Back by "popular request", today Get Lippie is proud to be hosting a guest post from that most "august" of "occasional* contributors", yes, it's Mr Lippie!**
The last time I went to a branded barber shop, I have to admit that the experience was less than overwhelming, and as a result I have been fairly wary of venturing far from my local barbers' where I've been going for about 4 years.
So, when I was offered a haircut and a wet shave from Carter & Bond, I experienced a certain amount of apprehension. Getting the balance right at a barber shop can be incredibly difficult. Whilst most little local, independent shops charge very little and depend upon a high volume of customers who are happy with something that can be achieved with clippers and a minimal amount of scissor action, the moment you start to up the price past the £15/£20 mark, customers want something special. Some brands try to appeal to the "lad" market, with big screens playing various sports shows, beer on offer, and generally trying to bring a bar feel to the whole concept. Others go high end, bringing the feel of a Savoy tailor and treating customers as king, with a host of added extras - for a price.
So, which would Carter & Bond be? To judge from the logo - an elegant bowler hat - I thought it would be high-end, catering to a market which would be a long way above my price range. The only question, in my mind, was whether the value for money would be there. Carter & Bond are situated over in West London, a few minutes walk from Latymer Road Tube Station. When walking up to the address given, a bit of confusion did start to set in - we were heading up to what was obviously a combined industrial/commercial unit. Given it was a Sunday afternoon, this was even more odd! However, we found Carter & Bond on the buzzer, pressed it, mentioned I had an appointment, and in we went.
When we got to the barber shop, the barber (an amiable gent by the name of Yusuf) was just finishing up with another client. There was just one chair, but the room itself was a call to every young boys' dream. Model planes adorned the room, plastic soldiers were lurking everywhere, and - best of all, in my humble opinion - a STACK of Commando comic books were piled up at the back. It was just great. Yusuf was chatting quietly to his client, and I just wondered around, slightly awestruck, wondering precisely how much of this stuff had been nicked from my parents' garage. I gathered my wits, refocussed, and looked at what was actually being sold.
There were, in actuality, a tonne of really interesting products alongside the memorabilia. Everything you would expect at a barber - the hair gels, the aftershaves - but all sorts of extras which caught my magpie-like eyes - cufflinks, full-on cutthroat razors & shaving kits, and even toothpaste! It was all very intriguing, and I barely noticed the time pass as the previous client - who was obviously here for the first time as well - was finished with, took a peer at the extras, and walked off with toothpaste and a couple of other odds & sods, looking very satisfied.
I took a seat in the big chair and Yusuf looked expectantly at me. "Erm....I usually have a Grade 6 back & sides, with about an inch off the top" - yes, this was my opening gambit. A quiet chuckle ensued. "Sorry sir, we don't do that sort of thing here" - accompanied by a waggle of the scissors. Gosh! I gathered my wits, and tried to remember the last time I'd had a haircut like that - and, to my shame, I still can't! Some brief negotiation & discussion ensured, and Yusuf went to work on my barnet. I have to say that I was very impressed. Quick, efficient, and obviously highly skilled, Yusuf rapidly sorted my hair (of which there is copious amounts, not always amenable to direction) into something which genuinely suited me. The past couple of weeks have been even more impressive, as the style has held its' shape very well and is still recognisable, despite my lack of skills in sculpting hair with product!
Once the hair was done, it was time for the shave - my first wet shave ever! I had a couple of ideas of what to expect, but the sensations absolutely blew me away. The hot towels steamed my head to perfection, and the various oils suddenly cooled my face with serious intensity. Add the slide of the razor across the skin, and it was fantastic. I would easily recommend it to anyone (at least, anyone who needs their face shaved!). Overall, the entire process took about an hour, which was capped off with me emerging incredibly red-faced, but feeling hugely revived. The various photos show me somewhat mummified, but they have no way to depict the furnace that was hitting my face!
Afterwards, we had a brief chat about the experience - and the astonishing fact that that whole hour would only cost £50! For a once-a-month experience, that's not bad at all - admittedly, the real trouble would be from spending as much if not more on the extras - a cufflink addict like myself could easily blow a tonne of cash without blinking.
Overall, I really enjoyed the whole thing, and am looking forward to returning - I just hope Yusuf doesn't mind that the side parting he gave me has disappeared....!
You can find Carter and Bond at 15-17 Baseline Studios, Whitchurch Road, London, W11 4AT, and calle them on 020 7243 0319. They also have a great online grooming store at http://carterandbond.com which is all kinds of aces ...
* If by occasional, you mean, like, once a year or so.
** Will that do, MrL?
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