Real barbers are a threatened species. The gender thing is eating away at men’s places of refuge, away from unreal realities. There to relax, sometimes even to nod off with the snip-snip of the scissors, buzz of the trimmer and whine of the barber’s beef or dated joke in your ear.
Then wily hairdressers open so-called unisex salons whereby, just like all-gender toilets, men, women and others are obliged to tolerate and gawk at each other’s unique idiosyncrasies. Cuts and blows take on new meanings. Now wash basins and hand showers instead of squirting water bottles.
Men’s small talk drowned out by a ceaseless flow of words emerging from under enclosed hair dryers.And acrid smells unknown to men leaking from dyed hair. And women in turn having to breathe in singed hair (to stunt men’s hair growth) and face flying missiles of dandruff covered clips.
And the more entrepreneurial hairdressers dare to call their salons barber shops. What sacrilege. The word barber shop is defined as a place where men’s and boys’ hair are cut, dressed, groomed, styled and shaved. By all means cater for all sorts, but don’t bastardise the word. Strictly speaking, it’s male intellectual property.
But my luck is changing. I’m told of a pukka barbershop with barber’s pole fronting the shop. And owned by Koos. It rings right.
(By the way, the history of the pole is intriguing. The colours red, white and blue are a legacy of a long-gone era when men went to barbers not just for haircuts or shaves, but also for bloodletting and other medical procedures, like for boils and piles).
Anyway, I enter the sanctum. The interior looks like ye olde barber shop with typical barbers’ chairs. I immediately feel at home. But, o Griet, two lady hairdressers greet me. The one’s busy with a lady, the other with a man. One man seated, evidently next in line. I desperately look around for Koos. The seated man quips, “Looking for someone?” Yes, I almost shout, I’m looking for Koos. “Well, you’re looking at him. I’m Koos”.
At last I find my hair home. During the seven minutes in the chair, Koos fires the government, replaces taxis with buses, annihilates religious fanatics and warns he doesn’t tolerate swearing in his shop.
Although Koos caters for men, women and derivatives, he has cleverly retained the barber look and feel. Jokingly I ask him whether he’ll wash my hair. “No problem”. Out comes the squirt bottle and I get a face wash as a bonus.