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Dunedin – the city where men come first

I’m not that into getting haircuts at the best of times. So take me to a new city in a foreign land and it’ll be even further down my list of priorities of things I want to do. But the time had come, before I developed a mullet or went back to the ‘90s curtains look, when I probably did need to bump it up my priority list.

I googled “barber in Dunedin”, and even in a small city I was hit with a bewildering array of results to choose from. Smartphone in hand, we headed out into the city to scope out some of these places, to see who would be getting my business. First off we walked past ‘Michael Shanks – Hair Design for Men’, which doubled as a convenience store at the front. I imagine it’d be like walking into a Co-op for your bread & milk, then once you were at the checkout deciding to get your haircut too (Would you like a hair cut with that, or just a 5p bag?). The Google rating was less than 4 stars and I didn’t need any groceries for now, so I decided to give this one a miss and continued to see what other hairdressers Dunedin had to offer me.

Next up was a fancy joint called ‘Schaartje | Barber’, it literally translates to ‘a barbershop that is a little bit fancy’ and checking on their website I saw that they were also on facebook, instagram and spotify. If you ask me this is way more online media than the kind of humble barbershop that I’d be looking for. A full blown audit of barbershops might seem a bit over the top, but back home it’s an easy decision.

Back in the UK I’d just go with the Turkish Barbers in Egham, where they’ll cut your hair, trim your nose hair and eyebrows (whether you need it or not), place a flamethrower to yours ears (again last time I checked my ears weren’t that hairy) AND throw in a cup of tea, all for less than the price of a round of drinks. Oh and they smother your face with a scalding hot towel at the end to freshen you up and suffocate you slightly (steaming your face without burning your balls). Quite a bargain if you ask me.

Then I came across ‘Bloke barber – where men come first’, now this one sounded a bit rough and ready for me and I had visions of coming out of there with a grade 1 all round and possibly even a tattoo. Helena was getting a little restless and said “You men have it so easy with haircuts, you just rock up and get one. Women have to book an appointment way in advance.”

A problem that I can’t really do much about, anyway I was trying to focus on the problem in hand of selecting the finest barber in all of the South Island. “Will you just hurry up and pick one?!” she said, clearly not wanting to spend the whole day in Dunedin just perusing various barbershops. Really I was looking for something in between Bloke and Schaartje, but Helena was probably right I just needed to pick one, we didn’t come 18,000km round the world just to get a haircut for me.

I decided to go with Bloke barbers and entered the front door, ready to take on my new Maori tattoo or whatever they were going to hit me with. There was a coffee shop at the front, which I aimed to walk past and headed straight to where people were sat having their hair cut, before a woman in the coffee shop asked “Are you here for a haircut?” I then saw that the coffee and barbers are one and the same.

“Yes I am” I say

“Do you have a reservation?”

“No” 

“OK it’s going to be a bit of wait.”

It’s clearly a thing in New Zealand to combine multiple outlets in one unit. If the next shop I went into to buy Fish & Chips had also offered to do my dry cleaning in the back, I swear I would not have batted an eyelid. And what was that about men not needing an appointment? I agreed to wait.

Amongst the people already having their haircut, one of the Maori staff was talking with a customer about the rugby on TV last night. Helena offered her support with the rugby chat if I needed it, to which I responded that I knew what rugby was, I just chose not to follow it. Maybe she could just stand there and talk to the guy while he cut my hair, it would at least save the small talk about where I was going on holiday next. As it happens I was more talkative than my barber, just a short conversation about our tour around NZ, with no mention of rucks, mauls and hakas.

At the end the barber showed me the back of my head from three different angles and like any British person does I just nodded and said “Yes that’s good…..mhmm…..yep fine.” Like I’m going to say anything else when he’s already chopped and shaved most of my hair off the back of my head. I settled up, went outside the shop and got a photo with the sign, sure in the knowledge that I was a man and I came first (apart from those men who had booked appointments in front of me).


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