Today is beard trim and shape day. Every two weeks or so I take myself off to a traditional Turkish barber. It’s something I’ve been doing now for a couple of years since it seems, like almost every other man, I grew a beard.
As I’m approaching 60, my beard’s mostly grey with slightly darker areas around my chin. Despite making me look older – to my consternation someone once said I bear a passing resemblance to Jeremy Corbyn which is not true! – I’ve also had a few compliments particularly from Mrs Jones so I’m keeping it.
Although some of the experience is a little painful, part of me enjoys it. There’s a real throwback feel to the shop as you sit waiting your turn before jumping into the traditional looking barber’s chair.
I’m not the only one, last year 675 barber shops opened in the UK with Turks leading the way. Along with coffee shops and nailbars it’s one of the few things that really can’t be done online and is helping to keep high streets alive particularly in small towns.
There’s very little talking in the Turkish barbers I go to as the rather grim-faced men just get on with their work. It’s something I like and it all feels very macho and serious.
The process starts with the beard trim with, for me the shaver set to number one which is about one-eighth of an inch. This immediately gets rid of some of the itchiness that comes with two weeks of beard growth.
Then they deal with the eyebrows and ears. They take special care with the eyebrows, presumably because you’d look really stupid without one and then it’s time for flaming ears. I was terrified the first time they did this. It involves setting light to something that resembles a giant cotton bud and then wafting it in your ears quickly enough to not burn you but slowly enough to singe away the ear hairs.
I no longer get them to sort my nosehair was which involves them sticking a reel of cotton covered in hot black wax into both nostrils simultaneously. There you sit somewhat anxious about having to rely only on your mouth to breathe before after a few minutes they yank out the waxy cotton, making your eyes water, before triumphantly showing you that it’s covered in hairs.
Then to the main event, the hot towel shave with a cut-throat razor. A towel is waved in front of your face before being pressed tightly on to it. Soap is then brushed liberally pretty well all over the face, most of which is then wiped off. The shaving is done with great care and precision to get the shape balanced on either side of your face.
The 20 minutes in the chair finishes with the stinging splash of aftershave and a shoulder massage which is done with such force I sometimes wonder whether it’s going to do some damage.
The whole experience is now just one of the ways in which I battle hair which seems to be growing non-stop from every part of my body. I’ve also got a Bakblade back shaver which scrapes the hairs off my back and a Panasonic beard and hair trimmer for the rest of my body. Keeping my hair at bay is a constant battle as I hit my sixties.