From birth, man and his hair enter into a complicated, (mostly) lifelong relationship. It transitions from deep love and dizzying attachment, through periods of tumultuous difficulty, and, eventually, to loss.
A barber fits into this equation as something of a therapist: a peacekeeper, a coach, a trusted consigliere.
Style starts and ends with the perfect cut. However sharply dressed a man might be, if his hair is awful (read: overgrown, unkempt, or simply cut in an unflattering style) it's near impossible for him to look pulled-together.
Knowing how to navigate the complexities and intricacies of a barbershop experience, then, becomes crucial.
We asked Brent Pankhurst – the man behind our favourite barbershop in Britain – to give us his 7 rules to ensuring that you get a haircut you love.
The most important thing is to have a look at the website of the barbershop – see if that appeals to you first. It needs to fit your aesthetic.
Men are more individually styled than ever: you need to talk to your barber before your cut.
He should have a good look at what you're wearing. Tell him what you do for work, what you like to do on the weekends.
Your barber needs to ask you those questions properly – it should take a good 10 minutes.
When you get past 21, 22, you go from having a hair style to having a hair cut. You want to hone in on a cut that suits you.
This is a crucial step: customer dissatisfaction comes from a lack of consultation.
If you've got a specific look you want, come in with your hair styled. Otherwise come with freshly washed hair.
If you want to bring in a photo, just have it on your phone. The barber should know what you're going for and help you find something along those lines.
Have realistic expectations of what you can do with your hair. Think about texture, length, volume. Talk to your barber – any good barber will be honest with you.
It's so important to me to make my customers look as good as they possibly can. You're paying to feel confident.
A good barber will never be offended.
If it looks like something's going wrong, say, "Hang on a minute…" and clarify where the cut is going. Be polite and firm. You're paying good money – you should pay for exactly the cut that you want.
A lot of guys come in with quite short hair and expect us to create an entirely new look. Without length, it's difficult. But, small differences to a cut – say, the length on the sides – can make a big change to your overall appearance.
If you become unhappy with your barber, don't think you have to stay there.
People become very loyal to their barbers. You can tell them, "The last few cuts haven't been your best." People can get complacent.
If the barber you're going to isn't satisfying you – if the service is slipping, if the cut isn't good – change. Loyalty should be earned and re-earned.