The Barbershop Rituals
by Andy Rouillard
I’ve always found there to be something reassuringly cathartic about a trip to the barbershop and the rituals that accompany it. As a child, the monthly pilgrimage with my dad was something to look forward to. The jangle of the bell as he pushed open the door, cheery greetings shouted across the tiled floor, the familiar scent of bay rum and tobacco (you could smoke in shops, back then), and the feel of my legs in shorts brushing against the cracked vinyl bench in the waiting area.
The ‘spit and sawdust’ of days gone by that would be frowned upon now, but to a child there was magic in the ceremony.
Even today, there is something about the swish of the cape as it goes around my shoulders, and the meeting of eyes in the mirror, that signals the start of a well-worn and trusted rite. “So, what are we doing today?” Here comes a half hour respite from the rat race. A trip to the sink follows, the sputter of water in the basin. “How’s that temperature for you?” A hit of peppered lemon shampoo. Conditioner now, massaged with expert pressure of fingertips and thumbs on the scalp. My mind drifts.
Back at the mirror, hair towel-dried, I accept the coffee that’s offered but never finished. Rituals. We talk about our weeks: what we got up to at the weekend or plans for the coming one. How are things at work – did you get that contract? How’s the other half – wedding plans moving in the right direction? Sometimes we’ll discuss the news. Other days it’s a holiday or a night out that our reflections reminisce over. We share job losses and break-ups to the sound of the scissors, but also wins and new horizons.
It occurs to me on more than one occasion that I tell my barber more than I tell most people.
There’s the buzz of the clippers around my ears and neck, signalling that our time is coming to an end. The hot blast of a hairdryer and soft bristles along the collar. A mirror is held up for my approval. At my nod, the cape is whipped away like a magician revealing their final trick, and with it I somehow feel lighter. Worries shaken away with the hair clippings, swept up and forgotten about, for now at least. A tissue is proffered and I’m led to the till. “Same time in four weeks?”
Andy Rouillard is the founder of Axiom Bodyworks