Having travelled around the world and lived in many countries, I have had to find a good barber at every destination. By good barber I mean someone who knows how to cut hair and who you can trust to do a good job and understand what you want.
It is all about service and making you feel relaxed. Easier said than done, many countries have different approaches to the barber and hair cutting or styling, not to mention manicure and shoe polish.
In Mexico City I found a good barber almost immediately, the salon was a little like an old club and in the Latin American tradition of what gentlemen expect, you got the hot towel treatment, manicure and shoe shine, spit polish which I like at a reasonable price.
I found that in any Latin American country I went to, you could always get a great hair cut done by barbers who had been in the profession for years, real professionals.
In other countries like Egypt or Jordan, it was touch and go and though I got what I wanted the conversation was a mix of Arabic-English and the topics were limited to the style of the haircut. In Chicago, I went to the Drake Hotel, they had a salon in the basement next to the flower shop of the Hotel, very nice, well done.
In Poland I cannot remember where I went to get my haircut, same for Beijing, it must have been in somewhere but I really don’t recall, just to say it was highly forgettable like most of the PRC is really.
Italy was the best, the salon on Via dei Serpenti (Snake Street) a name it got in the 14th century when the Quirinal Hill area was mostly uninhabited. It had been a prosperous neighbourhood in Antiquity and to this day it is considered one of the oldest of the Capital.
I met my barber Domenico LoTorto (Mimo) at the coffee shop on the corner across the street from the Bank Of Italy (central bank of the Italian Republic). I was studying Italian in the building above. In Italy social contact and conversation is common, people talk a lot and will start talking to you. I told him I was looking for a barber and he told me that he was the barber of the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. I would later learn that Napolitano had been his customer for many decades since he lived in the neighbourhood. When he became President he simply kept Mimo as his barber and would phone him for an appointment.
I would usually go see Mimo around 4:30pm, my office was not in the area, but this being Rome I could walk it in 10 minutes from Piazza Reppublica. It was an excuse to leave the Office early. Love that salon, on the TV was the Financial News of Italy, no one watched. The newspapers were Sport and Soccer newspapers, the customers were either bankers from across the street or various people from TV or Radio, art world etc.
I always got Sisi to do my nails, she was not Italian but Romanian, she had lived in Italy for years. It was a nice 30 minutes, a cut and a wash, 20 Euros.
When I came back to Canada, I looked for a barber, not much to write about here, finally I found two brothers, Italo-Canadians who with their fathers had been in the business for 40 years. But it was not the same as in Rome, it was ok but it had none of the finesse or the atmosphere of going to the barber. In Canada, you get your hair cut and that is it, no wash no manicure and no shoe polish. Finally here in Charlottetown, there are several barbers, from the designer types who can do your hair starting at $40 dollars for a cut to the more down to earth barbers at $18.
Currently I go to a barber in Charlottetown across from City Hall. They do a good job, but they have so many customers that they never remember from one time to the other who I am. The conversation is polite but I sense they are not listening and it is all chit-chat somewhat mindless. It is also a very straight barber shop, all the workers are women, very much an old style, good ole boys kind of place. The price is right and they do a good job, so it will do. I am not going to pay $40 dollars for a haircut that takes 10 minutes to complete.
Queen Street, Charlottetown, PEI