I needed a haircut, so took myself to Vintage Cuts, a modern salon right next to the Mousiko café. I had spotted another barbers’ in town, but it was small, dark and unprepossessing, tucked away down a side street, and I wasn’t sure I could even find it again. Vintage Cuts, in comparison, was bright, modern, airy and stylish. When I arrived, the barber was at work on another customer, so I waited and watched.
He was obviously both skilled and meticulous, taking great care and plenty of time to create a look that was too extreme for my taste, shaven at the sides and back, and a diminishing top-knot. Meanwhile, a slim and very pretty young woman was working on another customer, a huge, overly muscled guy covered in tattoos. She had put a rubber cap like a swimming cap on his head, and was teasing tufts of his hair through holes in it with something like a crochet hook. He looked ridiculous, but I daren’t show my amusement. Besides, I was getting rather nervous at what I had let myself in for.
A motorbike roared up to immediately outside the shop, and another man came in; evidently another barber, for he was a slightly taller version of his colleague – same cut-off jeans and t-shirt, same stylish hair and beard. Once he had deposited his helmet, washed his hands, and checked I was there for a haircut, he indicated that I should sit in a low chair next to a sink. “Oh no,” I replied, “I’m not here to have my hair washed, just a haircut.” “It is the system,” he replied, but by now I was in total panic, stammered my apologies, and fled. I felt a complete fool, realised how ridiculous I must have appeared, even thought of seeking out the other barbers’. But once I had calmed myself, I resolved to return the next morning – I still needed a haircut.
The next day I tried to explain that at home, I went in, sat down, had my hair cut, paid, and left – five minutes. They were all charming, and if they thought me a silly old fool (and they must) they didn’t show it. I had my hair washed – “is better for me” he explained – by the young woman, which was extraordinarily pleasant, and once it had been dried, I was in the chair. “A grade 4 all over,” I said. He understood, but looked doubtful. “I think, on top, yes, but here, and here…” I decided to go with it; in for a cent, in for a euro. “You’re the professional.”
And professional he undoubtedly was: careful, thorough, meticulous. He told me I was shaving my sideboards too short, snipped and clipped with dexterity. Eventually I was ushered back to the sink, where the girl washed my hair – again! – and then he applied various gels and powders. It was quite an experience, and cost me eight euros.
But when I left, I realised that though I had enjoyed the experience, I didn’t appreciate the result. My hair was hard and stiff, my neck exposed. It occurred to me that I had been given the haircut of my childhood, fifty years before: a short back and sides. My dad would have approved… but I am not my dad.