Getting a haircut in Amsterdam

The Dutch are famous for their hipness.  People just care about their appearance more than we do across the pond.  The average stylish outfit per capita in Amsterdam is through the roof and quite a bit more than you’d expect to find even in the most unbearably hip enclaves in the States (Portland, Seattle, Boulder—listen up).

You can imagine my discomfort, then, when I arrived in Amsterdam after 6 or so weeks of traveling looking like a poorly maintained Border Collie.  My mane was uncouth, unruly, and untenable. Truth be told I’d been due for a cut for the better part of a month—but it’s a little intimidating to find a trustworthy salon in Europe.  How on earth would I know what to look for? European men’s hairstyles can sometimes be, for lack of a better word, boundary-pushing, and I didn’t want to accidentally trust my locks to some scissor-happy maniac and end up looking like Adam Lambert from the eighth season of American Idol.

If I wanted to get a haircut, it was going to take a leap of faith.  I just had to find a barber who could take that leap with me. Eventually, right in the heart of Amsterdam, I found that man.  I can’t remember his name, but he had a huge blonde beard, immaculately maintained hair, and the kind of raw vision it takes to turn my Border Collie coat into something worthy of any black-tie affair that happened to come my way (but, just to be clear, there were no such black-tie affairs to be found in the city.  Didn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts). I found this master of hair in the the chic, old-school digs of the Gentlemen’s Barbershop.  

Everything was complementary.  In retrospect, I think they probably figure the cost of drinks into their ambitious haircut pricing.

As soon as I walked in the door, it was fairly clear this was not going to be a run-of-the-mill barbershop experience.  For starters, I barely had time to hang up my recently-thrifted leather jacket before someone was offering me a drink. “Beer?  Whiskey? Tea? Tea with whiskey?” Tea with whiskey?? What won’t they drink! There was a beer tap at the cash register in the front of the shop.  Everything was complementary.  In retrospect, I think they probably figure the cost of drinks into their ambitious haircut pricing.

Refreshments aside, business was at hand.  I had originally intended to do only a preliminary check of pricing and timing when I walked in the door, but what with the immaculate customer service and wonderfully out of place country-western vibe of the place I ended up getting sucked right in for the haircut itself.  The place is normally reservation only, but I lucked out and a barber was immediately available (my aforementioned hair-master).

Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the process, I have to say it did look wonderful.  Just on that fine line of stylish-but-not-too-stylish-for-my-own-good.

What followed was the longest, most intense haircut I have ever received.  I risked it all and let the stylist do more or less whatever he thought was right for my hair—it involved lots of clips, some slicking back, and more time than I’ve ever devoted to a cut in my life.  It was impossible to see what the outcome would look like until it would have been far too late to reverse the damage, but I just had to put my faith in my sculptor. It was a real Michelangelo-with-David moment, except I was fully clothed and we weren’t in Florence.  Towards the end, he started throwing in product—lots and lots of product—to get it all to work and stay in one place. He thought the final product looked great, as he told me before grabbing his phone and walking around my head to take pictures of it. Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the process, I have to say it did look wonderful.  Just on that fine line of stylish-but-not-too-stylish-for-my-own-good.  As an added benefit, the layers of product made my hair effectively bulletproof… but when I showered it all out and woke up the next morning it really just looked like a normal haircut.

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