I’ve had some bad barber shop experiences in my time. Perhaps the worst was when I was 14 and the female hairdresser suddenly stopped chopping, pulled a face and then called my mother over to point out that my head was infested with lice. Since then I have I tried to get my hair cut as infrequently as possible. It was the early 90s and fortunately the greasy curtains look was in. Then when I finally did visit the barbers, I’d go to school and everyone would point and say ‘hair cuuuut!’ – this was a joke from the TV programme Mary Whitehouse Experience which never grew old. When I moved to London in 2000, I found a barber I liked and have stuck with him ever since. So much so that I even wrote an article about him for the Spectator a few years ago
I go as much for the social side as the haircut. Indeed so social is Kyrie’s shop that he often says he should put in a fridge and offer beer to customers. As it is there’s a choice of tea or when it’s cold some Wray and Nephew overproof rum. But it’s a good idea though, isn’t it? A bar combined with a barber shop. Inevitably someone has already done it.
Blade Hairclub is a hairdressers on Frith Street in Soho which has a cocktail bar downstairs. I went along last week to see if I could pick up any tips to give to Kyrie in Kensal Green. I must say my hopes weren’t high. From the website it all looked a bit Sex and The City. I was expecting sticky sweet cosmopolitans while tipsy ladies had their colour done and shrieked about penises. Instead downstairs there was a proper bar behind which was a man who looked like a viking. His name was Stroo and he was actually Croatian. Behind him was an amazing selection of whiskies, mainly from Scotland and the US, many of which I had never seen before. He recommended a Kilkerran 12 year old from Campbeltown and one of the nicest whiskies I’ve had recently from a distillery I’d never heard of (it’s about £35 a bottle which for a whisky of this quality is a steal.)
I was so enjoying my whisky and my whisky chat that I was a little reluctant to get my hair cut especially as it was already very short. I was a bit nervous that I’d be given some sort of peculiar trendy cut that would make me look like a desperate middle-aged man. I also felt a little uneasy to begin about being unfaithful to Kyrie. Instead Ben, the charming stylist, listened to what I wanted and cut my hair beautifully if a little sharper than I was used to. During my haircut Stroo came up to tell me that he had an American whisky that I had to try – a blend of a rye and bourbon which though not quite as nice the Kilkerran was still not the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a Soho hairdressers.
The whole experience was much more pleasurable than I anticipated. I had some excellent whisky, a nice chat and left feeling smarter than when I went in. Perhaps portmanteau shops are the future of a night out: combined spaghetti houses and dry cleaners, or singles bars and law firms so you can celebrate your divorce straight away. With rising rents and increasing regulations, it’s becoming hard for bars, pubs and clubs to survive. I have a friend who works in market research and he told me that dating apps too have taken their toll on nightlife. It turns out most of the reason people went out was to pull. Who da thunk it?
So is Blade a good place to pull? Well, I did leave looking a lot more stylish than when I went in, but the problem with combining a salon with a bar is that to cut hair successfully you need lots and lots of bright unflattering light. Not what you want when you’re on the prowl. The other problem is that the constant roar of the hairdryers makes conversation difficult especially if, like me, you are slightly deaf. So I’d say, for the young, the beautiful and those with good hearing, it might be a good place to meet potential partners. Oh and also I think Stroo and I were the only straight men in there. Anyway it’s rather a moot point for me as I’m married.
The next day I arrived at school to collect my daughter, one of the mother’s ran over, pointing and saying: “hair cut!” Some things never change.