Out of all the cosmetic elements in my life, hair has to be at the bottom of the priority list. When it comes to my hairstyle, I have maintained the same cut and brush style since I was four years old and have more or less mastered it. Brush everything forwards after showering and then to the right. If I am feeling really adventurous, maybe I will brush it to the left, but that’s as far is it goes. I used hair gel for the first time last year for a public speaking competition and proceeded to only use it again for a handful of special occasions…mostly job interviews where I do my best to cosplay Peter Weyland.
There is one exception to this rule however. It occurred a few years ago while I was in Germany. A friend of mine name Eric had generously offered to put me up in his apartment for a week and show me around the southern provinces. Being university students however, our budgets were thin so we had to get creative with our adventures.
On one of our outings, Eric proposed that we go to a barber’s college for a haircut. I was hesitant, as I not only cared very little for my hair, but didn’t want to spend valuable travel time having a wannabe stylist stumble through the process of not performing a military buzz cut. I could get that done at home.
Eric explained to me however, that this is was not a training ground for new hairdressers, but something equivalent to graduate studies for stylists. The hairdressers all had years of experience and were sent by their salons to learn the current trends of the fashion world and apply them to willing subject. The whole process was to take 3 hours and most importantly was free.
Sold on the idea we walked over to the college, a multi-story building of white-washed walls and glass dividers. After a brief period in a waiting room, a petite woman in her later thirties came out and addressed us in German. Even allowing for the abrupt nature of the German language, I could tell that was someone not to be trifled with. She exuded a domineering presence and with a business suit, high heels, and sharp features, appearing as a merger between a school master and Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction.
We were then escorted into a small auditorium and directed onto a stage with an audience of women in their twenties and thirties. Eric explained that we each had to introduce ourselves to the audience of stylists and one of them would choose us to work on for the remainder of the day.
Thankfully I got the opportunity to watch a few other men go up first before my turn came. They spoke for about a minute each, held bright smiles and playfully bantered with the audience before being cheerfully selected by a stylist.
When it was my turn, I swallowed hard and walked onto center stage, deciding that the best thing to do would be to address the elephant in the room. I took a deep breath and grinning like an idiot proclaimed “Hello, my name is Trevor Lehmann and I only speak English”.
The room went silent.
The din of excited chatter and laughter generated from the previous speakers disappeared into a linguistic black hole as the audience of women struggled to avoid eye contact with me. As I surveyed the audience, some were counting ceiling tiles, other looked out the window while a few chose to simply stare at their shoes.
The silence seemed to continue forever and in the awkward silence and all I could think of was how I can fly halfway around the world and still have the same effect on women when I go out on a limb; cold reassurance.
After what seemed like decades, a woman in her mid-thirties at the front of the audience finally raised her hand sheepishly and stated in English “I will take him”.
Relieved at having completed the ordeal, I returned to the lineup of men and the procession of presentations continued. After everyone had been selected, we were taken to another room with a station set up for each stylist to work at. The hairstyling equipment at each of these stations was a merger of common hairdresser tools and electronic equipment that I’d expect to see at the Mayo clinic.
My hairdresser never ended up using the high-tech equipment however, as she spent a good portion of the time complaining about the “internal curls” that made any sort of styling difficult. My joking suggestion that we use the MRI machine to solve the problem only produced a frown on her face, so I decided to let her do the talking. In the 3 hours that followed, I learned quite a bit about my stylist’s personal life, particularly her salesman boyfriend who owned over fifty pairs of shoes. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I owned roughly 5% as much footwear.
The only break I received was when my hairdresser got into an argument with the schoolmaster that introduced us. Both began screaming in German at each other from opposite sides of the chair I sat nervously in, my eyes fixated on the shears my hairdresser wildly gestured with to emphasize her points.
They eventually decided to take the argument outside and ten minutes later, the schoolmaster returned to the room minus my hair dresser, pausing in the doorway to adjust her collar. I sat uncomfortably in my chair wondering if my stylist was still alive. For thirty minutes I waited amidst the din of a language I did not understand; my mind filled with images of the razor blade fight from the Albino Twins fight in the Matrix.
Eventually my hairdresser returned to the room and explained that sometimes stylists have disagreements that need to be addressed. Judging from the time taken and the smell of my stylist, this process of addressing problems involved chain smoking a pack of cigarettes, but she was the one with the sharp objects and I was not going to poke the bear.
Finally, I emerged with a radically different haircut. My original suggestion was to give me a haircut akin to Guile from Street fight, simply because it was the most insane style I could think of and if anywhere they could do it, this was the place. It came out alright and while I would not maintain the style for more than a day or two, I would remember this haircut for the rest of my life.