Flânerie

Styling the Savage

$200 dollar haircuts and the idiots who spend their inheritance on them

There’s a photo of me in existence–a recent photo– taken on a rooftop on the 4th of July. In it, a young caveman named Urg sits crosslegged and cheerful, waiting for the light show that he has heard so much about. When he goes back to his cave to tell his wife and probably also sister about the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks and climbing ladders on roofs (” a fucking urban jungle, Gurg, not joking“), it is fair to assume that he will at some point throw the long coarse ropes of his brown hair over his shoulder, so that Gurg– his wife-sister– can fully appreciate the new cosmopolitan religion that lights a fire in the dark windows under that heavy brow bone . Urg’s a big-city boy now– he’ll never be the same.

The picture hits the internet on Tuesday– I give it a day– but by Thursday I am lurking outside a hair boutique high on the Upper East Side, watching a parade of swathed silks go rustling in and out of the door to the salon. The rich of this town still wear silk, and wear it out-of-sync with contemporary notions of style as a distinguishing mark. Call it nostalgia for neo-classical elitism or call it instead a stand against that form of nouveau richesse so popular among the elites of Berkeley, in which the man on the corner, raw and draped in rags, is either a doctor of Philosophy or a vegan billionaire.

I come back the next day, wearing my best shoes, but uncomfortably aware that there’s nothing so telling as being the sort to own one set of shoes that stand out above the rest for reasons of quality rather than of preference.”Do you know what you look like to me?,” said Hannibal Lecter to Clarice in the dungeon, “–with your good bag and your cheap shoes?”

A quick phone call around the corner produces a complimentary consultation in half and hour. I purr down the phone, I let a doubtful rich brogue seep into the words, I am Dubious Money itself. “Ah, hallooo. Ahm hoping to purhaps discuss the posibiliteh of consulting with someone in your salon about a Haarcut.” Then all that remains is the wait. I sit on a richer man’s stoop and dither.

The elevator opens right into the fray, and it is a hive of enterprise. He of the Golden Feld, i.e. the receptionist, looks up. Crowds of women in brown robes push through the narrow salon, their hair up in mad combinations as they inconvenience each other in the crossing. Golden Feld fusses his way through the crowd and leads me to the antechamber where the great master whom we have all come to see does his work. We pass lines of monied people, bedraggled and wet, seated in rows, waiting.

We arrive at a hall of mirrors.

White Pants sashays by, and fluffs out the hair of the man next to me. “I really firmly believe that we should leave what’s on top– if you touch it, you might as well just join the army now, because you’re headed for Libya, no questions asked,” he drawls out in his best little voice. Tan and lanky, with beach hair to suit, White Pants spares a glance to the side and fixes in on my hair. Behind his glasses, –italian, perhaps Emilio Pucci, not retro enough to really be Dolce –( I can play at this game too, Monsieur bon pantalons) , an approval for the color of the hair lurks and he finds me fortunate. His client looks over too- they are in agreement on this. A memory of a legend once heard, of a barber in the East Village where they give you a shot of vodka before stalwartly putting a bowl over your head and cutting what the bowl does not cover, drifts forward…

My name rings out, and the Master stalks into his audience room. He is young and round, and very, very serious. He does not introduce himself, and launches straight into the matter at hand. “Vous êtes donc française?” he says, after I confirm my audience with Himself.

” Je-”

He is already too busy for pleasantries, and says, ” Comment faire?” absently, digging his pretty hands into the mass of hair below my ear and twisting it. We are neither of us French.

” J’aimerais bien-” I begin.

” Vous. Avez. Cheveux. d’Enferrrr, Mademoiselle,” he interrupts, and pulls it the mass of it all up towards his face, until feet of my hair are standing on end. White Pants, making invisible alterations to his client’s hair with dinky scissors, interjects from the next booth over.

“–Les cheveux d’ange, je dirais, moi!” I am delighted to note that White Pants speaks French like a hopeful but delusional Texan. However, those two Americans living in American have something to say, and current forecast predicts that for an number of unclear reasons, they are going to say it in French. So in a mirrored room totaling no more that 1200 sq feet, my patchwork of education realizes its full potential, and I begin to broker the terms of a most explicit haircut.

We fight: White Pants shakes his scissors at me, and The Master refuses to part with a red section hanging near my jaw that tends to spring up with alarming insistence, while I mutter furious streams of rebellion–the assistants to both men slink out of the room after a while, but not without shooting parting devotional looks to their leaders.

The seated man under White Pant’s diligent care turns out to be a German. “Ja, à mon Avis, je préfure eine mädemoisulle avec la tête rasée,” he pipes up. This hugely unhelpful teutonic sentiment breaks the stalemate, and The Master rushes to re-assure me that the thought never crossed his mind.

The consultation lasts only 25 minutes. No cut is made. I am in the fire, and then suddenly, The Master decides on shapely long layers and I am dropped, ushered out of the mirrored room and spat back into the street with an appointment card.

” Vous verrez donc si je me trompe,” The Master says at our parting, not unkindly, but not precisely grammatically correct either. A dark cover lies above the street, and I set off in it, limping in my best shoes, but determined to go talk to the haunted and frothy macaroon boy behind the counter at Ladurée, to make sure I am still in America.

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