The Barber: Stylist, Grooming Expert & Therapist?

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A few weeks back, I was invited by Drakes of London to go in for a haircut and to sample their services. Traditionally, I tend to review these places based on the decor, atmosphere, service and pricing as well as extras like staff friendliness and grooming ranges. However, during this appointment I had an experience that I had never come across before, one that forced me to reflect on my own achievements, insecurities and future plans. It wasn’t so much a haircut with a smile, as a haircut with a friend and it got me thinking about how often men can turn to barbers to vent their emotions and frustrations…

The barber attending me (coincidentally called Adam) was quietly working away on my hair when he paused and came round to my side. The rest of the salon was empty and so, after pausing for a few seconds, asked if I was ok. I’d been struggling to gain control of a few projects of my own and didn’t feel like I wanted to burden my friends with the information as I’m keen to keep some areas of my personal life separate from my blogging life. As a result, I’d been holding in some of these stresses and it was clearly visible to Adam.

What is remarkable to me is the level of effort we can maintain through daily life, to keep chit-chat superficial and in the safe “small talk” zone. It requires no emotional investment from us and, at the same time, doesn’t require engaging the extra energy needed to really empathise with someone. Yet, here was a man who had taken a moment from his busy day to sit next to me and ask if I was ok.

Sharing With A Stranger

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Much like bartenders, this is a role that barbers sometimes take upon themselves; to go the extra mile with their customers and develop a bond that may, in all likelihood, only be temporary but one that is rarely recognised for its value to the customer. This genuine moment of empathy made my experience all the more worthwhile and, despite having been to many different barbers around the country, was one of the few times I came away feeling like I’d spoken to a friend.

I’ve openly discussed body image on the blog over the last few years on a regular basis but another element we need to do more is discuss our thoughts and feelings. This is often dismissed by many men as being too “touchy-feely” and something inherently un-masculine but it is sometimes during these quieter moments with a stranger that we can talk through one or two concerns that are occupying our brain space. The chance to share a small burden with someone just so that you know someone has listened and heard where you are coming from. If nothing else, you might also get the chance to help someone else talk through a problem they’re having as well.

Gratitude with Grooming

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The service sector has been, and always will be, a tough industry to work in. The hours are unsociable, the customers are thankless and mental focus and physical prowess is required to develop intricate skills. My time at Drakes was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic haircut and the opportunity to reflect on my achievements and ambitions with someone who was open to discuss them and compare them to his own. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank Adam and the team at Drakes of London for allowing me to sample the welcoming culture that they have created in their salons and among their staff. It is rare that I walk away from a haircut feeling both physically AND mentally revitalised and it certainly was a welcome surprise.

That just about wraps up this guide, thank you for checking it out. If you have any questions or recommendations you would like to add, don’t hesitate to comment below and I’ll be happy to answer/discuss them. In the meantime, you can also sign-up to be notified of new posts and follow The Male Stylist activity. Remember to follow me on Twitter or Instagram for style inspiration, gentleman’s musings and general fun.

Adam Walker - The Male Stylist