I’ve been looking for a regular hairdresser now for quite a while. My regular hairdresser used to be Ego Hair in Soho – but the quality, increase in price and distance from home mean that I no longer go there.
Ego used to be run by an Aussie girl named Natasha, who was the ‘hair’ love of my life. My hair loved her, and she loved my hair. She cut my hair like no other – she was cool – loved punk rock and rockabilly had an easy way with conversation and gave me the best haircuts I’ve ever had. The best quiffs I ever sported were entirely down to her expertise.
When she returned to Australia to live when her grandmother fell ill, there was a large coiffeuse-shaped void. I had a brief dalliance with It’s Something Hells, the rockabilly hairdresser near Carnaby Street, but I returned to Ego, my cuckolded hairdresser.
Briefly, a Portuguese woman called Raquel worked there and she too was a fantastic hairdresser – not quite in the same league as Tash, but pretty bloody close. Sadly Raquel quit her job last year while I was working abroad, and I never got a contact number for her. When I returned to Ego last summer I didn’t feel like I’d got value for money.
Having had a few cheap and cheerful haircuts at my local barbershop, I wanted to enter 2016 looking sharp.
Having priced up some of the hairdressers in Brick Lane – which is a short bus journey from where I live – I chose Jack the Clipper despite the slightly cringeworthy name, it was one of the only places that did men’s haircuts for under 30 quid. Not much under, mind: £26 – which is the most I’ve ever paid for a haircut despite having some cracking chops – the fabulous Tash used to charge £21.
So, with that price in mind I was expecting a very nice haircut indeed.
I was seen as soon as I walked through the door, which is always a good thing. My hairdresser was a nice enough bloke. He was Turkish – as are all of the hairdressers who work at Jack the Clipper. After washing my hair he set about trimming the top of my head at lightning speed – taking what looked half a millimetre of hair off every strand of hair.
I asked him about Turkey – I told him I had visited the country twice and asked where he was from, I then asked him what his views were on the controversial Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Not being Turkish, or a Turkish speaker I don’t feel I have too much of an informed opinion, although much of the Western press doesn’t appear too keen on the cut of his jib.
My hairdresser loved him. It was almost like talking to Erdogan’s press officer. He went into great detail about how the hospitals, the roads and the schools had all improved during Erdogan’s administration – and how he had paid off a monumental debt to the IMF. Big claims, but if true undoubtedly impressive. He told me that Erdogan’s presidency hadn’t been perfect but his critics had blown out of proportion the mistakes that he has made.
While declaring his love for the Turkish president, he spent what felt like an eternity shaving the back and sides of my head. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my days on this planet sat in a barber’s chair having the base of my head buzzed with a grade 1 while slowly starving to death, soundtracked by the positive spin of an AK Party supporter.
What made me anxious and doubtful, was that my barber for the day was wearing a hat. Now, some of the most mediocre haircuts I’ve ever received have been from people who themselves had bad hair or who hide their hair. I want my hair cut by someone with stylish follicles goddamnit.
What I was looking forward to most of all though, was the hairdresser chopping off and styling the top. That’s the most enjoyable part of getting a hair cut – seeing how it is cut and sculpted into the style I requested. As much as I love the feeling of freshly shaved sides and back, it’s on top of the head where the real artistry lies.
Having wondered if I’d ever be released from my clipper clinch, and mentally making a brief final will and testament in my head, he began to brush me down – and took off the hairdresser’s gown. He reached for the the wax and began applying it liberally to my barnet.
“What about the top? Are you not going to thin it out and style it?” I asked.
He muttered something about it needing to grow. Being deferentially English, I politely nodded, but felt like I hadn’t got the haircut I’d asked for. I paid him and smiled then walked out of the place muttering and cursing.
Given that there are a whole bunch of barber shops on Bethnal Green Road, just minutes from Brick Lane, all charging in the region of £10 – I felt like I’d not got great value for money. My haircut was okay – but was it really 2.5 times better than the hair cuts I’d received from the cheap and cheerful barbers closer to home?
There are too many men’s hairdressers who offer limited hairdressing skills yet charge premium prices. If you’re going to charge north of a twenty, then you’d better have some skills.
As men tend to have shorter hair than women, it’s understandable that hair cuts for blokes are traditionally far cheaper – there is less hair to style, and men’s styles tend to be simpler.
Jack The Clipper have a nice looking salon and offer a speedy service. Sadly the end product does not, in my view, merit the price.
Jack The Ripper Barbershop, 178b Brick Lane, London E1 6SA