Thursday, 1 October 2020

Voyages into unfamiliar territory - hairdressing salons

Throughout my life on average I've probably visited a hairdresser once every three months, no, actually four, or even five... depending on where I was living, what kind friends were around who knew about hair-craft (hello Alvin) and cash-flow. It's not something I enjoy anyway - the overpowering mix of hair product smells, the music, whirring of dryers and of course the slight embarrassment of knowing whether to yak politely to the person assigned to create something wonderful from an unkempt mop such as mine, or not.

Very long time ago hair. around 1982?

There was one hairdresser I used to love going to see in Nottingham, Mark, I think, when I was a photographic stylist and had to look somewhat style-ish, or at least I felt I had to when dealing with art directors, photographers etc. His life was, or perhaps he invented it, but it was edge-of-seat entertaining at any rate, one of high drama; no 'thought about your holidays, then? with him, rather more listening open-mouthed and mentally scribbling it all down to be put into a future book I might write one day.

So, back to the present, or a few months back just before the UK lockdown. We were in London planning the book launch for Londonia from location, to food, junk shop china, music and . . . hair. 'Suppose I ought to have it done', I had reasoned with Mark (husband, not former hair arranger). 'We are in London, after all, not a small provincial French town where my last hair cut was. . . dull, too say the least.' He had nodded and vamoosed off to various music shops and museums while I approached an artistically sparse salon somewhere in Hackney where we were staying. 

The desk person had sagely regarded my hair without a word and called someone else from a back room. They both inspected my scraggy mane for some time and then the second one said they would do something wonderful with colour and that Sean would do the cut. I felt trapped, like in an awkward garage situation where a person says you need a flange number Z456DW and a galvanised tube compression toggle otherwise it will be impossible to drive more than three meters down the road. 'How much would it cost?' I asked trying not to look too pathetic. They calculated an amount which was terrifying but I thought, well, once in a lifetime, got to look confident, feel confident, book launch . . . etc. So agreed and an assistant did a colourant test to make sure my skin would also cope with this financial ordeal and I walked out wondering what had just happened.

Two days later, I went back to the salon having told Mark, roughly, what this event was going to cost and took my seat in the salon warily. There was no chat about holidays, whether it was my day off, or was I going to be doing a bit of shopping later just a breathy silence while the colourist created. It took about three hours... I read half a book about the history of Hampstead Heath, drank mint tea and wondered how long the next bit would take. Another three hours. Alex from Denmark (Sean was off) was indeed an artist, considering in microscopic depth every hair he was about to snip, moving silently as a panther, talking to himself just audibly. At last the finished result was unveiled and it was impressive: shades of subtle 'mink' pale mauve, pale blonde, and yes a cut of extreme greatness. 

Then I was invited to pay at the counter and nearly passed out. Okay, ready for this... 240 pounds. 240 POUNDS!! - mainly due to Alex being the master cutter and therefore more expensive than the previously suggested Sean. I resisted saying WHF or, but, but, but, etc and quietly paid, even left a tip such was my state of shock. Ok, Mark, there it is, revealed the true sum - never did tell him at the time...Spent two days justifying it: all the times I had cut my own hair, and the rest of the families, etc, and eventually got over it. Admittedly, the cut did last a long time as it was of such precision. 

The only picture I can find featuring the insanely expensive hair-do, and obviously I hadn't followed their care instructions...

So, after lockdown... I haven't ventured into another salon, partly because of the mask thing but probably due to a lingering fear of the final bill. I've retreated back into self hair defacing which is an interesting roulette, sometimes weirdly successful, sometimes hat-inducing. But for the moment, I'm rather happy with it, and have been for the last two months or so - plastic razor comb (the phrase would induce instant heart failure in most hair dressers), pair of scissors and a certain, who really cares attitude. Who does care when mostly I'm associating with two dogs, my husband who rarely comments on my appearance unless it's really bad (he hasn't done recently, so the hair must be reasonable), and people mostly on Skype where clarity of ones hair isn't overly visible anyway. Actually, someone on a zoom book interview recently said, oh, before you go, where d'you get your hair cut? I love it. 

Ha! Take that Hackney salon.

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