How to behave at the barber shop
Stop texting and keep your nut straight
Sader has been cutting hair at NV Barbers off Old Street roundabout since he was 18 years old. His Dad and his uncle were both barbers.
NV’s is decked out with all the usual kit: blue bottles of disinfectant, combs, clippers, shavers, dusters, high chairs; there’s gleaming chrome and wood panelling, murals of Tony Montana and Rocky. On the little television screens Drake does his coordinated uncoordinated Hotline Bling moves.
I sat down with Sader and talked about the rules of the barber shop – what a makes a good customer, what he likes to talk about and whether it’s ever cool to look at your iphone.
10 years in the game
I grew up with scissors in my hand – I was already a barber before I even started this job. By the time i started working at NV I knew what I was doing.
Over the ten years I’ve been working I’ve done a lot of haircuts. You do start to put together an ideal customer after this kind of time. I’ve had customers who’ve been with me from the start, regulars for six, eight, ten years.
If you want to be a regular…
The first thing a barber looks for is loyalty. You don’t go to other barbers, you come to me. This lets me know I’m doing my job properly, that I’m doing something good. Good customers who keep coming back make me happy — how could they not?
At my end, If I don’t do good haircuts, or don’t give the best service, I don’t get these guys coming back over and over again. There are barber shops everywhere, we have to be at a good level to retain our favourite customers.
If you want to be a regular you have to appreciate the service — that’s the main thing. After that, there are little things — the way you look, the way you talk, your character. It’s not just about a haircut. This goes for the barber as well. Both of us need to understand each other.
How to talk properly
When it comes to off-limits chat, or chats I don’t like having it all comes down to the situation. Some people just don’t like talking, other people won’t shut up. It depends on the topic you want to discuss.
Barbers know everything. They talk to all kinds of people, day in, day out. Personally I’ve never been shocked by any conversation in this shop. It could happen, but I don’t think it will.
I don’t talk about myself too much. If you’re a regular I’ll talk about me but if it’s just some guy I won’t. Once we’ve built up trust, and I know you, maybe we can talk more about me.
If you ask for a stupid haircut, you’ll receive a stupid haircut
If you come in and ask for an awful cut I will tell you. I will suggest something else, something that I think would look good. If you ask for the same thing, the original thing again, well, I just have to do what you want.
At the end of the day you’re paying for it. You get some crazy people who ask for stupid haircuts. They say “I want it like this” so you have to do it.
Ask for tea or coffee, it’s OK mate
When we ask you if you want a drink we aren’t joking. It’s not a problem. We offer what we have – I can’t run and get a flat white for you if we can’t make one here. We’ve got Turkish tea, Turkish coffee and five other things here if you want them. We’ve got you covered.
If you want a sweet, yeah you can have a sweet. Even if you’re a fully-grown man.
Get off your phone
To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t like seeing people on the phone, for a couple of reasons. It makes it difficult for me to cut your hair if you’re moving your head about to look at your phone. It makes me less confident.
The best customers look straight ahead, at themselves, in the mirror. Reading is OK — some barbers don’t like it — but phones are my major problem. I do have a limit — if someone was really out of order I would ask them to leave. I’ve never done it but if someone’s rude after I’ve made the effort to be friendly, I would tell them not to come back.
We don’t need customers like that.
It’s the same as being friends
My regulars come here for a haircut, not to be on their phones. Why would they look at their phones? When they come in here it’s like a visit from friends.
Every barber should be friendly, it’s part of our job. Barbers are like doctors — you expect them to welcome people, to greet you, to smile. No one wants a miserable barber.
When I get my haircut and the barber is miserable or doesn’t talk I make sure I don’t go back there. I want to have my hair cut by a character, and I want my customers to have some character as well.
Ask for a specific barber
No one will be offended. If you like my haircut it makes sense for you to come to me. If you want this guy to cut your hair, he has to cut it. That’s why we are here. It’s no problem. I have customers who wait for me, my colleagues have customers who wait for them. It’s cool.
If you give good service, if you look after someone well, you should get a tip. Then again, if they don’t give a tip they don’t give a tip. I would never ask for a tip. If you get a tip it means you’ve done a good job, when I don’t get one I do start to question that.
Don’t worry about bringing in a photo if you need to
It’s OK. It happens sometimes. You get models doing it mostly, they Google a haircut and show it to you. It’s no harder or easier than a normal cut.
Men’s hair is getting better
Without a doubt. Now, it’s all about barbers. When I started out you’d have men going to hairdressers for women. Men like to groom themselves now and it’s improved everyone’s hair.