Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 26th 2014 Contents “You have to try doubles,” said the Trinida-
dian. “You have to try the weed,” said the
Jamaican. “You have to try the women,” said
the St Lucian. Kenny’s prepared me for the
madness of barbers in PoS.
On Duke Street the barbershop is a liming
spot. Drunk customers refuse to pay and get
locked in. Men chip in to buy bottles of Pun-
cheon. Lotto results are a major event. Sunday
Punch keeps you occupied while you wait.
My first Trini barber, in Hadeed’s on Henry
Street, was hit by a car and died.
Meanwhile, at my newly discovered barber
the laughter eventually died down but soon
the surrealism reached new heights.
A woman came in selling products and I
heard prices called and orders placed. Turning
round expecting it to be haircare products
I see sex toys in boxes!
“I get these for my girl so that when I’m
away she won’t go looking for a next man,”
my barber says. I try not to imagine where
his fingers have been.
On the TV, Italy vs Uruguay threw up a
shock result and a predictable vampiric assault
by Luis Suarez. I pay the man his $40.
“Do you know a guy called Benny in Eng-
land?” He asks me.
“Does he live in London?” I say
“I don’t know.”
“London is quite a big place...”
“He’s a Trini,” he says. I look at him, non-
You wouldn’t get this level of comedy in
a salon and that’s why I’m sticking with my
grimy barbershops, with all the trimmings.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, June 26, 2014
“Is there a wait?” I say, popping my head round
the sliding door of a barbershop in Port-of-Spain.
“A white?!” One of the coiffeurs asks, perplexed.
The whole shop turns to look at me.
“A wait!” I repeat, before adding apologetically, “I’m
“Oh!” The shop erupts with laughter.
Barbershop experiences in Trinidad are entertaining,
just like my barber’s back home, Kenny’s in Wood
Green, where last year a teenager was stabbed while
sitting in the chair and in January gunshots were fired
My haircutting history is chequered. Our mother
used to cut our hair, which often ended in tears and
demands for the damage to be rectified by the Nigerian
hairdresser at the end of the road who barked instruc-
tions and had fly-paper dangling from the ceiling cov-
ered in fly carcasses. Eventually our mum had enough
of our ungrateful complaints.
“Here’s £5!” She said, “get it done yourself.”
These were my early teenage years, the “hi-top
fade” was in fashion, modelled on the movie House
Party. I couldn’t risk my credibility being tarnished
because of my mother’s ineptitude with the clippers.
I don’t have fully afro hair, nor do I have white hair
white one or a non-ethnically affiliated one?
My brother and I experimented with Caribbean
barbers but found them too brusque, spinning us
round in the chair and jabbing away with the clippers.
Eventually we settled on a Greek-Cypriot barber. We
grew up in an area with a large Greek-Cypriot com-
munity. The owner, Chris, and his sons had curly hair,
it seemed to make sense.
Chris’s became our go-to barber for years. He was
polite, courteous, good with the scissors and only
mildly racist. In such a multicultural area he had a
plethora of targets, but he’d look carefully around the
shop before launching into a cheerful tirade.
“These bloody Albanians!” he’d say peering into
the mirror, scanning the waiting area. “These bloody
Turks/Muslims/Poles...” The ethnicity was inter-
changeable. I’m sure when I wasn’t in there it was
“these bloody blacks!”
It was just his way of making small talk. Casual
racists lack imagination and xenophobia is an easy
substitute for meaningful conversation.
We outgrew Chris’s after a while. Casual racism
becomes tiresome when your protests fall on deaf ears.
I drifted through a series of meaningless relationships
with barbers—my criteria were: (a) was it cheap? (b)
could I park outside? (c) will the barber do exactly as
Perhaps I was too demanding in these relationships.
They would start off with that exciting thrill of the
unknown, blossom into camaraderie but then some-
thing would happen. Maybe a stray hair left uncut or
an overly savage skinhead cut. Things would turn
tense, cold. I would make my excuses and look for
somewhere else. With barbers it’s best to make a clean
break; you can’t be seeing another barber on the side.
They know. They always know.
Eventually I found Kenny’s. I was scared at first.
The dancehall and reggae booming out on a Saturday
afternoon was intimidating. The chip shop next door
appeared threatened by their proximity. It was a hub
for stoned locals who appeared from their council
estates via the betting office. It was a hub for Chinese
“pirate” DVD vendors plying their trade.
It was staffed by a Jamaican from Portland with
thick, long dreads and a Swedish wife, a British-born
Trinidadian with a passion for fried food and a mad
tattooed St Lucian who was only 21 but had fathered
three children with three different women.
Conversation ranged from football to Vybz Kartel
and back again. When girls passed the shop they would
break away from their customers and run to the door-
way to watch them.
After the stabbing they had security cameras installed
and a security lock on the door. When I told them
I was moving to Trinidad they were excited and jeal-
Trinidad with all the trimmings
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