The Language Barrier: The Haircut

If you’re going to get a haircut in Spain, you should probably know how to speak Spanish…

Getting my haircut has always been something of a lottery. Never have I come out of a haircut, looked at my reflection in a car window and not thought, ‘fuck’.

I’ve tried barbershops. Too choppy. Boutiques. Too quiffy. For a few years I even went to the same hairdresser, Jack’s, just so I could walk in and ask for ‘the usual’.

Neither Jack nor I ever knew what ‘the usual’ was, and so after each, completely dissimilar ‘usual’ I had the same apocalyptic meltdown, made worse by that unique experience of  having to compliment the back of your own head in a mirror.

It's not always this scenic in Madrid

It’s not always this scenic in Madrid

So when I decided to prise myself away from Gillette Soccer Saturday and go for a haircut here in Madrid, I was a bundle of nerves.

I roughly located three hairdressers, and set off. Naturally, not all three were 4 centre-metres from each other, as Google Maps had suggested, and so when the first turned out to be a female tanning salon, it took over an hour to find the second.

Eventually arriving, my first thought was ‘YOLO´. It was a Caribbean barbers and I’ve always wanted to go to a Caribbean barbers.

"I've always wanted to go to a Caribbean hairdressers"

“I’ve always wanted to go to a Caribbean barbers”

Though before I could really work out whether adopting a whole new cultural approach to my head was the right thing to do one week into a new job, I was ushered out by three very perplexed women. This, too, was an exclusively women’s hairdresser. Or exclusively Caribbean. I wasn’t quite sure.

Not to worry. Third time lucky and all that. And this next one was exactly how I had dreamt it. One chair. One mirror. One ageing man. A couple of pairs of scissors and some clippers.

Though it sounds like a Guantanamo Bay torture chamber, it was my only option.



“¿Que quieres?” he asked. “What do you want?” And to be frank, other than less hair, I wasn’t quite sure. I decided to play it safe with a number 3 on the back and the sides, and a poco off the top.

I even emphasised how small the poco that I wanted off the top was with my fingers.

It began OK. Although the rattly old clippers were cutting off chunks of skin as well as hair, once I heard the words Real Madrid I was in comfortable head-nodding bullshit territory.

Back and sides seemingly done, I was now expecting the clippers to be put back where they live and for the scissors to come out.

It was all going so well

It was all going so well

So when Jose adjusted his stance and mowed through the top of my hair my heart dropped like a cannonball into my scrotum and my perspiration levels rocketed. It was already too late.

As I watched huge chunks of my hair falling to the floor, I stopped listening to what Jose was saying and sweatily nodded along to everything until most of my hair was on my lap.

Feeling the apocalypse begin to set in, I reluctantly fished the 9 euros out of my pocket, shot outside and looked at my unrecognizable reflection in a car mirror.

‘Fuck’, I thought. I would have been better off asking for the usual.

To see what happened to Josh last week, click here.