Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beard trim at the Mandarin Oriental

It’s been at least four weeks, and my beard has been getting increasingly bushy, so I went for a trim at the Mandarin Oriental.

The barbers there run the gamut from completely silent, to overly voluble, to calmly competent. A lot of this depends on your personal taste, and while I don’t think that a barber shop needs to be as silent as a library or a grave, there are times when there’s too much chatter.

For example, when you’re having a man use scissors on something attached to your face, you don’t want him to be laughing. I’ve nothing against happiness, but an excess of hilarity when somebody is making minute adjustments to my moustache does not leave me feeling particularly secure. A laughing barber is not as worrying as a bald one, but all the same I’d prefer somebody who was clearly concentrating on the task in hand. So no conversations about holidays, or sport, or anything else. It’s not like you’d want a brain surgeon to be gabbling away a hundred miles to the minute while he dug around in your head, and I value my face almost as much as my brain.

When I’m having my hair cut, that’s a different matter. Growing a pompadour like I seem to is a thankless task, and what’s more, if you only get a hair cut every three or four months, you’d like it to be an event. In that case I’m quite happy for a man to gabble on about how my hair is growing “like a jungle”; I’d even chuckle along with him. As long as he’s not holding a razor to the nape of my neck.

Although considering that, perhaps it’s wise to laugh along with anybody with a razor. You don’t want to risk it.

Today I trooped down there at half past midday, and Kumar put me in a chair, reclined me, put a lemon-scented damp towel over my face, and went to work. In fifteen minutes he was done – we stopped, I looked at his handiwork, asked for a bit more off my top lip, and he acquiesced quite happily in putting in that last bit of trim. Then another rub with a moistened towel to remove any stray hairs, and I was done.

Again, this is good. In the past, there have been times when Kumar’s taken slightly more off one side than the other, and we’ve then gone back and forth two or three times with a cut-throat razor, ensuring absolute symmetry, and at no point has Kumar suggested I’m being overly difficult, or that my own taste in facial hair is at odds with that of an artiste like himself.

Admittedly, the price is a bit steep for something you could do yourself with a set of clippers, but then you wouldn’t have the monomaniacal dedication to fixing all the minute details with a pair of scissors, or knowing exactly the right way to comb the beard, either. You could practice and practice, but these people are professionals – they’ve probably been doing it for longer than you, and knowing my cack-handedness with physical tasks, they’re always likely to apply something that’s better quality.

Plus, there’s a bowl of Fox’s Glacier mints on the counter as you leave, and filching a mint gratis is always better than having to pay for it, even if 150 HK dollars are the cost of entry to this particular ride…


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