A new series on the Topman blog, ‘Adventures In Male Grooming’ will see us plucked and zapped, waxed and shaved, massaged and manicured in increasingly arcane ways until we’ve created a definitive list of the best grooming treatments for men. Cleverly pitched by Junior Digital Editor Jacob Corner as an opportunity to get pampered instead of going to meetings, he’ll be finding out what’s worth your money, what’s not, and what hurts the most. This week he visits a Turkish barbers:
As much as ‘The Full Turkish’ sounds like something you’d order at 2am with chilli and garlic, it’s not (in this case at least). Here we’re referring to the full range of treatments – shave, threading, hot towel, massage – you’ll get at a proper Turkish barbers. I went to see the experts at Ted’s Grooming Room where they subjected me to all of the above, here’s what I thought:
I was recently informed that eyebrows should look like ‘sisters not twins’. Considering my eyebrows are so uneven they look more like two Wookies who once met briefly at a house party I had high hopes for threading. Men really have three options when it comes to doing their brows:
1) You can pluck them yourself (my personal preference despite being terrible at it)
2) You can get your boyfriend/girlfriend to do it for you (great if you want your spouse to know how much of a wimp you are)
3) You can get it done professionally (A good option if none of your mates find out about it)
An alternative to plucking, threading is the process where a thin thread is doubled, then twisted and then rolled over hairs, pulling them out. Widely practised across Central Asia and the Middle East, it’s been popular for over 6000 years, which is surprising considering how painful it is.
What I liked about this was the finished product. I was terrified of coming out of the barber’s chair with a pair of arched Mephistophelian eyebrows, leaving me looking constantly quizzical/surprised/angry. Instead they looked natural, just neater. What I didn’t like about it was the process, which sucks. It really hurts.
My personal grooming process is a lot like my flat cleaning process – I only really care about the stuff I can see. I can safely eat dinner directly off my countertop but there could be entirely new cultures rising and falling under my sofa and I wouldn’t know about it. Similarly as I can’t really see into my ears I’m not that fussed about how much hair may or may not be in them. The Turkish, however, are clearly far more fastidious than I am and have developed a process whereby they dip a cotton swab in alcohol and set it alight before sort of bashing your ears with it to burn off all the hairs. It looks like this:
I loved the theatre of the whole thing – there’s something very satisfying and kind of exotic about it. I’m not sure how essential it is unless you can actually see the hairs emerging from your ears but I’d recommend it just on the strength of the experience alone.
Hot Towel & Massage
The problem with a lot of male grooming treatments is that they feel like they’re clumsily retrofitted versions of what women have been doing for years. As pathetic as it is, it’s hard to just get over the idea that what you’re doing is ‘for girls’ and still feel comfortable with it. I know I should be better than that but it’s not like I created the bloody patriarchy, I’m just puzzling my way through it the best I can.
That’s what makes the hot towel and massage you’ll get at a Turkish barbers so enjoyable. It’s so preposterously masculine it’s verges on caricature. It all starts with having a towel applied to your face that’s so hot you can almost feel the toxic masculinity being sucked out of your pores. You’re then briskly manhandled by a powerful Middle Eastern man who forcefully works out all the knots in your shoulders, arms and hands with so much vigour you think he’s going to dislocate all your joints. Finally he applies an astringent lemon cologne all over your face. It’s relaxing in the way a trip to the gym is relaxing – you might not be totally comfortable whilst it’s all going on but you feel fantastic afterwards. Full marks.
But Is It Worth Your Money?
Although ‘The Full Ted Service’ (which includes all the above with a clean shave/beard trim and a haircut) costs £54 I wouldn’t see that as being the same as just spending £54 on a haircut – you’ll be getting a unique experience that’s worth trying out of curiosity alone. Just maybe give the threading a miss unless you’re comfortable with crying in public.