Hair has always been important to the male members of the Williams clan. My grandfather died at the age of 73 with a veritable ‘lion's mane' and my father, also now in his mid-seventies, is often complimented on a ‘terrific head of hair' for a man of his age. And fortunately, neither my brother nor I are what you would call ‘follicaly challenged'. We haven't let the side down. Not yet anyway.
As a fashion-conscious young man growing up in the UK, one of perhaps my weirdest and yet unfulfilled ambitions, was to have a haircut at the famous Trumper's barbers shop in London's trendy Mayfair. It wasn't just because my musical hero, Morrissey, used to pop in there for a trim every time he was in town (although that would be reason enough), it was to have the chance - just once - to sit in a plush leather chair, in your very own private cubicle of the finest mahogany, and have your hair fussed over by a master of his trade. And then eventually walk out of the shop with maybe ‘something for the weekend' and the kind of haircut that compels you to check your reflection in every other shop window.
So several months ago, it was with some excitement that I noticed another giant of the British traditional barber shop world, Truefitt and Hill, had opened a branch in the Emporium Shopping Mall on Sukhumwit. I ventured in on the off chance they'd have a barber standing around waiting for customers - and luckily they did. Four appointments and four quite splendid haircuts later, I am well and truly hooked. Dare I say a trip to the barbers has now become the highlight of the month?
Recognized as the hairdresser of choice for H.R.H The Duke of Edinburgh - and no doubt a few other members of The British Royal Family as well - Truefitt and Hill currently has branches in Singapore, Malaysia, India and The United States. And now they're here in Bangkok!
The businessman responsible for bringing Truefitt and Hill to Thailand is Sakorn Thavasin. Khun Sakorn has devoted much of his life to travelling the world in search of ‘the finest grooming experiences for the discerning gentleman' and he jumped at the chance to provide customers with an ‘old-school' barber shop experience that exuded both class and luxury.
A man's world
And ‘experience' is the key word. At Truefitt and Hill, you're not getting just a haircut, a shave or a beard trim. The moment you walk into the shop, you're in a strangely comforting male-only domain. There's no ear-splitting rap music or over-gelled teenyboppers prancing around in low-cut skinny jeans. This is a man's world. The only things missing are a complimentary tumbler of the finest malt whisky and perhaps a fat stogie from the humidor.
The décor and customer service are sheer perfection. The ‘receptionist' (which is far too plain a word for such a wonderful establishment) greets you with both civility and impeccable English. Upon establishing your grooming requirements, you are accompanied into the barber shop itself.
The Emporium branch of Truefitt and Hill employs about half a dozen staff, each one specializing in areas such as traditional or modern hairstyles, beard grooming, face massages, manicures, etc. The customer takes a comfortable seat and drifts away to some gentle background jazz while the barber busies himself with clippers and cut-throat razor.
I'm proud to say that I've now become one of barber Sawat's regular customers. Probably in his sixties and immaculately turned out in his shiny shoes and monogrammed waistcoat, Khun Sawat handles his tools of the trade with all the dexterity of a man who's been cutting hair since the year dot. This is a master barber at work. He'll fashion you a parting line that you could slice bread with.
The attention to detail is astonishing and I'm sure all part of owner Sakorn Thavasin's vision. Men's grooming products are neatly lined up on ceramic trays and men's magazines look like they've been arranged on shelves by someone using a ruler and set square. The carefully chosen photos and black and white prints adorning the shop walls are all fascinating nods to a fashionable bygone era.
So how much does a Truefitt and Hill haircut cost? I know that's the question you most want answered. Well, as your father or a favorite uncle must surely have told you at some point in your life - ‘nice things cost money' A Truefitt and Hill ‘royal haircut', which is basically a wash, cut and 45 minutes of the barber's time, will set you back 1,100 baht. It isn't cheap - and you wouldn't expect it to be.
The choice is yours!
Over a thousand baht! For a bloody men's haircut! Yes, I can hear the roars of disbelief from here. Possibly because you're one of those gentlemen who gets the job done for less than a hundred baht at the spit and sawdust joint down the soi, and if you are, then good luck to you. I've had some decent haircuts at those local barber shops. I've had some bloody awful ones as well.
I find those barber shops at the end of a deep soi just too much of a gamble, especially if you don't have a regular cutter who knows ‘exactly how you like it'.
I like the guy cutting my hair to spend more time actually looking at my head than staring at the Thai boxing on channel 7.
I don't want that half inch strip of bare skin shaved above each ear. I once mentioned this weird practice to a retired expat barber from Canada and he shook his head and said "why on earth do they do that?" But communication with your new and unfamiliar Thai barber is always going to be tricky if your advanced hairdressing vocabulary is not up to scratch.
Most of all I don't want to be the star turn of some sort of impromptu cabaret show. I don't want to hear "farang this" and "farang that" from the guys you always find sitting in the waiting chairs but are never there for a haircut - just to keep the barber company, watch the boxing and ponce off the air-conditioning.
Go on. Treat yourself to the Truefitt and Hill experience - even if it's just something to tick off your bucket list.