Why I went from the barbershop to the salon

These are the confessions of a man who had refused to budge from the barbershop and now swears by his salon

Words Aninda Sardar

For a good many years, seven to be exact, the brief to the barber was simple. “Cut it short. Even on the crown. Short enough so that the teacher shouldn’t be able to get a hold of it.” Don’t be horrified, corporal punishment in schools was a reality then and knowing my buddies and me, probably necessary. What wasn’t necessary was too much money spent on grooming. As long as the job was done to our satisfaction, it was all good. The attitude lasted for years after. I simply didn’t see the point of dishing out a wad of cash for the same damn haircut (didn’t have a beard then) instead of the two or three notes that I usually handed out to my trusted barber.


That first trip to the salon

And then it happened. My maiden trip to a salon. Of course it was at the behest of the better half who had been trying to get me to see the light for a while. “Just try it out once. You won’t regret it,” she would tell me only to be met by my inevitable even if somewhat hackneyed comeback, “All I need is a haircut.” But that Sunday morning I decided to give it a go. Perhaps I was feeling more malleable than my usual stubborn self, but what the hell it was only going to be that one time.

So, with some trepidation and still only half convinced I had found myself pushing the posh glass doors open and walking into a world that was at once familiar and yet not. The click-clack of the scissors and the whirr of the trimmers were all sounds I was used to but here I was greeted by aesthetics I had never thought could make a difference to my periodic grooming sessions. 


The polish of a salon

I was still looking around and taking it all in when I heard a soft voice behind me, “May I help you?” I nearly jumped out of my skin. Barring the lobbies of fancy hotels or restaurants I had had little experience of being greeted by crisp clear English anywhere, let alone a place where I had only gone for a haircut.



Ten minutes later I was ensconced in a leatherette chair that could rival a dentist’s chair for sheer comfort. Plush and gentle on my rear end. I had already begun to feel happy, between sips of the coffee that I had been served – black, without sugar, just as I had requested, and allowing the master stylist to go about her business as she ensured that the apron covered every inch of my body from below my shoulders without feeling overly tight or uncomfortable. Job done, she patiently waited while I finished the coffee, put the cup down and leaned back.


You pay for the pampering at a salon

She snipped and trimmed and cut and styled with the gentlest of touches, pausing every now and then to check with me if I was happy with the gradual transformation. Thirty odd minutes passed thus before she declared, “Done!” I looked at the mirror and found that the man staring back at me was somewhat different from the man who usually stared back after such a session at a very different place. This one was distinctly happier and more relaxed than the one I was accustomed to seeing. At the counter, I was presented with a bill that was around four times of what I usually paid but even that failed to ruffle me. Something different was going on here. It was only when I was back in my car and had cranked the engine that it hit me in the face. It’s never just a haircut, is it? It’s the pampering you pay for and your reward is the joy that such pampering brings with it. That feeling of being special. And that’s why I went from the barbershop to the salon. I haven’t looked back since. I’m pretty sure you won’t either.