The Barber, that Secret Institution

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Barbershop minutae. Royal Crown Barber's, Hawthorn
Barbershop minutiae. Royal Crown Barber’s, Hawthorn

An old man from the continent dressed in tweed with a neatly clipped bristly mustache and generous smile revealing a glistening gold filling he didn’t seem to mind my presence in the shop. Although on my entry with my father, he would flutter around the magazine area and tuck away busily what I now suspect were naughty magazines. I’d fiddle in my chair while the Perth sunlight struck the window and warmed the black and white tiled floor. With each sweep, the glinting razor would frighten me but nevertheless I never broke my gaze from it.  Once I even got a haircut there. My feet didn’t quite reach the rungs of the squeaky mahogany chair beneath me. An array of round tin containers with retro print logos and coconut smelling insides sat on the counter like jewels. But it was the bristle hair brushes, robust and decadent that intrigued me while the barber clipped my blonde hair into spaghetti tendrils that meekly fluttered to the floor. As he clipped he sung his sentences, sonorous Italian Australian English. I still recall the smudge of the gentleman’s pomade that he smoothed through my hair. I left the Leederville shop with a bouncy bob and a feeling I was a part of it all. Dad and I had the same pomade.

Royal Crown Barbers shop front. Hawthorn. Melbourne.
Royal Crown Barbers shop front. Hawthorn. Melbourne.

The coming of age ended these visits but not an ongoing fascination with barbers. Mr Divageiger goes to a retro barber that I spotted and begged him to visit. Not so much for the needed haircut as I adore his latino curls, but more for a little of the voyeur in me. For isn’t the barber secret men’s business? Barbershops fascinate me, I guess because I have no rightful place there. Or reason to be there.

Grooming Menagerie at Royal Crown Barber's
Grooming Menagerie at Royal Crown Barber’s

I’ve already asked Mr Divageiger to smuggle my camera in.

“Just take photos of those bristle brushes, please, I love them, amor!”

But he won’t .

“No bella,” he replies grinning at my idiosyncrasies as ever, he ruffles my hair and kisses me goodbye to keep myself busy while he gets suitably coiffed.

Tramstop view
Tramstop view

I’m sitting huddled at the tram stop seat outside the barber after exhausting my roaming on the nearby street. I can’t help but glance in. I can see Mr Divageiger, sitting like a king in his mahogany chair, the barber buzzing around him like a wasp. The cut is not yet finished so I amuse myself staring through the window into that other world trying to make out the interior. Men saunter in, sprawling on the old cinema chairs waiting their turn in the age old ritual. Mr Divageiger has caught my eye. He twinkles at me and gestures me to come in, while I’ve been waiting he’s been smoothing over my chance of entry. Like a school girl I push the heavy door open and enter that world. The barber lets me take photos and also grins at my idiosyncrasies. There is a whole cabinet of vintage bristle brushes, tins of pomade, old lolly jars and the smell of that Leederville barbershop of my childhood. Nostalgia.

That chair
That chair
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