The Awkwardness of Mens Haircuts

All men dread haircuts. There are very few things men can be asked to do on a Saturday afternoon (at least garden centres are OUR TURF) that provoke such a sense of dread and impending doom. They are uncomfortable, awkward and considerably distressing. Whether it’s the local barbers, a plain old hairdressers, or even if you’re incredibly brave and booked an appointment with a ‘stylist’, nothing is plain-sailing when getting a haircut. Nothing.

Going into a mens’ hairdressers, for the uninitiated or female amongst you, is an odd experience. You have to wait and you get asked ‘who’s next’ and most of the time you’d really like to go ‘oh well it’s me’ when it’s not. You can’t make eye contact even though there are mirrors everywhere, and you could read one of the twenty copies of The Sun that are around but the elbows would be all over the place and really it’s just all very uncomfortable.

Eventually it’s your turn (one last check just to make sure you didn’t come in after a midget or someone you thought was a man’s wife but is actually just another man) and you sit in ‘the chair’. They ask what you want, and even though the most masculine thing would to go ‘just a haircut, love’, we’ve progressed, you know, socially. ‘We’ have created this number system to give a benchmark for hair length everywhere. I’m air-quoting the ‘we’ because this is not the usual, collective ‘we’ meaning ‘me, you and us lot’, but ‘we’ here indicates only the hairdressers You see, we (me, you and us) don’t actually know what these numbers mean. We do our best to understand, and by our best, I mean we all say ‘a number 2 round the back and sides and a bit longer on top’.

Other things that men can’t understand when getting a haircut:

  1. ‘Tapered or squared off?’ This means literally nothing.
  2. Why do you sell fancy products? I paid a fiver for my haircut I’m not shelling out thirty quid for shampoo.
  3. At what point, if they give you one, do you drink your tea/juice/frappe? And how do you not spill it when you can’t move your head?

The conversation is a tricky topic. Men don’t like to speak, particularly not to strangers and not really at all until you reach ‘jocular old man’ status at 65. As such, some barbershops have found a niche of just mumbling to customers when it’s necessary. We like that.

When it’s a male hairdresser, it’s confusing, and the stereotypes are not helping. Is the man your ‘laddy mate geezer’ or a potential love interest? If it’s a woman – can you flirt with them? Is that acceptable in the middle of a salon when she’s holding scissors and touching your neck? And when it is a woman, WHY do they always rest their vagina on your elbow? And in all of this, has no-one decided that maybe I don’t want to tell Susan or Jeff or Trevor my life story? Sometimes I make up wild adventures but then I can never make up the names of fake lovers quickly enough and it all falls through. Cue an awkward further ten minutes where the staff all know I’m a liar and they can’t trust me to have any further ‘chat’.

As the shaving and chopping comes to anend (seriously, how many differently-sized shavers are there, and what the hell even are thinning scissors and why do they hurt so much?) there’s an incredibly difficult moment. This only happens in some proper old-school places, and with some barbers, so you may not have experienced this terror. But basically, the ‘hairdresser’ brings out those massive sharp shaving knives out of Sweeney Todd and you don’t know whether to scream or sing ‘Pretty Women’. We then have to sit patiently as heavy smoker crafts and twirls a knife around the back of your head (quite literally the most vulnerable part of the body). I might start out my next ‘haircut’ by saying ‘Hey love, how about we PUT THE KNIVES AWAY THIS TIME’.

As your time in HELL comes to an abrupt end, another social construction which we could do without comes to the forefront. The guy or gal stands behind you with a mirror and reflects the back of your head into your front-mirror – and this act serves absolutely no purpose. What are you supposed to say ‘no, too much of my neck is on show, please grow back my hair?’

They ask you if the haircut’s alright and well it’s going to have to be, because, you know, this is my actual head. So follows a long line of praise directed at the massacre above your forehead and the spray-tanned perpetrator. As you pay (and for some reason a haircut is now valued at over a tenner which is madness), there’s an awkward pause as you could, if you wanted, if you had money to BURN, give these people a tip. I have literally never done this practice because until they cut my hair, I rise from the chair and I am David Beckham, I won’t really expect what they’ve done to me to come to more than a note or two.

And it’s for the above reasons, ladies and gentlemenz, that us lads leave our hair as long as we possibly can, before we venture outside into the big wide world of hairdressing and social constructs. The only thing stopping us from cutting our hair ourselves is the dexterity it would require, which no-one possesses. I say, let’s all club together, team up and cut each other’s hair. Sales of The Sun would decrease, because there’d be nowhere to put the copies, and it’d stop everyone in a Wetherspoons on a Friday night having the same ‘do. It’s for the best everyone. NOW WHO’S WITH ME?

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One response to “The Awkwardness of Mens Haircuts

  1. Hi, Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show is doing a light-hearted piece today (17th december) on our lunchtime show about talking to hairdressers and we’re looking for someone who hates talking to their hairdresser. Wd you be interested in chatting to us quickly on air? If you’re interested, could you get in touch (nicki.chandris@bbc.co.uk). Thank you.

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