Chuck: Scoundrel or Gentleman?

I knew when we left home back in June that I’d need to get a haircut come early August, that I’d–in fact–be getting past due for one. But I chose purposefully to wait until now: it seemed best to wait until we made it to England, where hopefully the person holding the scissors and looming over my head, spoke and understood English.

So it was Monday afternoon when we first ventured to the heart of the second largest city in England that I was on the lookout for a place to get a haircut. Wandering through the Barton Arcade I came across the very place, the window advertising “Clean Cuts and Close Shaves for Scoundrels and Gentlemen”. With a front window like that, there could be no place else for me to go, and I returned Wednesday.

“I’m American,” I said as I entered. “Will you cut my hair?”

The barber who had approached me smiled. “Yeah, we make a few exceptions.” It was a wonderfully thick accent that I’d learn came from Liverpool.


Adam, Scoundrel Barber, Hard at Work

Men of a certain generation and older (I’m proud to say I’m at the younger end of that scale) remember genuine barber shops, with thin paper wrapped around your neck, hot towels and fresh cream, straight edge blades, scissors, and great conversation with your barber and fellow patrons. This place was all that and more. A beer more, to be precise.

“Ladies aren’t permitted in the shop,” Adam, my barber, told Lori with all seriousness. I had asked her earlier what she’d go do while I got my hair cut; it was the polite way of suggesting she go elsewhere, but she hadn’t got my message. She got Adam’s, though. As she offered to sit outside the shop (there was a bistro table with ladies magazines) Adam and his scoundrel cohorts offered her a proper English tea. She would later tell me it was the best tea she’s had yet in England, and I can confirm for you there was not a spot of it left in her cup: I’m pretty sure she had been licking it clean.

As I took my place in the quintessential red leather chair, Adam offered me a choice of tea or beer. I opted for the beer, expecting an English ale. I got a Budweiser. I am an American, after all.


The Civilized Way to Become a Gentleman

There were a half-dozen or so well-inked barbers and almost as many patrons the day I visited. Quite possibly I and one other customer were the only men in the place without tattoos or piercings. It was part of the image. The barbers are supposed to be the permanent scoundrels, turning gentlemen into each of the customers. All but one spoke in thick English accents: the exception was the scoundrel from San Diego.

Talk, naturally, was of sports: proper football versus American football and rugby. They were curious why the hell I had come to Manchester, where the hell I’d been, and where the hell I was going next. Their language was colorful, hence the reason ladies are banished. Scoundrels and their gentlemen-in-the-making must be allowed to speak freely, after all.

I proudly told Adam I would be attending a Manchester United match next week. He stopped and stared at me. “I hate United,” he said. Turns out he’s a Liverpool fan. Fortunately I hadn’t offended him while he had the straight edge in his hand. I only had to listen politely while he convinced me of spending some time in Liverpool, which we plan to do anyway.

Nobody ventured into the realms of politics and religion: a certain minimal decorum had to be maintained, after all.

Relieved of the weight of hair from my head, I left that place with yet another new–but also old–experience. Whether Adam had succeeded in turning this scoundrel into a gentleman, I’ll have to let you decide.


Scoundrel Gentleman







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