I recently went to what I’ve always considered to be my barbers. Not a hairdressers, not a boutique or a salon but a proper old gents barbers.

Semi-hidden away on Camden high street, a last hold out of pre-student commercialisation. Here you can have the final touches done with a cut throat razor and powdered off with that old fashioned squirty talcum powder stuff. There was always a touch battered postcard of Tony Curtis and if you asked them why it was ‘cause they’d cut his hair back in the day.


I’ve got to make this clear by the way, I’m not appreciating their establishment in a kitsch way. I have genuine affection and admiration for it.

 

Dave and Syd’s, Syd and Dave’s, father and son. Plus Geoff who always cut my hair.

 

If you’re that way inclined they’ll neaten you up in a lovely sharp rockabilly style or maybe in a utilitarian forties cut. They know how ‘cause they’ve been cutting hair like that since the forties and fifties. Well, they were.

 

I was down in London again the other day and took some photos of the sign. I was hoping that it’d be open but I knew it wouldn’t as it was a Thursday and they’re always shut all day. I used to have a ritual where I’d go there and get my hair cut on the day before I was going out on some mammoth night time venture but I had to plan it all well around those closed all day signs.

 

With hair just that little bit shorter above my ears than elsewhere I had my armour on for the night ahead.

 

Anyway, I was moved, shocked and upset on my previous visit when I asked about Geoff who used to cut my hair. “He’s passed away, five years ago”…

 

…and what about Syd? “He’s gone to, they both went within six months of one another”.

 

It makes me want to cry just typing about it. I’m not quite sure why. They always felt like some kind of connection to a long gone past, a more decent and honourable time. I expect they both worked more or less until they died.

 

Geoff had this big unruly shock of white hair and a ‘tache and he used to put his hands on your shoulders when he was telling you something. He was almost like a surrogate grandfather for a bit lost-his-way chap in his mid-to-late twenties who’d managed to disconnect from his family and roots.

 

…and you could really talk to him, not in that narrow chatting to a cabbie kind of a way but he had a mind full of experience and wisdom.

 

Once upon a time I printed a one-off t-shirt for him that he wanted for his wife. It said “she’s the greatest”. I was terrified that it’d go wrong and he wouldn’t like it.

 

Syd was a smaller chap, quieter and with a self-respect to him. It’d been hard to watch him in the later years he was there and he could nolonger cut hair but just worked the till. Still wore his brown barbers coat everyday mind.

 

…and now they’re gone.

 

I’d never realised that Dave, the younger chap who worked in there was Syd the original proprietor’s son. Him and another gent who’s started there more recently are carrying on the tradition, they’ve been taught by masters. When this newer chap cut my hair it was like watching an effortless artist at work, there was a flourish, pride, craft and confidence to his movements that I expect you don’t see too much nowadays in a world of paper playing and email sending.

 

Five years. Where’s it gone? Have I really not been there for five years?

 

Geoff and Syd you were gents. I still think about you.




"Written around 2005"