CRAIG BROWN: Why silence is always golden at the barbers

On a visit to the barber, the late Enoch Powell, never the chummiest of characters, was asked how he would like his hair cut.

‘In silence,’ came his reply.

I thought of Mr Powell when I heard the news that a hairdresser in Finland has launched a ‘silent service’ for those who prefer a bit of hush.

Kati Hakomeri, who runs her own salon in Helsinki, has little time for small talk, big talk or, indeed, any sort of talk at all. 

Nor do her clients: many can think of nothing new to say from one visit to the next. ‘If nothing new has happened in life during that time, why talk about it?’ she says.

Kati Hakomeri has introduced the special booking for clients who would prefer not to make polite chit-chat about their future holidays, weekend plans or the weather

I’m with the silent brigade. If I were a Finn, I’d make a beeline for Ms Hakomeri’s salon. I always dread hairdressers saying: ‘Going anywhere nice this summer?’ Or ‘Crikey, where did you get this cut last?’ 

That’s why I always go to a barber who has his radio permanently tuned in to noisy discussions about football. 

W. S. Gilbert, the lyricist half of Gilbert and Sullivan, would also have welcomed Ms Hakomeri’s venture. When his chatty barber asked him: ‘When are we to expect anything further, Mr Gilbert, from your fluent pen?’ 

Gilbert snapped back: ‘What do you mean, sir, my fluent pen? There is no such thing as a fluent pen. A pen is an insensible object. I don’t presume to enquire into your private affairs. You will please observe the same reticence in regard to mine.’

Of course, there are plenty of people who like to chat to their hairdressers. In her memoirs, Hitler’s secretary, Christa Schroeder, recalled that his girlfriend, Eva Braun, once complained to her hairdresser that Adolf ‘never had sexual intercourse with her’.

Presumably it was this same hairdresser who passed this choice item of gossip on to Schroeder, who, many years later, relayed it to the general reader.

Never tell your hairdresser a secret: this was one of the many life-lessons that Eva Braun failed to learn.

Hakomeri appears to be on to something, too, telling a local newspaper that there appears to be a gap in the market for the special booking option.  Pictured: Hakomeri's salon

Hakomeri appears to be on to something, too, telling a local newspaper that there appears to be a gap in the market for the special booking option.  Pictured: Hakomeri’s salon

Hitler’s personal barber felt that the Fuhrer’s hair-clippings might be worth keeping. With this in mind, he discreetly gathered them up by placing sticky-tape on the soles of his shoes.

Ever since the days of Sweeney Todd, barber shops have been an uneasy mix of calm and tension. Some find them relaxing; but others find them tense, perhaps because they think of them as the settings for machine-gun massacres in gangster movies. 

One minute you are sitting back with a white sheet around your neck and your face covered in shaving cream, and the next you are lying flat on the floor, riddled with bullet-holes.

And barbers themselves can be unreliable. A while ago, a new suspect for the Jack the Ripper murders was uncovered: a hairdresser called Aaron Kosminski, better known as Jack the Snipper.

In my experience, even the most quiet barbers offer the basic courtesies, asking you whether the water is too hot and, at the end, showing off your new haircut to you with a hand-held mirror before removing hair clippings from your collar with a fancy brush.

But it wasn’t always like that. When I’m in London, I often pass a barber shop in Marchmont Street that has a plaque on its wall, stating this was where the Carry On actor Kenneth Williams once lived. 

His father was a men’s barber who disapproved of fancy hairdos and offered only the traditional short back and sides.

Kenneth remembered a man coming into the shop and asking for a blowwave. ‘You’ll get no blowwaves from me!’ erupted Mr Williams senior.

One mystery remains. Why are so many hairdressers addicted to puns? Such as the British-named salons Curl Up And Dye, Shear Excitement, From Hair To Eternity and Love My Do. Yet another reason for booking my next appointment in Helsinki.