Thinking about a holiday? Of course you are, travel agencies are throwing deals at us left right and center right now. After nearly a month (feels like longer) of clean living, saving money and generally being a boring person, it’s only natural that our minds should wonder. If you’re looking for an adventure (and a great shave), read our guide on where to get an authentic cultural bristle-removing experience and what to expect.
1: TRY SOMETHING NEW IN TURKEY
Such is the popularity of the Turkish barber that they have even started taking over much of Europe and North America. Many consider this the ultimate male-grooming experience, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand why. In Turkey, it’s never just a shave.
Male grooming is a matter of national pride, to the extent that no foreigners are allowed to practice the trade, only Turkish nationals who have had many years training – rumour has it. The process starts with roughly an hour of gossiping over a cup of tea, then on to a swift hair cut. The shave starts and ends with a hot steamy towel being pressed over your face; in between, a straight edge razor is used briskly to give a very close shave, followed by a neck, shoulder and back massage. This is all finished off with a small burning rag used to singe away unsightly nose and ear hair.
2: IMAGINE YOURSELF IN INDIA
When giving off a good impression in India, material wealth comes second place to personal hygiene and appearance. What good is the latest iPhone model if you look like you’ve just crawled out from under a rock? This is why even the poorest of men will still be found clean shaven and with short hair.
Traditionally the barber would take his services door to door, usually bearing news of which young men and women were eligible for marriage and acting as the ‘marriage broker’ between families. Nowadays, barbers can be found in one place, whether that’s on the street, under a tree or in their own shop -although they are still often used in marriage negotiations.
In comparison to the Turkish Barber, the Indian shave is fairly quick, except the occasional breaks when the barber is particularly engrossed in a scene of the highly dramatic crime drama on TV.
3: JAZZ IT UP IN JAPAN
Like most things that happen in Japan – and in stark contrast to pretty much the rest of the world – the male grooming experience is executed with organised precision.
First, you must wait your turn in a firmly ordered queue made up of old men passing time, students, and suited-up business men. Do not expect to be caught up in conversation with anyone, customers tend to keep to themselves and the barbers focus on their work. While this may seem cold and unwelcoming, in a busy, densely populated country, the barbers can be a quiet and relaxing sanctuary. For reasons unknown, the Japanese tolerance for hot water is far higher than should be humanly possible, so be wary of the steaming towel that may be applied to your face pre-shave.
A likely addition to your shave will be the grooming of your eyebrows; shaped eyebrows are considered a reflection of personal hygiene and a demonstration of attention to detail.
4: GO GO GO GOOO GET IT IN GHANA
It shouldn’t be too hard to find a barbershop in Ghana. They’re usually (always) brightly painted with men’s heads sporting various hair and beard styles. The Ghanaian barber has the ultimate combination of precision grooming and relaxing to the point of working horizontally.
You can expect to wait a long time for the barber to perfect the cleanest lines and smoothest fades you’ve ever seen. This is one barbershop where you don’t have to go for the ‘traditional clean shave’ as there is no such thing, you can have just about any facial hair style you want.
Of course if you arrive to find a small queue, you could be in for a hefty wait – not to worry! It’s become pretty common (especially when the barbers are young) to have a PlayStation set up with FIFA, surrounded by a few chairs and sometimes even a sofa.
5: BRING IT BACK HOME TO BRITAIN
While most of us are aware of the bloody history behind our barbers, the red and white stripes that resemble blood-stained bandages which once hung out to dry seem not to deter visitors to the modern barber shop. Thanks to modern medicine and the good ol’ NHS, barber shops are no longer a den of unanesthetized amputations and teeth pulling, but a haven to which men escape and discuss football, share dirty jokes, or just quietly read a newspaper whilst waiting their turn in the barbers chair.
In this respect, not much has changed over the last 100 years, but the rise in popularity of safety razors has seen a strong decline in professional wet-shaves so that now almost all income in barber shops is from hairdressing.