The good old days in Manchester barbers


Things have changed a bit since a visit to a mens barbers might have been a bit of a hazard so this is just to remind you what the good old days looked like.

Once upon a time a long long time ago I used to sit in a Manchester barbers waiting for my turn to have my hair cut. It was a brutal business. Behind me would sit a row of individuals who would exchange what in those days passed for banter and what today would probably get you arrested. They would leaven the banter with a few insults about the other attendees in this less than salubrious saloon. The standard fare was short back and sides which would be accompanied by the words ‘how much would you like off’. A cynical question the answer to which never made the slightest difference to the outcome of your haircut.

One day on one visit I opted for a change and instead of a short back and sides quietly asked for a ‘Perry Como’. A hush fell on the room, newspapers rustled slightly and the atmosphere palpably changed. I knew instantly I had made a big mistake.

The sheet with which the barber encapsulated his victims was in mid air at the time and instead of the usual tourniquet being put put round my neck the barbers face  appeared inches from mine. ‘What did you say’ ‘err I wondered if you could do me a Perry Como’.  Through the mirrors in front of me and via the dense clouds of tobacco smoke you could the faces of the other supplicants who were waiting to be shorn. A line of smirking individuals.

The barber stared at me for a few seconds trying to work out if I was taking the piss and then said ‘we don’t do that stylin ere lad’. Glancing round he gave a knowing look at his other clients but did not actually say I think we have some kind of weirdo here.

So I sat cowed in the chair as he removed huge quantities of my hair and you always then had the humiliating experience of him holding the mirror up so you could see the back of your neck so you could pronounce the stunningly awful effect of his work as fine.

Then subdued and unable to put much more of a fight up he would reach for a jar of a grey glutinous substance. The top of your head is not a place which has much in the way of feelings. Unlike your feet or hands you do not have much use for it and largely ignore it. This would startlingly change after a good dollop of the grey glutinous substance was administered. It would be slapped on your head and vigorously massaged in. It was like having a dish of cold  tripe slapped on and left there.

Then you pay your 2/6 and out into the cold you would trot hoping nobody you knew would see you and damage your street cred for ever or at least two weeks. Usually it was foggy so that provided some cover.

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When steam power came along there were various suggestions for automating shaving and before steam horse drawn power was considered with the one below offering the prospect of shaving sixty men a minute. So perhaps Manchester barbers were not so bad after all.

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