I love going to the barber. I love getting my head shaved. You’d imagine that this would be a simple procedure - ‘a bit like mowing the lawn’ - but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fuck up a crop. A good crop needs to be tight. The barber needs to keep going over it with a comb, checking for stray hairs that the clippers might have missed. No one wants that mental patient, picky head look. If the clippers start to catch on the scalp then they need some Wahl oil to help the flow. The final pass should be done free-hand with a big pair of scissors, almost like a tailor’s shears. The critical part is the sculpting of the sideburns and the line around the ear and nape. For this the barber needs to draw for the outliner. He needs a steady hand: one slip with the ultra slim trimmer could leave you with some Vanilla Ice tramlines on your dome.
In my opinion, at least where London is concerned, the Turks have got the barber shop game sown up. At Pasha’s on Stoke Newington High Street - the one where all the rudeboys go - you can get the following for a tenner: they hook up your fade or crop; they singe off your ear hair with a burning swab soaked in methylated spirits; they trim your eyebrows and nose-hair; they squeeze your black-heads; you get a hot towel compress followed by an application of eucalyptus moisturiser; they douse you with that after shave - ‘chili sauce’ - that makes your face sting; and lastly they rub your shoulders and crack your knuckles. For a tenner.
Going to the barber has become something of a compulsion. I now have to go every two weeks without fail. This can create problems when I’m shooting abroad as I’m forced to explore whatever tonsorial options that city may have to offer. Recently I was in Miami with Daniel Wolfe shooting an HTC commercial for Mother when my two week cycle elapsed. Fuck man, I’m gonna have to get all indigenous up in this piece.
The third shoot day was a night shoot in Little Haiti. As the call time wasn’t too arduous, Daniel and I decided to head out a little early and visit a barbershop in the neighbourhood that we’d found by chance on the recce. There was no signage outside and the windows were covered by a metal grille, but the door was open. Inside was a long, narrow room with taupe linoleum floor tiles, three battered Belmont chairs, fluorescent strip lights above the mirrors, a couple of old photos tacked straight onto the glass, a TV showing sport, and no sinks. A purist joint. Two men greeted us. We were seated immediately and wrapped in white capes. Both barbers wore white Dickies, white socks, and Nike slide sandals. Standard. My guy had a Short Afro Temp Fade; Daniel’s rocked a flawless Dark Caesar. Daniel got straight into it.
'Half all over. And natural please mate.'
'Aight. I got you.'
Daniel is a barbershop veteran. The key word here is ‘natural’. Afro-Caribbean barbers have a tendency towards precise hairline sculpture. The sharp lineup. Tight. If you don’t want that, you need to make it clear.
As I sat down my barber launched into some Creole patois.
'Komon ou ye? Kisa ou ta via?'
I mumbled, confidence draining.
'Number one please boss. And, yeah natural too.'
'Natural. You know. Normal. Yeah?'
'Oke. Pa gen pwoblem.'
Fuck. The head nodded, a friendly smile beamed, but the eyes betrayed the fact that he had no idea what I was talking about. Fuck.
He ran the clippers over my head in methodical sweeps, starting at the crown and then working his way across the temples. Back and forth, back and forth. I relaxed into the chair and slipped into the familiar barbershop reverie, my mind emptying until it felt woolly and nice, calmed by the gentle buzzing. This is gonna be OK. I barely noticed when he switched to the trimmer. Buzzzzzzzzz. It lingered on my forehead, small chiseling motions shaping the filaments-zzzzzzzzz, before describing a wide arc down to my sideburns. With steadfast ease the graver etched its line.
Before I knew what was happening it was too late. I didn’t need to look in the mirror. The realization came. I look like a white version of this:
OK. Not that bad, but definitely like this:
'I met this girl on Monday
Took her for a drink on Tuesday
We were making love by Wednesday
And on Thursday and Friday and Saturday we chilled on Sunday’.
Daniel Wolfe’s HTC commercial will now be out in June. Look out for the four minute version. It’s tight.