Chaplins Barbers; They Even Accept Gingers.

Chaplins Front

Chaplins Front

I went to a charming barber shop today.  Yes, I said barber shop and not stylist.  It has been literally years since I could honestly say that I “go to a barber” and not a stylist.  There is a certain environment that you expect at either one.  Allow me to take you on a journey of each.

At a stylist you enter in the front door and are met with a migraine inducing stench of nail polish remover, hairspray, and sin.  As you approach the counter you are greeted by a late teen girl, dressed to go clubbing, chewing gum in a way that could wake the dead.  Magically, she knows your name, and you have that ‘hey, I must be a big deal’ thought in your mind.  “Hello Joe,” she says, as if she has known you for years.  Then, you start to think about this.  How did she know my name was Joe? Hell, I could be one of a number of male appointments scheduled for this timeslot.  Of the four stages of manlihood demoralization, you are now at level one,  realizing that you are a “man” walking in to see a stylist, not a barber.  Prepare yourself as we progress through the stages.  She continues, asking if you are here for a haircut.  You respond back, “yeah.”  Internally though you think to yourself, ‘what the hell else would I be here for?  You know my name but you don’t know what my business here is?”  Though you are on time for your appointment, you are now directed to what i like to call ‘the den of awkwardness and dismay.’ Here you will wait for an indefinite period of time either listening to the musical serenity of a nature CD or the utter man-hating discussions of The View, all the while being stared at and judged by women with foreign objects in their hair and hate in their heart.  It is when you begin cursing the God that would allow such an establishment to exist that you begin to realize that you have approached level 2.  Welcome.  After 20 minutes in the den, searching for a knife to end it all, the gum chewer approaches.  A weight is lifted, your stylist must finally be ready for you.  Nope.  Keep searching, and search harder.  You have just been offered wine…from a box.  Being the calm, polite, non-trailer-trash, sober individual on a Saturday morning that you are, you respectfully decline.  After another 10 minutes, you hear the gum smacking getting closer and begin to cringe, “what now?”  Relief, they are only 30 minutes behind schedule this time.  You are handed off to a stylist in training.  She will perform the task of washing your hair, because you are a man that is simply not capable of washing yourself.  Walking down the center of the aisle toward the hose down area, you are eyed by each station.  I warn you to not make eye contact.  Keep your head forward and your eyes down.  You must not engage the onlookers.  Here you are the minority.  Here, you are the sheep amidst the wolves.  You are directed to sit down and a cape is draped around you.  Initially you have the sensation of being batman with your fancy new costume.  Panic sets in as you realize that you did not wash the product out of your hair before coming and that they were right all along, we are not capable of washing ourselves.”  Level three has been breached.  Sit back and relax.  There is nothing better than having someone else do what you are physically capable of doing yourself.  With a sweet voice, she engages in meaningless chitchat, asking about my day as if that would distract her from the stale mess that she is about to run her fingers through.   “This is the life” you think to yourself as you listen to the hypnotizing sound of the running water.  Steam begins to rise from the sink as she places your head under the…..”HOLY SHIT THAT IS HOT!”  Welcome to stage 4.  All eyes are on you as you sit in agony realizing that you left your chest hair in your girlfriends purse, moaning and whaling at the advanced temperature of the water hoping to God that she only uses Pantene Pro-V conditioner since in your mind it out performs its competitors and has soothing aloe that may help the 3rd degree burns that you have just experienced.  After a minute you being to question yourself on your personal hygiene techniques.  “I would have been done 45 seconds ago.  What the hell is taking so long?”  Finally, done.  Ready for a cut.  You stand up and are escorted to the stylist.  You walk feeling foolish, hearing giggles as your cape hides the fact that you are actually wearing shorts underneath, and are not simply a nudist that like to protect his feet with flip flops.  Have a seat in the captain’s chair and get comfortable.  You are about to spend the next 10 minutes of your life trying to explain how you want it cut but ultimately caving to her ideas.  The following 20 minutes you will again search for the knife while the pointless dribble spews from her stale tobacco mouth.  If you have made it this far, you are in the home stretch.  Simply stand up and proceed to the till where you will happily fork over half of your lifesavings for the chance to escape alive, only to return 3 weeks later for the same experience.

The alternative, a barber shop.  Step outside your flat, and take a midafternoon stroll down the high street.  Relaxed you stream your fingers through your hair, and think, “perhaps it’s time for a trim?”  Welcoming the thought, you look forward and notice a barber pool a half block ahead.  Standing as a testament of simplicity, classiness, and ultimate manlihood your lips curve upward in anticipation of the experience.  Entering in, you are welcomed by a well groomed, smartly dressed gentleman.  “Hoping to get a trim,” you anxiously communicate to the barber.  “Surely sir.  We will have a slot available in 20 minutes if you care to have a seat or venture back.”  You decide to sit because the atmosphere is calm and relaxed as you sense commodore for you fellow man.  Leaned back you notice a number of magazines at your disposal that not only entertain but also challenge the mind.  You pass though as you gaze upon the handiwork of the artist in front of you, sculpting his latest masterpiece.  While being mesmerized by the barbers craftsmanship, you fail to notice that 20 minutes have flown by.  Right on schedule, it is your turn.  “Take a seat,” he says, welcoming you to experience his art first hand.  He wraps your neck in cloth, providing a layer of protection against fallen hair irritation.  He stops and listens to how you want your haircut, asking for guidance when needed.  He commences.  He is like Divinci painting the Mona Lisa, and you are amazed at his ability to openly engage in meaningful and genuine conversation.  the time passes as wistfully as a leaf in the autumn air.  You are done.  As you approach the till you think to yourself, “whatever the price, it isn’t enough.”  To your surprise, he communicates a cost far under his artistic talents.  Satisfied and reborn, you pay the man his wage and add a bit extra for his time and talent.

It is good to be back at a local barber, Chaplin’s of London.  So good that it inspired me to write about the experience here.  Pay them a visit and be amazed at the results, physically and spiritually.

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