Impressions of New Zealand – June 2022

Auckland – shorn

“If something is shorn, it’s trimmed, clipped, or shaved. A shorn sheep is considerably less fluffy than one that isn’t shorn.”

Pampas grass New Zealand

My hair and I have a difficult relationship, one that challenges the most caring of professionals. At least, that was the case, until I went to New Zealand, where things changed.

I arrived there out of a hectic time, with my hair as dishevelled as pampas grass. A few blustery weeks later, even my cap had begun to complain, so I made some enquiries.

A sheep on a hill

“I know where you could go,” said a friend. “I think you’ll like him.”

Instantly the old dreads washed over me. I imagined glossy receptionists and polished clients. I saw rows of eyes judging me, multiplied by mirrors. I tasted the hopelessness of trying to articulate the ‘look’ I aspired to.

But things were serious, so I agreed, and the appointment was booked for me.

A few days later, the weather innocent and sunny, I walked up into a part of Auckland I had never been to before. The salon, gossamer curtains covering its windows, was on a sloping street with a pub across the way. I resisted the pub, and walked in.

The room was uncluttered, with a wooden floor. A young man at the far end abandoned the lady whose hair he was working on, and came forward to ask my name. My appointment noted, I was invited to take a seat by the door and to wait. I did.

The space was not what I expected. There was no orchestra of hairdryers. There were no racks of shelves stacked with shampoos, conditioners, twirlers, straighteners, dyes, and other unnecessary essentials. Instead, a handful of brass pedestal tables was dotted around the room. Each had a round matching mirror and a minimalist matching chair, most of them with occupants.

I guessed the salon maestro was the lean man at the table nearest to me. I watched him for a while, not realising that he was the one booked to cut my hair. It was only after my hair had been washed, and I’d been directed towards his post, that I realised.

I sat down, beneath the burn of his dark eyes, fiddling nervously with a few shoulder length strands.

“What would you like me to do?”

“Well … shorter perhaps.”

His eyes caught mine in the mirror.

“You are a visitor, yes?”


“From London?”


“Your hair, how often do you get it cut?”

“Every two to three … months.”

He studied me for a few seconds, eyes sparking. Then he picked up his scissors.

“You don’t do hair.” He paused. “I shall liberate you. You shall be free. I am quick.”

And that was that. He began.

At least that’s how I remember it. And he was quick. In minutes my hair was gone, floating in fluffy bundles down to the floor. I was shorn as a sheep on a hill.

He stood back, pleased. I had no idea whether I was.

I watched numbly as he switched his scissors for the hairdryer, and then, with his other hand, began to disturb the remants that still clung to my head. Hot air puffed briefly this way and that, to “confuse the roots”, and then the maestro placed his tools back on the table.

“You must not wash your hair too much. Your hair does not need shampoo. Maybe, sometimes, a little conditioner. And you must go to see the best, the top stylists, then you won’t need these things.”

After that the towel was whipped off, and I was done.

I left, my hair abandoned behind me, and headed straight to the pub. There, in a dark corner with some cider and the friend, I swallowed my fate.

Months and oceans later, and now with a few more inches on my head, I can confirm that I enjoy being liberated. But I do still use shampoo.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2022

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