There's a fine line between making good impressions and looking desperate

From outside on the street, the barbershop looks intimidating. Through the glass, four barbers work away diligently, all tattoos, blades and banter. They nod their heads to the music – always something experimental and funky, always something I've never heard of (but will Google later).

Weirdly, they all resemble Ryan Gosling, but from different parts of his filmography. There's Notebook Ryan, Crazy Stupid Love Ryan, Gangster Squad Ryan and, my personal favourite, Ryan from Drive.

I've been going to this place for just over a year, and every time I visit, something bizarre happens. It's as if someone pushes pause on my regular personality and I become a version of myself I think (hope) they'll like. I'm prepared to say or do anything to get these people onside.

Best impressions

I've seen this phenomenon happen before. My old man isn't phased by anyone, except for the chef at his favourite Greek restaurant. Something about the way this surly adonis chargrills octopus turns my dad into a teenage Taylor Swift fan. For other friends, it's their barista or mechanic; you get the drift.

It's more than a man crush but less than a friendship, and either way, it's odd.

For me, it starts the minute I enter the shop. It's busy, so my barber offers me a beer which I never want but accept anyway. Then I take my seat alongside six or seven other suckers painfully sipping their way through a peer pressure beer.

Fibs and fabrication

During a recent visit, my barber was regaling the audience with a story about his friends back home partying with UFC star, Conor McGregor. It was undoubtedly the best anecdote I had heard all year.

Before I knew it, I was telling my own story about a guy I knew who did bare-knuckle boxing. That guy was Brad Pitt from the movie, Snatch. While the barber was suitably impressed, I was mortified at the lie that so easily rolled out of my mouth. A grown man, appropriating a Guy Ritchie movie, to impress an Irish barber, who had a bong smoking kangaroo tattooed on his thigh.

Notice me, senpai

The next time I went in I spotted my barber rocking a pair of AirPods. I touched on it in my last column, but AirPods are the worst ear paraphernalia since spacers. They make you look like an extra from an episode of Black Mirror and the sooner Apple phases them out, the better off we'll all be.


Such is my disdain for the AirPods I follow several AirPod-gag related Instagram feeds and let out audible groans every time I see my friends wearing them. Not that they ever hear me.

Cut to five minutes later: I'm wearing my barbers AirPods as he gives me the sales pitch.

"Yeah mate, you won't regret it like, they're so convenient, you won't even notice them yeah?"

I couldn't disagree more. Of course, I'll notice them, they look two white commas floating near my head, but right on cue: the barbershop pressure gets the best of me.

"Wow, they're so comfortable," I lied.

"And they're only two hundred and thirty bucks? A steal."

Balance of power

No amount of showering that could make me feel clean again after that. I'd sold my soul to a smooth-talking Scissorhands, and it had to stop. The opportunity to reclaim my pride presented itself after my barber committed the ultimate sin – a shit haircut.

A lousy cut is a particular kind of torture; you're forced to watch it in the mirror, witness to your own demise. When I came home my worst fears were confirmed – I looked like KD Lang. My gut instinct was to grin and bear it, go off the grid for a month until it grew out.

But looking at my reflection, I saw a man on the cusp of thirty, who had to make a stand or spend a lifetime stealing plot lines from Brad Pitt films to wow a stranger.  

Marching back into the shop, I explained that the last cut wasn't quite right and it had to be fixed.

Deep breath.

"Of course mate," smiled the barber, giving me full Gosling-grin.

"I'd much rather you be the kind of person who tells me they're not happy; you know I mean?"

Me too sweet barber, me too. Oh, and I hate your AirPods.

After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.

Follow Thomas on Twitter.