Rat dogs, chubby cherubs and a hairdresser called Charles
The second I saw Charles, with his matted Rod Stewart 80s wig and zipped-up sleeveless hoodie, I knew the sensible thing would be to tell him I was not the girl who’d called five minutes earlier to make a hair appointment and then exit his salon.
Even before that moment there had been warning signs…
He was the fifth hairdresser I’d called after Googling hair salons while holidaying in Cyprus. All the others had been fully booked for the day and said that if I was to get my hair trimmed by one of their hairdressers it would cost around 35-40 Euros.
Charles, on the other hand, told me he was ‘free all afternoon’ and that a trim would cost me 15 Euros. When my husband and I pulled up outside, the sign read “Unisex Salon for Men and Woman by Charles from London” (so many questions already) and it was accompanied by some very unfortunate hand-painted font in the windows advertising his services: BODY MASSAGE, RELAX AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE and HAIR FOR MEN AND WOMEN.
I walked past the bad font, opened the door, and saw Charles.
He had a haystack head of hair, botoxed lips, gold bracelets, a diamond stud in his ear and tight-fitting jeans. At his feet, a tiny rat dog wearing a t-shirt that was yapping its face off (possibly in protest over the colour highlights on her tail). To his left, a bucket of brushes full of other-people’s hair. To his right, a faded blue fabric-covered chair where an old woman (I am assuming his mother) was sitting, looking petrified, wearing an oversized men’s navy-blue jacket, a huge scarf that covered her mouth like a face mask and big black shoes.
As the voice inside my head shouted GET OUT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, I ignored it to walk with Charles towards a wash basin where I reluctantly sat down.
“I just want a straight-across kind of trim,” I said as he rinsed by hair before wrapping a towel around me that smelt like a little wet rat dog.
I looked around the salon. The walls were covered in large photos of Charles posing with 80s-style female models as well as a few framed pictures of semi-naked men. I asked about the pictures. He explained:
“That’s me with a very famous singer”
“That’s me with a few models from Cyprus”
“That’s when I was a belly dancer”
In every photo his hair dominated – varying shades of bleached-blonde, always in the shape of a mullet-on-steroids.
Keeping the photos company on the walls were portraits of chubby cherubs with awkward penises alongside images of the Virgin Mary. This homemade artwork was framed by stones, painted gold, stuck on the walls – as well as clumps of what I can only imagine was toilet paper, also sprayed gold, glued in decorative patterns. On the ceiling, more alfresco attempts surrounded by swirls of painted toilet paper.
Making sure that no space had been left un-bedazzled, there were also decorations under the glass table top next to the mirror where I sat for my haircut – a collage of seashells, fake flowers and gaudy gemstones – glowing under fairy lights.
But let’s get back to the reason I was there – to get a trim. At this stage Charles was haphazardly grabbing clumps of my hair and chopping them off. Now I’m no hairdressing expert but every haircut I’ve ever had has involved the hairdresser pulling down strands of hair between their fingers and then cutting UNDER their fingers to trim those strands. It results in a very pleasing snip, snip, snip sound.
I was not hearing any of those noises from Charles’ scissors. The only sound they were making was crunch, crunch, crunch as he chopped ABOVE his fingers – causing my hair to ping up in all directions. He may as well have put my hair in a ponytail and chopped above the band.
I’ve told this story to a few friends and they were like, “Why on EARTH did you let him cut your hair?”
I’d like to say that it was because I didn’t want to offend Charles. I didn’t want to be the girl who took one look at his Warwick Capper-inspired mullet and turned right around in horror.
But the truth is, the whole scene was so god damn bizarre that I felt like I had to stay. I had only seen characters like Charles in movies before (think of Franck out of Father of the Bride crossed with the mum from The Castle who is always ‘prettying’ things up) and I was utterly intrigued.
What did I find out about Charles (apart from the fact that he’s an interpretive hairdresser)?
He used to live in London (hence the signage). He also spent many years living in Brisbane but Cyprus has been home for the past 25 years.
He used to work in television but I don’t quite believe that his job included styling hair (although, possibly in the 80s his skill set might have been acceptable).
He likes to decorate every surface of his salon. Not even the tissue box had been spared his unique artistic touch.
His salon has one review on Google from a woman called Mel Tucker who gave him 5 stars but didn’t write any words about her experience.
He has a rat dog named CaCa or KiKi or something ‘Ka’-ish that was gifted to him by a German client many years ago: “She said that a person who lives without a dog is not a real person”.
I also found out that if you pay him 15 Euros and ask for “Just a straight-across trim, please” – you end up with a hairdo that resembles a mini-mullet sticking out of a bob.