A day at the barber shop

This is very much a vanity blog, because it’s about my hair. When it comes to my hair, I’m pretty vain. Guilty, as charged, guv’nor. For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve had the same hairdresser in Soho, but in September she announced she was going back to her native Australia, and taking her hair-cutting skills with her. Naturally, I was devastated – having lived in London on and off, for the best part of 15 years, she was hands down the best hairdresser I’d had.

In October I went back to the hairdressers where Tash, my hairdresser had worked and decided to give one of her co-workers the chance to be my new barber. He was quite chatty, supported Liverpool FC as I do, so I thought I’d give him a go – sadly he didn’t live up to my exacting standards, in fact he’d made a bit of a botch job.  10 weeks later, with my hair beginning to look a complete overgrown mess, I needed a haircut urgently.

I’d heard of Mr Ducktail, or ‘It’s Something Hell’s‘ as his salon is called, through a hairdresser a couple of years ago, who works in a pub close to my house. She said he was the best in London for rockabilly haircuts. I’d looked him up on the internet and had actually been to the salon 18 months ago, when I thought briefly about ‘playing away’ from my regular hairdresser. I hadn’t used him on that occasion because there was a two-hour wait – there is only one hairdresser – Mr Ducktail himself, hence the waiting time. The idea of waiting such time for a hair cut was frankly ridiculous, so I’d gone to see Tash instead.

But needs must. My girlfriend had asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I’d told her that what I wanted most was a haircut. So, this week I went along to see if Mr Ducktail could live up to the hype. Upon entering, I was told that there would be a wait of approximately two-and-a-half hours. I asked if I could return later, but they told me they don’t have booking or reservations. I asked if they could hold my position in the queue (there were 3 guys waiting before me), while I nipped out for a cigarette. I was told by the assistant that, if someone came in while I was smoking I’d have to wait even longer. I have to admit, I was a bit annoyed by this and went for the cigarette anyway. I wasn’t going to wait in a hairdressers for 3 hours without a smoke, and whether it was it was two and a half or a three hour wait, it really didn’t make any difference.

Luckily, when I came back there was still only the three guys waiting. So I waited. And waited. And waited.
I’d brought a book with me so that helped to pass the time for a while, but nursing a hangover it was difficult to read, made even more difficult by rockabilly tunes blasting out the stereo (at a volume, just a touch too loud to be enjoyable with a headache caused by over-indulgence). There’s no denying that the decor and the set-up in the shop is excellent, some really lovely touches – old classic film posters, a replica jukebox, a leopard print chest – even the broom handle for sweeping up the hair clippings had leopard-print tape round it!

And despite the fabulous decor and ample collection of rockabilly/punk magazines to flick through, the wait was just too long. According to the guy who sells coffee at a stand in the shopping centre, some blokes take a day off work to get their hair cut at Mr Ducktail’s, and the assistant in the barbers also said it’s not uncommon for there to be a number of men queuing up in the morning, before the place is open. Clearly such popularity is testament to the hairdresser’s craft that punters are willing to forsake the best part of a day to get one of his cuts. What would’ve taken the edge off the the wait, and my growing impatience, would’ve been the offer of a glass of water or a cup of tea. Given that there is only one guy cutting hair, and an assistant that washes hair and takes customer’s coats, I do realise the possible impracticality of it.

I finally I got my hair cut with my wait clocking in at three hours and a bit. Was it worth it? Despite feeling like I’d done a shift there, it was well worth it.

Mr Ducktail apologised for the wait, and said that, it wasn’t always this bad and that I was a little bit unlucky coming in at the time I had. It’s easy to see why he is so popular – he told me exactly what he was going to do at different stages of the cut, and did it taking great care throughout. The man knows what he’s doing – he’s been cutting hair for the better part of 30 years, and he’s been into rockabilly for even longer. He gives each client at least half an hour for the their cut, so aside from the wait you get your money’s worth, for what is a very competitive price for a haircut in central London.


It’s Something Hell’s:  2nd Floor, 16 Kingly Court (off CarnabyStreet), London
Monday – Sarturday 11am – 7pm



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