I had the world’s greatest haircut at the world’s oldest barbershop. Just hyperbole? Nope. Men, I have to tell you Truefitt & Hill, of which I have previously written, is a man’s world of tonsorial artistry.
Yes, T & H has served the grand and the famous for over two hundred years, including British royalty who still have their grooming needs cared for here.
Truefitt & Hill also sell magnificent shaving products. As a matter of fact, I used Truefitt’s Sandalwood shaving cream this morning, as I do every morning. And just over a week ago I experienced a Truefitt & Hill haircut.
If you’re used to a hop in the chair, hop out and think to yourself, “Well, I guess it looks OK,” you haven’t experienced Truefitt & Hill’s barbershop. I’ll tell you upfront it’s not inexpensive, but then neither is it a normal haircut.
I know you’re skeptical. How much better could a £45 (approx. $60) haircut be? In my case and my friend’s case, a lot better. But, before I explain why, let’s put things in perspective. Number one, you generously shell out over $100 for your wife to get her hair styled, snipped and colored, right? Why not just send her to Simple Sally’s Beauty Salon and Dog Grooming Parlor, for a $15 cut and $15 coloring? Easy answers. You’re a husband and used to saying, “Yes, dear,” Answer number two, you are a wonderful man and generous to a fault when it comes to the needs of others. And, finally, you know it’s important to your wife that she look her best in front of her friends whom you can barely tolerate. Doesn’t matter if you have to put off buying that new Porsche. Yes, you are a selfless and jolly fellow.
But, think of yourself for once. Don’t overdo the selfless bit. You need to look sharp too and you need the confidence builder that a great haircut brings.
So, here’s my experience and one I will again relive every time I come to London.
I walk into the small, blue fronted shop on 71 St James Street and into a man’s world of shaving paraphernalia. The shopkeepers, men and women, greet me with genuine smiles and ask if they may assist me. “Yes,” I say, I give them my name and say I have a barber’s appointment for ten o’clock.
Two clerks give the scheduling book a rapid search, see my name and usher me into a barbershop reminiscent of the men’s club of Sherlock Holmes’ London days. There are barber’s chairs, but also generously opulent leather arm chairs, both of which I would gladly whisk away to the comfort of my living room. “Please have a seat, sir, and Michael will be with you in a moment.” I happily do as I’m told and moments later, a well groomed man appears, tells me his name and escorts me to his station.
In a normal barbershop, the haircut would begin pronto. Not here. When Michael asks me how I would like my hair cut, it’s the beginning of a discussion about length and part and style. Meanwhile, as he listens, he also examines my hair, my scalp, and the shape of my head. He asks questions to clarify what I want.
What I’ve just told you is the crux of a fabulous haircut and what is so rare in American barbershops. Michael listens. My haircut is important to him. He seeks to understand.
It is only then that the cutting can begin. This is no ordinary barber, this is a tonsorial artist and his canvas is my hair. If you think I’m overstating the case, think again. After a light spray of water, he combs and measures, holding up a strand of hair for me to see the length he has gotten from our conversation. “Yes,” I say, “Exactly that much.”
The haircut goes on with calm and careful assurance. A snip here and there, a re-combing to this side and that. The artist chats along, as only a man who knows his business can do. He’s not imparting information as much as he is reassuring his customer. We talk about his Cypriot background, his wife and kids. He does the calming part well. I’m as relaxed as a man can be, but also intensely curious. I don’t want to miss a clip a snip, or an instant of the experience.
When the cutting is finished, I lean over a basin and he washes my hair. After a toweling, he puts a splash or two of Athenian Water on my hair and massages it into my scalp. It tingles and Michael tells me it invigorates the scalp and helps with healing any naturally occurring abrasions.
Dried and combed, I’m ready to hop out of the chair. As I stand, he lightly brushes any stray hairs off my shoulders, then helps me on with my coat. “Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”
“As a matter of fact, I’m short of some shaving products and I want a bottle of Athenian Water also.”
So, what’s the final word on my haircut? The final word is that after a little over a week, the haircut is still wondrous. With only a touch of a brush, my hair falls perfectly. I can barely believe that even the part falls perfectly. That’s never happened before.
And finally, for $40 less than my wife pays, I exude so much confidence that I’ve even won a few matrimonial discussions. Michael, you have achieved the impossible!
Truefitt & Hill, you are not only the world’s oldest barbershop, but also the best!