some very trendy places in SoMa and around the Mission, but even when they’re regular barbers they are so teeth-achingly knowingly “authentic” I don’t enjoy being there. The Original Palace Barber Shop on the corner of Mission and 2nd Street, just a couple of blocks from my office, turned out to be just the place I was looking for. I nearly missed it due to a droopy awning and the fact it’s tiny, but inside are six chairs, no space, and a good basic haircut.
In fact it reminded me of Tony’s – scuffed laminate wall cladding, lino worn through to tile, strange bottles and potions on skewiff shelving. I poked my head in, a lady at the back beckoned me in and sat me down, and she only spoke to ask what I wanted and to state the price. I will be going back.