I have far too many hair related puns in my head right now.
Ok, to business. Hair. For many butches, dappers, bois, whatever you might label yourself as, your haircut is often one of the first big changes you will go through when you finally can make your own decisions and when you begin to become more experimental with your style.
When I was younger, I had long, straight hair, usually ‘styled’ by my mother in pigtails. One on either side of my head, like Pippy Longstocking. When I was 9, in what I now realise was my first crush on a girl, I demanded my mother let me get my hair cut short like my best friend did. I got the really rather fetching ‘pageboy’ cut that dominated the late 80’s and early 90’s. The weird thing was, once I got my hair cut short, it grew back curly.
And I MEAN CURLY. For most of my teens I had a full on Irish ‘fro. “Golfball hair” as my friends helpfully tell me.
I went through phases of long and short hair, sticking with short and curly (LOL) for most of my 20’s. I hit 30 last year, and as I have become more and more comfortable in expressing my personal style, I decided to bite the bullet a few months ago. I chose a barber, chose a style, and went for it.
The barbers I chose was the renowned Waldorf Barbers on Westmoreland St. in Dublin. Established in 1929, the Waldorf is a real institution of Dublin City. Innocuous from the outside, a traditional red and white barbers pole signals the entryway, which is a long, steep stairway down into the barbershop. The first thing I notice when walking down is the music- the shop plays vintage 40’s music on their own radio station all day- no dodgy pop or r&b music here. The next thing is the smell. It just smells like I always thought the 50’s smelled.
The shop itself is pretty much unchanged since opening in 1929, with the original sinks and chairs and fixtures. The shop is operated as a living museum of barberana, and it is amazing.
The barbers are trained in the classic mens styles from the 20th century, but will do pretty much everything and anything. Linda, who runs the shop along with her father Liam, tells me that they also style women’s traditional upstyles etc., with a real focus on rockabilly and vintage styles. All the barbers know their techniques- for crying out loud, they even can do singeing!
I have never really felt fully comfortable in hair salons. They smell very feminine, they give me magazines I have no interest in whatsoever, and usually style my hair in the most feminine version of the style I wanted. They are also really loud. They have that low-level terrifying hum of chatter I associate with hen nights and groups of women out on the town. Waldorfs is the exact opposite. It instantly relaxes me as I walk in, am offered a seat and a coffee, and as I grab one of the vintage Beano annuals to read as I wait.
Yeah. The Beano.
Sitting in the green leather seats, that are tilt-able and all sorts for the hot towel shaves this place is famous for, it’s like you step into the past. For the first time, getting my hair cut is a true pleasure. Washed, with an old fashioned collar protector in place, with all sorts of tonics and lotions getting massaged into your hair listening to old jazz… it’s bliss. The time they take with the cut is fantastic. No corners are cut, the clippers come out, scissors and a straight razor for my neck.
If any of you guys out there with short hair haven’t had the back of your neck shaved with an open razor, you haven’t lived. It is so, so pleasant.
All in all, the 30 or 40 minutes I spend in the shop is time well spent. I come out feeling suave, dapper and incredibly cool. For someone who walks around getting some unusual looks for wearing ties that sit over a very female chest, that feeling is invaluable. It has also really helped with my styling in general- from a dodgy shaggy curly mop to something a bit streamlined and dare i say it- dashing. I look neat and tidy for the first time in my life!
I realise that this post might come across as a bit of an advertisement for Waldorfs- and in a way it is. I know that there are lots of women out there like me who really don’t get what they want at a regular ‘salon’, and who might be a bit nervous of approaching a barber to get a cut that they’ve been thinking of for a while. Certainly in Ireland it wouldn’t be the most usual state of affairs for women to frequent a barber, and it can be a scary thing to do. But if you’re even just thinking about it, there are barbers out there who will ‘get’ what you want, and won’t try to feminise your cut. I am incredibly pleased with my experiences to date in Waldorfs, so why would I not recommend them? They have been really welcoming to me- now I get a ‘hello’ and ‘same as last time?’ comment when I come in. It feels really great.
So, I can see this becoming a monthly grooming regime. An hour out of my month to reign in my hair (which grows like I’m on steroids), turn off my phone, listen to some great music and chat, and come out feeling like I was born to strut. Yes please.