The barbershop itself was in a state of disrepair. There were cracks on the walls and rust on anything metal. Nonetheless a customer in a suit and shiny shoes lounged in a chair, eyes closed and face tilted slightly upward like a king. His face was covered in white foam, with squares of shaven bare skin showing through. The man shaving him wore a T-shirt, jeans and sandals. Classic Bengali attire.
As I entered, the barber was excited to sit me in the chair, surprised to see a foreigner let alone have one in store. “Choto” was the word I’d learned before coming in, meaning “short”. He understood.
The barber started with a back massage going all the way down, around the shoulders, both arms and the fingers, including an uncomfortable knuckle clicking thing on each finger. The massage took a good 40 minutes.
When he started on my hair he used only scissors. It was a job a buzz cut could have done quickly, but his hands did all the work here, the scissors snipped fast and seemed everywhere at once. The impending onset of arthritis didn’t bother him at all.
The haircut took another 30 minutes or so and was followed by a cut throat shave, face rub, head rub and finished off with another shoulder massage.
Born again, a baby faced wad of clay I arose from the chair.
“E ti kota dam” which as far as I know means “how much is it?” and he replied “tirish” meaning 30 taka…. That is, 60cents NZ.
I gave him 200 taka ($4.00 NZD) and said to keep the tip, he almost fell over. He put his hand up to say wait, ran next door to the shop and came back with a mango drink to give me. I said thank you, though feeling a little guilty it’d have been rude to not accept this gift. I sipped it while we stood in silence, and shook his hand once more before leaving with a flat top.
It was upstairs from a busy street in the central city. I was sat down by a well groomed young lady who could have passed as a dentist. She spent 5 minutes preparing me and then left to another room.
An older man came out. “Hai!” he bellowed with a bow, and approached with shiny silver scissors. He used the clippers and fine tuned the hair by hand.
I noticed he would cut each individual hair as accurately as possible and when he came to do my side burns, he measured twice and then cut. It was perfection.
He left with another “Hai!”, and the young lady returned to put product in my new flat top and take payment.
3000 yen. Approx $45 NZD
I walked in and could tell the barbers all turned up their cool a notch. They greeted me, purposefully not acknowledging I was foreign and sat me down.
The cracks on the wall were covered by large posters of trendy hair models. There was a sense of pride despite the bones of the place being a little crappy. It was as if this developing country was trying to prove to me it could deliver.
The barber showed me a catalog with a range of haircuts. I closed the catalogue and pointed to him trying to communicate “you choose”. He nodded.
The haircut was no different to a standard haircut in NZ.
Once again, I came out with a flat top.
50,000 Rupiah (approx. $5) plus small tip.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
It took some time to find the right “Peluquero”. I walked past many that looked too nice or too busy before settling on one just out of Recoleta. It was empty, except an older barber sitting in the barber chair reading the paper (which on reflection seems to be the favourite past times of barbers all over the world).
The man greeted me warmly and I sat down in that remarkably comfy chair. He put a hand on my shoulder and turned the whole chair around so that I was facing his large, white moustache. I said “you choose” and he went to sharpen his tools.
Despite talking in slow Spanish, I had a great conversation with much laughter and learning. He asked many questions and taught me much about Maradona, every now and then turning my whole chair around for us to laugh face to face.
He laughed a lot, and I left with a hair cut that wasn’t a flat top
$NZ 15. (with free Spanish lesson)