The Man From Ironbark revisited
To an Aussie chap used to paying AUD $25 for a haircut, the grooming room at Ted Baker’s menswear shop, in London’s Cheapside, ain’t exactly cheap. The GBP £54 check for a haircut, beard trim, shave and (unrequested) eyebrow pluck came as a jolt. Normally, when at home in Sydney, I trim my own whiskers and pay AUD $25 for a haircut from Pasquale, my local barber. So 54 quid was a shock to the system, but apparently not as big a shock to me as it was to one client. While I was settling into the chair, one guy caused some commotion by arguing over the tab, then bolting without paying.
Around six other clients were in the place when I ventured in. They all seemed to be aged between 25 and 40, with buff bodies, hipster hair arrangements, designer facial hair, curated tattoos and fashionable clothes.
Hot towels, free coffee and drinks, luxurious surroundings, comfy chairs, a bit of a massage, shampoo, attention to the nose and ear hair, were part of the package. Far too many perfumed substances were rubbed in or sprayed on. The aforementioned eyebrow pluck (just the hairs between the brows) is performed with what appear to be strands of cotton, crossed and tensioned to grasp each hair individually in what I was assured is a more effective technique than tweezers. You needed to know that.
There is a strange feeling of submission one feels when one bears one’s throat to a stranger wielding a cut-throat razor. Banjo Paterson’s immortal poem “The Man From Ironbark” came into my mind. I felt like I was ‘doing the Sydney toff’ in London.
A sign on the counter says “Always tip a man holding a razor”. While trying to make the card machine work, I was asked twice if I’d like to add a tip. No pressure.
Pasquale never asks for a tip.
Ted’s Grooming Room is at 9 New Change Passage and 120 Cheapside, St Paul’s, and eight other locations in Central London.
You have been warned.