Most social occasions in life are governed by a code of conduct: society tells us what to do, what to say and vice versa. This includes the mundane but potentially fraught act of going for a barbershop haircut. I had an unusual experience the other day, a first for me. Five minutes into my cut, I had to request my barber was removed and replaced by a pair of more experienced hands using actual scissors.
From the onset, I had requested he’d use scissors and not clippers to cut my hair. The barber looked at me with a surprised face as if it was a ridiculous thing to ask for, but reluctantly agreed. He started off using scissors as promised but, after only a few minutes, he picked up the clippers anyway. Obviously, I questioned the move: he said he was just “tidying up”. I pointed out that’s normally done after the actual scissors-based haircut. We agreed to disagree and as a result I asked his colleague to take over.
I don’t think the barber was particularly upset, and neither was I – it was a business transaction gone wrong; a problem was identified and then rectified. But the episode did flag up interesting questions: how are you supposed to act when you’re sitting in the chair? Are you allowed to complain, or is that frowned upon? Of course you should be able to instruct – even criticise – as you’re a paying customer. But it’s a sensitive situation and, like with all creative professions, it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings. And, so that you never have to experience what happened to me, we asked three seasoned barbers to lay down a few fundamental rules. Here’s what to consider when popping in for a haircut: