What immediately springs to mind when you think about a barber? For me, a barber is a place you go for a no-frills, no-nonsense haircut for under a tenner. A haircut you can explain in numbers: ‘Five at the back and sides, seven on the top’. Twenty minutes later, you’re out, hair shorter, job done.
It’s also a place where you can get a Sweeney Todd-style hot shave, and at one place I went to I had my ear hair singed off with what looked like a ball of flaming Blu-Tack. Alas, I’ve never been asked if I wanted ‘something for the weekend.
I’m not dissing barbers by the way. They have an important role and the service you get is generally very good. If you have really short hair, for example, why bother going anywhere else? And the barber is ideal for the kids.
But, as with anything else, when it comes to a haircut you get what you pay for. How may times have you left the barber, found the nearest window and quickly altered what’s been done? It’s an adequate haircut, but usually not quite right. For that, until fairly recently, you would have had to venture into a salon.
Like computer shops and garages, salons scare me. I just feel out of my depth, terrified that I will be overwhelmed by their superior knowledge and expertise, and forced into getting something I don’t want; in this case a hairstyle that no man of my age – or any age for that matter – should be seen in.
Ideally, then, I’m looking for an establishment that straddles the barber shop and the salon – somewhere I can feel comfortable, in control, and also get a damn good haircut. Well there is such a place: Ruffians, in Edinburgh.
The second I walked into Ruffians, on Queensferry Street in the west end, I knew things were going to go well. Wooden floors, solid wood furniture and lighting that’s not in your face all combine to create an atmosphere of unforced cool, an understated elegance. It oozes confidence – these guys know what they’re doing.
I was sat down and offered a coffee – they also offer beer, or even a wee dram – before my ‘cutter’, Ian, came over to discuss my hair. He showed me where my hair ‘wanted’ to go naturally, and explained that a haircut based around this would look better, be easier to manage and grow in a lot better.
I couldn’t argue with that, so after a hair wash and a head massage, we were off. There’s no better feeling than the security of knowing you’re in capable hands, and I had no doubts that I was going to have a good haircut. I wasn’t disappointed. I left with a new style that I didn’t want to change the moment I left the shop. Quite the opposite, in fact. And for just over 30 quid it was worth every penny.
The fact is that all of the cutters employed by Ruffians are immensely good at what they do. Over a hundred and twenty CVs were trawled before they found the right people – all of whom have been properly trained and have unisex experience – so they know about every aspect of the craft. For example, Ian didn’t use clippers once, rather he used the edge of his scissors, which impressed me a lot.
Like a traditional barber, Ruffians also offers a hot shave and moustache and beard trimming services. It also stocks a range of male grooming products. Admittedly I’m not at that stage yet, but give it time…you never know.
So after 30-odd years of safe, adequate haircuts for under a tenner, I have finally waved goodbye to the traditional barber. I have no choice. It’s like driving a ten-year-old Nissan Micra, not a problem – until you find yourself behind the wheel of something newer, bigger, more powerful; a car that makes you look and feel better.
Suddenly the Micra just won’t do – and it’s the same with a haircut. I don’t want an adequate haircut anymore, I want a great haircut. So I’m going to – at Ruffians. You should too.
Ruffians, 23 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 225 8962, www.ruffians.co.uk
By Tim Siddons