Inflation Hits London Barber Shops With the £100-Plus Haircut - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Inflation has been driving up the price of food, energy and entertainment across the UK. Currently, consumer prices are up by an eye-watering 10.7% over a year ago.
Now it’s coming for the basic men’s haircut. Barber shop Truefitt and Hill in London’s Pall Mall is charging £110 ($134) for a cut and beard trim, with no such extras as coloring, conditioning or tinting. There’s not even a free beer.
Truefitt and Hill’s prices are in line with those of some top competitors. Adam at Harrods and Joe and Co in Soho charge £125 and £98, respectively, for similar services. Both prices include a beer or whisky, and Adam adds an “ear flame” to burn off unsightly ear hairs, along with a scalp massage.
Most men pay a lot less. In the UK, the average price for a haircut and beard trim is £19, according to the consumer data platform Statista. Prices can be notably higher in London, with the average price around £32, according to an unscientific Twitter poll I conducted. Prices are rising, however, especially at the premium end of the market. Truefitt and Hill’s advertised prices are 22% higher than in 2020, and Adam has hiked 9% since 2021.
Some men say the pandemic ended their expensive haircut habits. Jonathan Heaf, head of content at Soho House, says: “I paid £90 for years, but my girlfriend started buzzing my locks in the lockdown. Now I won’t go anywhere else.” Others are sticking resolutely to their premium price trims. Alfred Tong, author of The Thinking Man’s Guide to Life, pays £70 to get his hair cut by a Vidal Sassoon-trained hairdresser in Mayfair. “I’d pay more if I had to. I followed her all over London,” he says.
So why is Truefitt and Hill charging so much? And is it worth it?
I went to experience the cut at the end of December and found the short answers, respectively, to be: because attention to detail matters, and “yes.”
Truefitt and Hill holds the Guinness World Record for world’s oldest barber shop, having opened in 1805. Its former clients include King George III and some former prime ministers; Charles Dickens and William Thackeray mentioned the shop in novels. Never mind that none of these men were known for their haircuts. They kept coming back for the shop’s exceptionally good service.
The experience starts with booking, an often neglected but important part of the process. At Truefitt and Hill, a slice of your £100-plus goes to keeping someone on standby to pick up the phone within one or two rings. A friendly but direct staff member will log your appointment in a paper diary in less than 60 seconds. You’ve already saved a significant chunk of time, money and stress by not having to fool around with a web form.
When you arrive, the “world’s oldest” element is laid on thickly. Brass plaques on the wall commemorate visits from the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, which marked the shop’s 200th anniversary—and World War II’s Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery for its 150th. However, when you sit down in an exceedingly comfortable black leather chair and a fresh hot towel is wrapped around your face, you start to understand why the place has stuck around.
The environment is remarkably serene. The place has a gentlemen’s club-like feel, with walls and floors of dark mahogany, fresh flowers, and a layout that divides the seats from the bustle of walk-ins and the ringing phone. The shop was so quiet for most of my haircut that the loudest sound was the ticking of an antique clock.
And then there are the basics. My hot towel smelled of fresh lemons and arrived at a temperature warm enough to open up pores without making me red in the face. (Some barbers charge not much less for questionably scented towels that feel as if they came out of a microwave.)
Another thing your money buys: at least a full hour in the chair. There’s no rush to bring in the next customer. Completing the high-end feel of the service are the refreshing eye mask provided during a beard trim; such expensively scented products as friction hair tonic and hair wax; and water served icy cold in a cut-glass tumbler, on request.
If you’re feeling indulgent, the £195 ultimate grooming experience also includes a wet shave, manicure and facial.
As for the cut, my barber Aldo did a great job: The hairline was precise and clean, the length on top and the sides was as I wanted, and no hairs were missed. As someone with the start of a bald patch, I have to get my hair cut frequently to stop the sides from sprouting out. Aldo suggested subtle tweaks (“a little less off the top, I think”) to improve the proportions, and the aforementioned tonic for maintenance. Four weeks on, my hair is noticeably more manageable than at a similar point after my previous cut.
Other premium barbers can match the quality of my Truefitt and Hill cut, but none that I’ve visited get the little details right. Unlike many other barber visits, which often feel like a chore, this one turns a haircut into a thoroughly pleasant experience. In times of double-digit inflation concerns, we need ways to deflate worries. An expensive haircut at Truefitt and Hill might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a great place to start.
Woolf, Kings Cross (formerly Joe and Co.). Led by expert stylist Joe Mills, a team looks after some of the UK’s more stylish men, such as actor Jamie Dornan. It’s a good place to try a new style. A haircut runs from £58 to £90, depending on your barber.
Murdock, Covent Garden. You could trust this dependable, approachable team of barbers with your wedding haircut, as I did. From £84 for a haircut and beard trim.
Adam at Harrods, Harrods Department Store. A Turkish-inspired experience that includes more pampering than a traditional experience. Hot towel, ear flaming, and a massage are part of the £125 “Atelier Choice,” which includes an alcoholic drink.