This was originally sent as a message to friends in June 2006. It is repeated at the request of Pat who is not just a top bloke but also the owner of a luxurious head of hair, and I think he’d really enjoy the Filippo experience.
If you knew me you’d know that hairdressing doesn’t play a huge part in my life. I started losing my hair at a pretty early age. I blame my father B, who started losing his hair in his 30’s. Guess which of his genes I inherited? Anyway I’ve been having a zero cut at the barbers for the last 10 years I’d guess. I ought to do it myself but I like a visit to the barbers – I qualify for the old-geezer-with-next-to-no-hair discount and it’s a real old-fashioned man’s world. All that chat about football, women and TV and nothing remotely PC nor intellectually testing. Having lived in a house with 4 women for so long, I quite like the weekly escape to the land that time forgot – well for an hour anyway. Having moved to Italy one of my first missions was to find a ‘parruchiere per uomo’ and that’s when I came across the fabulous Filippo’s……
On my first visit there were 4 or 5 guys ahead of me; back in the UK that would have meant no more than around an hour’s wait. Not in Filippo’s. Boy do Italian guys like a visit to the hairdressers (and that’s the right word because the term barbers cannot do justice to the experience). To begin with they almost all go for the luxuriating wet shave. Applying the shaving foam is a 15 minute performance in itself. The junior guy briskly massages the face with a camel hair brush as the foam is slowly lathered up till it’s like whipped cream. Then comes the cut-throat razor shave from Filippo himself. Lots of wrist flourishes and animated chat followed by cleansing hot towels and lots of face-slapping application of the aftershaves and assorted balms. Litres of them.
The next stage takes place in a different chair as the junior (I call him this only as a rank thing because he must be at least 30) washes the hair, twice. He towel dries it lightly and teases it with more lotions and unctions. The client is moved to the mirror chair and at this point up steps Filippo again or the number 2 guy – who I really like and normally get. This is the critical stage; the ‘cutting of the hair’. It doesn’t matter how little thatch the guy may have, much time and care is taken to get this bit just right. There’s lots more chat and gesticulating and laughter and as the ‘cut’ draws to a conclusion more sprays and lotions. Filippo, drained, takes a 5-minute breather as the junior gets to start the blow-drying process. That’s when a revived Filippo steps back now to finalise the blow-dry job, so to speak. A few final flourishes with the gels and sprays and bob sherunkle. There’s a lot of mirror action, and Filippo’s gently swaying the cutting chair to and fro to catch the profile view, and lots of head nodding. Filippo’s done it again, seems to be the consensus.
I couldn’t believe it – all told around an hour and a half per client. I’ve got to say everyone leaves the place looking like Robert Wagner in Hart to Hart…..and smelling like Stephanie Powers. I’ve never seen such sensational groooming.
Eventually it’s my turn and I’m quite a bit older than when I first stepped inside. I ask for ‘uno zero’ and they realise there aren’t a lot of options with me and I’m done in around 5 minutes. Bless them, they obviously feel like I’m not getting the full treatment and proceed to pad out time by getting out the wet razor for my neck and around the ears and the baby scissors for the eyebrows, nostrils and inner ears. There aren’t many head hairs that escape these guys’ attention. They even apply a little spray for some reason – maybe it’s to give me a nice shine. Perhaps they feel that you have to come out a little more fragrant than you went in.
None of the guys speak English and I manage a few phrases of Italglish. They smile at my mangling of their beautiful language and let me free after 10 minutes – I’m sure that’s absolutely the least time anyone has had in the cutting chair, ever. I asked how much and slightly embarrassed I sense, No 2 guys asks for 5 euros – about £3.40. It’s less than half I’d pay in the UK even with tip – and what fantastic value, atmosphere and entertainment.
If you can spare the time it’s great to watch Italians undergoing the ultimate in hair/face experiences. sadly, I’ll never qualify for the full monty But I do enjoy being a witness to the performance. Oh and whilst I usually get the junior or increasingly No 2 guy, the frequency of my visits is getting me noticed by the big man. I was honoured to receive uno zero cut from Filippo himself just the other day. I think we’re starting to be accepted here.