Monday, April 14, 2008

Guest post

The Royal Barbershop, or
These Places Exist, or,
When Only Booze and a Straight Razor Will Do

If you were you to go about choosing a barbershop using employees haircuts as your criterion, you would never choose the Royal Barbershop. These aren't the kind of guys that pay much attention to appearance, or hygiene for that matter. Admittedly, it is a bit superfluous, considering the place is housed in the depths of the Fulton St. subway station. But for certain types of people (men), there is something reassuring about walking into a joint where for reading material the offerings are limited to the latest in pornography; where sharing space with the literature on the table next to the folding chair where you wait while a man named Elvis finishes his sandwich are bottles of Johnny Walker Red and Sambuca; where the walls are adorned with posters exhibiting the wide range of haircuts achievable using only clippers, pictures of deceased Yankees, and, in the privileged place directly behind the barber chairs so that the customer can see its reflection in the mirror while getting a trim, a picture of the man I believe played 'Stan' in 'Revenge of the Nerds' (great hair). This is a place where men cut hair, not because of a certain 'fruitiness', but because their father, and their father's father cut hair back in the old country; gay is not in their vocabulary. Elvis is from Montenegro, and he wants to know what it's like out west. Phillip is old, very bald, and very Italian; his daughter just had twins and his station is adorned with photos of his grandchildren. Joseph is small and Jewish with cartoon-like features; he seems compelled to please. This is not the kind of place you go if you are in a hurry. Or, if you are in a hurry, just keep your mouth shut, because these guys are LEGIT, and they will talk to you like people probably used to talk to each other, namely, like they give a shit. Sometimes they'll stop in mid-clip and offer you an espresso ("we got the machine for the customers, but most people turn it down," says Phillip with a frown). It was in the Royal Barbershop that I first saw, and first enjoyed the experience of, the straight razor (absolutely thrilling, though there will be blood). It was also at the Royal Barbershop that I first enjoyed the treat that is the hot towel face massage. Who the fuck does this anymore? It's as if there exist under the streets of Lower Manhattan a taste of what New York used to be. How much for this shit? Fourteen dollars.


Phil said...

I experienced about half of those things (straight razor, hot-towel face massage, free caffeine) for the first time at a salon in Japan, but it cost my like 3500 yen. No free booze or pornography, though. Way cleaner. And the stylist sent me a postcard at New Years.

Kate and/or Mike said...

Mike experienced it in Istanbul. Straight razor, free tea, hot towel. $4.