Arré Checklist: The Extraordinary Gentlemen of the Gents’ Salon


Arré Checklist: The Extraordinary Gentlemen of the Gents’ Salon

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

When it comes to personal grooming, women have men beat. Compared to the various hair-removal procedures, facial treatments, and massage therapies available at the beauty parlour, a transaction at the gents’ salon is rarely, if ever, more protracted than a shave, a haircut, and a thank you. Despite the brevity of these visits, scored to the sounds of snipping scissors and wordless muzak, you’re likely to come across at least one or two, if not all, of these characters in any gents’ salon you visit.

The Demon Barber

Let’s get to the Big Bad right away, your barber aka Sweeney Todd. Sure, he might attempt to make polite conversation while clipping around your ears, but his dark side comes out anytime you get a shave. He will merrily nick your throat and chin a few times before proceeding to rub in burning alcohol and potash alum into the wounds with a smile. If – like a glutton for punishment – you survive Dr Barberstein’s ministrations and ask for a pedicure, his assistant Igor will proceed to mutilate your feet with an array of metal implements that evoke reactions that range from “Hehe, that tickles” to “I’ll give you my first-born to make the pain stop!”

Small-Talk Uncle

Retirement can be boring, so Small Talk Uncle has decided to pass the time at the salon. He justifies his squatter status by availing of every treatment offered, regardless of whether he needs it or not. You can easily spot this specimen by looking for the geriatric with dye in his hair, cucumbers on his eyes, and feet in a hot water tub. If you’re lucky enough to end up in a chair next to this uncle, be prepared to hear an infuriating, pointless story about something that happened way before you were born. Any resemblance to meaningful conversation is unintentional and purely coincidental.

Sports Bro

No matter how fancy or run-down the general condition of the gents’ salon, the one fixture you will find in every establishment is the TV set that is forever on mute. This TV, which is perennially set to ESPN, Star Sports, or Ten Sports, is installed solely for the benefit of the Sports Bro. This is the guy with no job and no girlfriend, but he really likes his chances of winning his fantasy league this season. He’s worth engaging with if you want to catch up on the latest transfer news, but not good for much else.

The Greenhorn

While the rest of the patrons are likely sitting in stoic silence, or at most, involved in muted conversation with either the Small Talk Uncle or the Sports Bro, there will be one high-pitched voice that pierces the room. This is the token five-year-old boy, here for a haircut while Dad gets a shave, who will either be deeply fascinated or deathly frightened by the experience. Either way, expect a constant shrill stream of protests or questions from this salon newbie, which will ensure that you vow never to have children.

Best Supporting Actor

Spare a thought for the guy who handed you your waiting token and swept up the remains of your ill-advised man-bun from the floor. From getting chai, to keeping the place tidy, to making sure the magazine with Katrina on the cover is always at the front of the rack, this man is the unsung hero of the gents’ salon. For the right tip, he can bump you to the front of the waiting line, kind of like a bouncer with a broom. Whether he’s 16 or 66, his name will inevitably be a variant of “Munna” or “Chotu”.

Global warming might be changing the planet, but the specimens found in the habitat of the gents’ salon are thriving as they always have. See how many you can spot on your next visit.

Just remember to tip the barber well; that aftershave can really burn.