Who would have thought a haircut could bring a man so much pleasure? If you haven’t heard of Robbie’s Chop Shop in Adelaide you ain’t in the ‘cool crowd’. Robbie Ferrante is the charismatic owner of a unique ‘males only’ barber shop at Hyde Park who yesterday did something that just placed him in the ‘legend category’.
But first, I need to give you the vibe on Robbie’s business – it has a 50’s style barber shop feel with a chequered floor, and attracts a crowd that is either buffed, super smooth or a combination of both, ranging in age from 18-50. While us shaggy dudes are waiting to be shorn we take in some loud ‘grunty’ beats, have a beer, chill out and chat….oh, and get a great haircut. The ‘chop’ is almost secondary to the unique experience where every guy is greeted as though they are a member of the gang and been a life-long friend. The vision for the shop is that it is the last male frontier and is a unique form of man sanctuary.
They don’t take bookings, you have to line up ‘soup nazi’ style (Seinfeld) along a wall and wait your turn to jump on the next available barber throne. The difference with this establishment is that the customers have to work out who is next in line and we all nervously jostle along the wooden bench to make sure we don’t jump the queue or worse still, miss our spot. As one of the cutters becomes available he yells out really loudly ….”WHO’S UP NEXT BOYS?”. At this point you jump at the chair with all the machismo you can muster to let the other customers know that you were next in line, and there is no question about it.
There is plenty of testosterone-fuelled bravado as the customers pour into the shop and greet Robbie, who commandeers chair #1 near the front door. He offers you a signature ‘elbow handshake’ (as he has scissors and a comb in his hands) and if you are from his home country or wearing a white singlet and gold chain you may get a ‘man-kiss’ on the cheek. If you are an old guy like me you get a handshake and a “How’s it goin’ man?”. You get swept up in the macho atmosphere and instantly feel like getting an arm full of tattoos, a nose piercing or maybe for those less adventurous…buying a ‘chop shop’ cap.
So what did Robbie do that was so special? Well last week Mum decided Bob needed a proper man’s haircut and was on a mission to find a ‘barber style’ guy for the job. So she high tailed it up King William Road and stormed into the ‘Chop Shop’. She was pretty headstrong this day and did not see the “Men Only” sign in the window, or the shop full of guys lined up against the wall. With the eyes of the entire place on her in disbelief, Mum went up to Robbie and told her story about her husband with dementia in the nursing home who couldn’t get a decent haircut. I can just imagine the awkward scene as she rattled off her concerns and asked if someone could visit the nursing home and cut dad’s hair? Robbie then made a split second decision and said “no worries, I’ll do it”(probably to get her out of the shop quickly).
With dementia, you never know how the person will wake up, and how long it will take to shower, dress and prepare them for an appointment. Luckily we were having a ‘good day’ and Bob was in a good mood and comfortable. Robbie instantly bonded with Bob and chatted with him like every other customer, even though the mumbled responses came back in ‘dementia-nese’. Bob nodded off to sleep as he was given his haircut in his room and seemed to really enjoy the hypnotizing buzz of the clippers. When the haircut was done Robbie went up to Mum and said “This one’s on me…no charge!”.
That goodwill gesture earnt him a big hug from Mum plus he has just recruited 4 new customers (Bob, My boys and I) and credibility as one of Adelaide’s Good Guys!