Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Barbers a cut above the rest - even if bald is back in vogue!

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

When did you last have your hair done? It's not the sort of question men ask each other, and it demonstrates the difference between a hairdresser's and an old fashioned barber's shop.

Sitting back in a barber's shop, we can enjoy good conversation, a hair cut, or, even better, a proper shave with hot towels and a cut-throat razor.

It, of course, depends on your age. Small boys tend to dislike having their hair cut, while teenagers become obsessive about their appearance and having the style of the moment is as important as banishing acne. It's all about peer pressure and the need to boost fragile self-confidence. Young men are more philosophical as they watch the inevitable appearance of grey hairs and the dreaded bald patch. But from middle age onwards we tend to accept what we have and are grateful for anything a barber can do to halt the ageing process.

For older men, like myself, baldness has become a virtue and we comfort ourselves with sayings such as "grass doesn't grow on a busy street". The new style that many young men have adopted of shaving their entire head while sporting a few days chin stubble is reassuring: bald is now beautiful. I remember many years ago on a hot day, sea fishing for cod off the coast of Wexford, in the company of a group of butchers from Dublin. As I removed my hat to allow the sea breeze to cool my head, I made a remark about the need to protect my bald area from sun burn. One of the butchers then swept off his own headgear to reveal his baldness and proudly remarked: "that's not a bald patch sonny, that's a solar panel for a sex machine".

There is, of course, a world of difference between a hairdresser's and a barber's. For a start, visiting a hairdresser seems to cost upwards of €50. Let us be honest here: women visit hairdressers and men go to barbers and that's that -- unless you are a politician, movie star, singer or other type of performer.

Bertie Ahern was said to have spent €30k a year on make up but men tend to shrink from the thought of rinses, facials and makeovers. The rugged recession look is in and, anyway, who can now afford to spend €50 on a haircut?

I am told that if you visit a hairdresser's you will normally be asked if you are doing anything exciting for the weekend. One could reply that if the weather holds you will be spreading slurry or that the lambing should soon be starting, but that sort of response doesn't seem appropriate for your average hairdresser.

For real value and a quick haircut, a visit to Mick the Barbers in Kilcock is hard to beat. Mick's shop is a no-nonsense, manly sort of place where you get good chat and banter. The interior decor has to be seen to be believed and it immediately tells you that you are in a place apart. Like the best pubs and restaurants, you are instantly transported away from the pressures of daily life. Serious local issues are discussed, such as the duck race on St Patrick's Day, and all the while Mick cuts and talks at lightening speed.

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Passing tourists regularly stop to photograph the shop sign, which reads 'Mick the Barber -- New York, Paris, Kilcock'. See what I mean about make believe? What hairdresser could possibly compete with that?

Irish Independent