Alright There, Me Barber?

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source: Ali Imran K

Additional images Ali Imran K

After obtaining his licence to trim, Ali Imran K is now ready to get his hands on the scissors and comb experience, provided that the customers are willing to go under the knife of this freshie. While we’re at it, he also gives us some advice when visiting a barbershop.

It may not come as a big surprise to a lot of you that ever since I moved to New Zealand, I have decided to take up a new career. I’ve always been a big advocate of doing whatever the hell it is I want in life (within reason and legal limits, of course), so here I am, some 33 years of age later, embarking on a journey as a barber.

At my age, I run the risk of being the oldest at most places I go. Although thankfully, I wasn’t at a barber school. I was second oldest.

Let me just say that by the first week, I managed to put a bald spot the size of a 20 cent coin at the back of one man’s head, while slicing open an ear by the second. The response of my second “victim” was, “Good thing I have another one!”

After a couple of months of basic training, I was let loose into the world, and gentlemen everywhere – when I say everywhere, I meant everywhere in Tauranga, New Zealand – would entrust me with their hair and facial whiskers. A lot of them were none the wiser, and luckily for me, a haircut for a lot of men in New Zealand is generally a matter of necessity. Admittedly, there were times when I knew as well as the client that whatever I have produced is of subpar quality. But they manage to surprise me, nevertheless, by returning.

Whilst I do love my job, here are a few things I have learnt thus far from cutting men’s hair professionally:

  1. We are not miracle workers. Don’t ask us to give you David Beckham cut if you’re barely holding on to whatever strands of hair you have left on your head. It’s not going to, nor will it ever, work.
  2. Do not wear a hat before getting your hair cut. It gives you hat hair – flat, kinked, and manipulated into all sorts of unnatural directions. It makes our job that much more difficult, because we have to think of getting rid of it first; by wetting it down, then blowing it before proceeding to cut with as much precision possible. And let’s face it, nobody – least of all, the guys – has time to spend more than 20 minutes getting their hair cut.
  3. Don’t bother bringing your child in for a haircut if he is under the age of three. I had one client walk in, exclaiming to me that she had been to all the hairdressers in town, and not one of them can do a simple short back and sides with spiky on top. I asked her how old her son was and she said, “Two.” It was at that point I gave a knowing look to my colleague, and thought to myself, “Lady, the only way your son will be able to get what you want is by magic.” At three years old, you can start to reason with kids, and they can more or less sit still for the duration of a haircut. At one or two, having someone approach your tiny head with scissors and clippers might be quite a daunting, and not to mention, scary undertaking. So, leave it.
  4. When in doubt go for the classic. Guys, if you go to a barbershop not knowing what to get, most men – if not, all – look good with a good ol’ short back and sides. Leave a bit of length to play with on the top, and you should be sweet.
  5. No man buns. There is no haircut I hate more than the notorious man bun – I just hate them! It’s like being indecisive between having really short hair or really long hair. I know, why not have both? Nah, sorry. Doesn’t work that way. At least, not for me anyway.
  6. We’re unbelievable multi-taskers. The moment you walk through the door, it’s our job to analyse your personality and lifestyle, and suit that to the kind of haircut to give you. When we start cutting your hair, we have to think of what we’re going to do, what we are actually doing, how we’re going to get there, and at the same time, be all smiley and friendly about it. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely love getting into small talks and banters with you, but on occasion when we fall silent, it’s probably because we’re trying to focus. Which brings me to the next point…
  7. If your barber suddenly falls silent, it’s probably because he has done something he shouldn’t have. We make mistakes all the time. Hey, half of the time we don’t even know what we’re doing! But trust that we have the skills and knowledge to fix it.
  8. We will never make you ugly on purpose. It’s our job to make you look fresh, and feel a million bucks when you leave the shop. We know your perfectly coiffed hair will only last until your next shower, but by gosh, for that few hours before, you own it, man!
  9. Do a bit of surveying before choosing your barber. A good rule of thumb to judge a worthy barber is to analyse their own style and work environment. Do they look like they will get what you’re after? Does the barbershop they work in feel best suited to your personality? Sounds judgmental, I know, but it works.
  10. Lastly remember, it’s just hair. Someone in barber school once told me that the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is about two weeks. I know a lot of guys take their hair seriously, and we do have clients who come in on a weekly basis to get a fresh cut. But guys, I have news for you, it’s just hair. If it isn’t quite what you’re looking for, wait for two weeks.

Ali was last seen as the Fashion Editor of NewMan Magazine before he fell off the grid of the local fashion world and migrated to New Zealand, where he spends quality time pruning his backyard garden and as read in this latest episode, working as a qualified barber at The Loft Salon and Barbershop.

This opinion piece was featured in the HANGER Autumn/Winter 2015 issue.