Groom for Improvement: Matt Farquharson on men’s hair cuts: the good, bad, and the awful

Our columnist, author, podcaster and Insta-star Matt Farquharson (aka @papa_pukka) on a history of barber shop hair mares
Photography: Imaxtree Tree
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From what I’ve seen through the plate-glass windows, the female hairdressing experience looks like a glorious spa retreat for the bonce. There’s gentle caressing, foaming lotions and a parade of artisans telling you how great you look. Sometimes they even bring you fizzy wine.

In comparison, the male barber shop is a place of low trauma. There’s the pretend ‘mateyness’ and the conversations about cars. There’s the social pressure to make your work/weekend/life sound interesting, rather than things that have just kind of happened while your mind was elsewhere. There’s nose, ear and eyebrow grooming. Then there’s the quiet agony of having to express an opinion about what you want your face to look like.


"Generally, barbers only know how to do one cut and only slightly vary this for the times"

Many decades of social conditioning have taught us fellas to be bluntly blasé about our appearance. Even in the age of Love Island pecs, most of us still feel a little uncomfortable admitting that we have style aspirations beyond not scaring animals. Since first walking into a barber shop, aged about 14, my stock answer to, ‘What can we do for you, then?’ has been, ‘Three to the sides and back and a bit more on top, please’. Despite saying this roughly 242 times since, I’ve never been given the same haircut twice. Generally, barbers only know how to do one cut and only slightly vary this for the times.

The only blessing is that, unlike the typical salon experience for women, the process usually lasts less than 30 minutes and doesn’t cost a week’s wages!

Men’s hairstyles: a potted history

1. The gazza

In the mid-90s this, more properly the ‘French crop’, was the look. Everything on the top of the skull was gelled forward to crispy points.

2. The hoxton fin

This angular peculiarity from the early noughties made the wearer look like they were growing a tiny shark’s dorsal fin out of their skull.

3. The hipster comb-over

For the last decade or so, this has been the look – as the men of Britain all slowly yield to the interwar side-parting vibe.

Matt’s hair heroes

1. Shape and hold

VO5 Matt Rework Paste It dries fairly solidly, but then keeps hair in place.

2. Add texture

Fudge Urban Sea Salt A hair revolution! It plasters hair in place like you’ve been in the surf

3. Define with wax

Fish Shape Defining Wax For when your hair’s short-short. It only needs a dot and you’re good to go.

Follow Matt @papa_pukka