Lockdown in 2020 was not a great time for haircuts with many resorting to the crew cuts and home-sculpted messes carried out by their partners during a lockdown. Then the barbershops opened, and the men of London could once again make the journey for their number four back and sides and wet shaves.
Having your hair cut at home is an option which many are taking up these days, but can it really compare to an outing to the barbers?
First of all, those who visit the barbers tend to be men with short hair. I once visited a barber in Dalston and asked them to take only a centimetre off my curly hair. I left with a choppy horror show of a haircut that was much too short. Long hair isn’t really in their vocabulary.
They think it is only for Etonian schoolboys and actors from the telly-flashy types. My point is that you don’t go to a barber for a botanical rinse and a fragrant tea. The appeal of a barber is its no-nonsense approach.
Is it worth calling a barber in your home?
Enjoy the services of a barber from your own home. This means that you will not have to waste time on a busy tube getting there.
You can just sit on the sofa with a brew until they arrive. The effort will be minimal on their part as well. A mirror, scissors, clippers and any beard-grooming technology won’t be hard to fit in a bag. You may well ask, “Why doesn’t everyone just do this?”
They do the job faster at home than in salons
On the other hand, treatments such as dunking your head in the sink, putting an almost scalding flannel across your face and placing an illegal-looking razor to your throat are just plain odd if carried out in your house.
It is more likely that you will avoid some of these services if at home and just let them get the clippers out as you sit on a stool. There is no shame in that. Slip them a few notes at the end, and you can both be on your way.
Barbershops have a quintessentially British feel, from the décor to the barber’s pole above the shop. For some, going to the barbers is part of their identity, along with reading a certain newspaper, their choice of a local pub and the clothes they wear.
You will not be short of banter when you visit, and if the chat runs dry, you can talk about how your football team is going to beat theirs in the coming months.
Could you not perform the job of a barber by yourself with a mirror and a pair of clippers? Anyone who did that over lockdown can tell you, almost but not quite.
To cut your hair a little bit better than you could do it, with none of that Nicky Clarke nonsense, is the trade of a barber. At the end of the pandemic, barbers and hairdressers were the emancipators we had all been longing for.
Avoid the spread
Visiting the barbers is more likely to result in the spread of Coronavirus until that threat has been virtually eradicated. But when it has, you should not feel scared of venturing out to these establishments and parting with your money. It will keep the economy going, and they are just as important to London as black cabs and fish and chips.
A mobile men’s barber and grooming service can come in handy when you need that emergency trim before an important occasion. It could be a special date or a quick fix before your friend’s wedding. Or perhaps you want a drastic restyle but not in front of a packed barbershop.
You won’t have to sit for half an hour waiting if you’re at home and you can have it done with a cold beer or snack to hand. It can also come in useful if you are unable to leave the house due to an injury. The quality of both the haircut and the banter will be just the same.
The difference in enjoying an atmosphere
Barbershops generally have quite a good atmosphere. The guy cutting your hair will look like he’s been on a few late nights out this week and not seen a vegetable in years. He will almost certainly have a tattoo and is likely to own an ugly bulldog.
It is quite comforting to know that when you are coming in to have your hair shortened and your facial hair sculpted, the person performing this treatment will conform to this stereotype.
Barbers are also capable of trimming your beard into a highly angular shape to show off the chiselled jawline that not even your fiancé knew that you had. They know all the tricks in the book. If you go in for a comb-over, they know the most adhesive type of wax to slick it over with. If you are having problems with the Mrs, they will lend an ear.
The final say
Visiting the barbers is comforting, like pie and mash and spending a rainy day in the pub. It is a good thing to support your local barbershop every month, and there is something to be said for the social element of visiting.
Equally, if you can find a similar service to be carried out from your house, why not take advantage of it?
You can flit between the two services, depending on your mood. If you are not happy with your mobile hairstyling and grooming service and wish to revert, just tell him you are reading Jane Austen at the moment and ask him if he has any available slots at the same time next month.
You’ll be back in your old barbershop in no time, with a hot flannel across your face and a haircut that looks too short for a couple of weeks until it grows out a bit.