Tag Archives: Grooming

A Hair Cut Is A Hair Enhanced

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.

Razorblade Kisses

This post was floating around in my drafts for ages. Then recently I’ve just got around to sorting out my photos, so the attending slide show is ready.

I’m not your regular hairy bloke. That’s not to say that I’m an ethereal blonde-eyelashed Eloi, but I definitely have trouble growing a beard. When things of that nature started  growing, I wondered for a while what would happen if I left it. Another kid at school did just that and ended up with just two bunches of bristles, on on each side of his chin, which brought to mind (just now) Wells’ description of the Martians:

In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each.

That put paid to any thoughts of seeing what my face would look like unshaven. Even any attempts to grow sideburns resulted in some sparse and gappy growths which petered out as they approached the hair proper.

Time passed.

In 2002 I got the part of Benedick in a production of Much Ado About Nothing. One of Benedick’s traits is that he is a bit rough around the edges, rougher especially than his fresh-faced friend Claudio, to whom he refers disparagingly as “my Lord Lackbeard“. Unfortunately, my friend Mike, who played Claudio, doesn’t so much have 5 o’clock shadow as 9am shadow, whereas I had trouble sprouting something visible in three days. We didn’t want to use false beards, or dodgy dabbed makeup, so we just kind of worked around it. He’s shorter than me, so I guess it worked alright. Lovely voice too.

Time passed once more.

In 2007, Cassie wanted to see what I would look like with a beard. A reasonable request, I guess. Check out the capabilities of the new catch. So, in the month before Xmas, I stopped shaving. When I travelled to LA and she saw the result, she was pleased I had tried, let’s put it that way, and on Xmas Day after most of the festivities in Orinda, I repaired to the guest bathroom to end the experiment. The purification was documented here.

As you can see, it was only a passing fancy, not worth pursuing.

My slow follicles do have advantages. I don’t need to shave every day; twice a week is sufficient. This means I can spend more time on it and make it a grooming ritual rather than a hasty necessity. I use my Dad’s old razor, a metal Simplex safety razor which takes standard blades (actual blades, not cartridges). I’ve been fascinated with this since I was a child. He didn’t use it as far as I know; I think (and hope) that it belonged to his father. I remember playing with it as a child, pretending to shave – without a blade in it of course that would be crazy ha!

I bought a pack of Derby blades from Amazon – $15 for 100 blades. Amazing value, considering each one lasts for about 4 shaves. It could be more if I sat it in mineral oil after use. I have a badger-hair brush from the tobacco shop on Victoria Street. For soap, I go between a quickly rubbed-in cream when I’m in a hurry, or this wonderful West Indian Lime soap from Trufitt and Hill. It smells amazing, has this iridescent texture, and the current jar has lasted well over a year so far.

I’m not the most image-obsessed man around, but I do like these small efforts. And it seems so much more elegant than a plastic hunk of markup sold by CGI and yelling – although I probably wouldn’t think that if I had to shave everyday. Doing things the old way is fun when you’re not forced into it. Like making soap. Or cooking.