Friday, October 12, 2012


Friday October 12, 7:26 p.m.

Monsieur Barber Shop 415 Bloor St. W.
Since I got back from Japan, one of the things I'd missed was a decent haircut. Not just the cut itself but the service that surrounds it. I have to admit that I was spoiled all those years in Chiba-ken since the typical visit to the barber there involved two shampoos, a rinse, a refreshment, friendly banter and a scalp & back a matter of course. It cost me, though. The average price at my salon would probably have come out to $55 CDN a visit. Still, I did fairly skip over to the salon every time I went.

Getting back to the Big Smoke last December, my closest tonsorial choice was less than 100 m away from my home. And at $8, it was even cheaper than the cheapest option for haircuts in Japan....the quick cut and vacuum hose near my old subway station. I went there a couple of times....nothing fancy; was done in about 5 minutes and I only had to endure a few minutes of hair pieces stumbling down my back like rappelling Marines. But my last time there, I walked in on one of the cutters just splayed over the three chairs, and when she rose up, she didn't even have the decency to look embarrassed....just looked like she woke up in her jammies. The guy who cut my hair didn't flinch one bit as he twitched me over to the chair. $8 will get you so much.

Then, I saw the latest CP24 commercial which featured the staff at Monsieur Barber Shop & Spa. After that, I looked the place up on the Net, and saw that the place was close to U of T and it had a pretty good reputation. So, I went downtown this morning to check it out. When I took a look inside, it looked pretty busy but the woman at the front (who happened to be the lady on CP24) asked me in a friendly voice to come in. I told her that I didn't have a reservation but she replied that there was no problem and just invited me to sit in the mezzanine lounge at the back of the shop.

The lounge looked a bit like a museum tribute to a French palatial salon, but there was the big flatscreen....of course, it was on CP24....and there was a coffee table with a lot of magazines. But I didn't have a chance to even read one when a friendly barber arrived to greet me, shake my hand and welcome me to the shop. I had my shampoo first which was very comfortable. I remember when I got the same treatment at SuperCuts many years ago....I was face up looking up the barber's nose; at my Ichikawa salon, there was a thin porous sheet of vanity placed on my face so that there wouldn't be any potentially awkward eye contact during the shampoo. The situation at Monsieur was even better....only had to tilt my neck back just a few degrees as my head backed up into a specially-shaped sink and then the barber showered my head in warm water and suds. Afterwards, I was led to the barber chair for my cut. I gave my request to him and he set out to work. I felt a bit badly since I had been suffering from a touch of cold. Perhaps I should've held things off until I got over it completely, but as I kept my well-used tissue at the ready under the black protective sheet, the barber kept himself professional and composed, as the mop on my head started to look increasingly trimmer. After everything was done and I got my hair blow-dried (I was rather relieved that I wouldn't have to sport hair trimmings all over my body on my way home), I got the famous hot towel on my face that people raved about. To be honest, although it was comfortable and it drained my clogged sinuses for a while, it still didn't quite reach the divine heights of getting the hot towel at a Japanese barber shop. There, after getting the shave, the barber massaged in some creamy menthol on my jaw before placing the hot towel on my face where I got to breathe in the stuff like a Vicks VapoRub....a few minutes later, the barber would take off the still-warm towel but not before rubbing the menthol in further on my face.

However, the important thing was that I felt like I did get a good cut and service for the first time in nearly 18 months. Monsieur also offers massage and other spa services. According to the newspaper article on the place, the staffer kinda lamented that Toronto men were still pretty skittish about getting that rubdown or manicure or pedicure. Yeah, I have to admit that I will probably never let anyone get near my tootsies, but getting that massage was de rigueur where I had been living for 17 years. I may take them up on that offer next month. It'll cost me but heck, my shoulders and back will be happy.

The final cost: $25 plus tax and tip. I paid $32....gladly. Perhaps a bit pricey for a haircut, but again, I have been spoiled on service during my years overseas. But even with the tip, that price doesn't come anywhere close to what I used to pay at a simple barber shop in my neighbourhood. The last thing I said to my cutter: "I'll see you next time."