Nicholas Lezard – December 2022

I used to be a vain man but these days I do not gaze into the mirror admiringly any more, for there is now little to admire. So it is often an unwelcome surprise when I see my reflection when I walk into the lift at Waitrose. Instead of the dapper man iI imagine myself to be, I see an insane pensioner with hair all over the place. (Do not rebuke me for taking the lift at Waitrose. I have enough of a hill, and stairs, to climb once I get out.) What I need is a haircut; and every week this goes on the hair gets a little madder. Yesterday it looked so bad I wondered how they managed to let me stay in the shop. I know Brighton is a tolerant town but really?

There is a slight problem. Two, really. The first is that my favoured barbers is quite a shlepp away. This is for historical reasons. Five years ago, when I moved here, I went for a long stroll through the town – all the way to Kemp Town. I was much younger in those days. 

But as I was walking down St James’s Street I caught my reflection in a shop window and realised that it wasn’t Doc Brown from Back to the Future, but me, and I happened to be passing Ei8hty Ei8ght Barbers (for that is how they spell it, 88 being their address), and something about it looked welcoming, so in I went, and the barber available was Claudia, and she gave me – for the standard cost of a haircut for a gentleman – the best haircut I had ever had.

Of course, there is not much to cutting my hair. It’s pretty much a simple removal operation. I had a girlfriend during lockdown and after about a year my hair was going really lunatic so she borrowed a pair of clippers and it only took her two goes to master the technique. But there’s more to it than that and Claudia is still the best, and I can’t go anywhere else, it would feel like adultery.

But the thing is that Brighton has more hairdressers per square foot than anywhere else I have seen in my life. The only thing it has more of are tattoo parlours. But I am Brighton’s Amazing Untattooed Man so I can’t use them.

I typed “barbers brighton” on Google maps and there are 19 in a mile-wide radius from West Hill. There are three in a row in Seven Dials alone. After that they kind of peter out, but seriously, how many barbers/hairdressers can a town sustain? And it always feels odd, when walking from my place to Ei8hty Ei8ht, to have to pass about a dozen of them and go “No, not that one”, for I have to go there; it is the law. Anyway I can’t afford one today, not even at their reasonable prices. This magazine does not pay, we do it for love.

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