Tales of a Traditional Turkish Haircut: Foam, Fire, and a Facial

Where to Find a Barber

I’d been growing my hair out and hadn’t gotten a cut for nearly 8 months. I was conflicted about letting it grow long or listening to my loving wife’s suggestion about getting a trim. Walking the streets of Fethiye, a city dating back thousands of years, I was on the lookout for barbers, or berbers in Turkish. Here berbers are found on almost every block. I asked a local shopkeeper for a recommendation but he simply stated “they’re all good”. I found a barber that was just finishing up another man and sat down awaiting my turn.

Turkish Barber Experience

After being offered a glass of traditional Turkish tea I was asked to take a seat. Sylvie got out her iPhone and showed the barber a picture of me from several years ago as an example of how I wanted my hair cut. He glanced at it but didn’t study it for too long.

Being served Turkish tea before my haircut

Being served Turkish tea before my haircut

Before the Cut

He turned off the lights and rather aggressively shoved my head, face first, under the faucet to commence with the hair washing. I am used to having my scalp massaged during many a hair cuts back in the states but this man washed my entire head as throughly as a doctor before surgery. Using both of his hairy sausage-fingered hands he intrusively scrubbed my entire face—he even went as far as slipping his fingers inside my nose and ears to ensure not an orifice went uncleaned. When he was finished he grabbed me by the shoulders and flung me back into the seat.

During the Cut

scott biales getting haircut in turkey

He trimmed my hair in a very meticulous manner—wetting, drying, combing, hair-blowing, and then re-wetting areas to get the perfect cut. He would combatively reposition my head as I had a tendency to move it from his optimal position—soon I discovered that this man, who had been cutting hair for 35 years, was just very serious about his work. Occasionally I would slide down a bit in my chair and he would reach down and grab me by the seat of my pants and physically lift me into the back of the seat. I was being manhandled by this man. After he had finished trimming my hair I thought we were done but boy was I wrong, he hadn’t even begun.

Grooming

The man spun me around and came down to my level to inspect my face with a level of precision that I would only expect in a diamond-grader. On his first pass he used his fingernails to tweeze out malpositioned follicles. His next pass consisted of using his scissor tips to shape my eyebrows by cutting individual hairs. It goes without saying that he trimmed my nose and ear hairs using the same scissors, but what is worth noting is the manner in which he performed these high risk depilatory maneuvers. He placed the scissor what seemed like a quarter of an inch inside my facial orifices and moved the cutting blades together so rapidly as if trying to start a fire inside my nose. After said nasal violation he wet a tissue in the sink, twisted its end, and spun it around in each of my nostrils to finalize the cleaning procedure.

The diamond-grading barber made another pass as he surgically extracted blackheads, pimples, and ingrown hairs. He even went as far as showing me one of the specimens while a smile stretched across his face in satisfaction. Next he dipped a cotton swab into a container of Barbicide and lit it on fire. He moved the blazing the swab close to my face and I instinctively tensed up—Sylvie sat comfortably in her chair amused. He moved the flaming torch close to my face while cupping his other hand. He seemingly trapped the hot air and then whipping it onto my face effectively singeing off all the peach-fuzz on my ears, forehead, and cheeks. Although receiving no burns it was f***ing hot.

Using fire to remove hair

Shave

The barber lathered my face and neck with copious amounts of cream. He removed a razor from a sealed package and dipped the entire thing in Barbacide. He then lit it on fire and wiped off the ash. He meticulously shaved my face and with every trimming action wiped the foam that had collected on the blade onto his free hand.

He finished up by shaving the odd hairs on my shoulders and upper back, blending my sideburns, and using a the straight razor to create a perfect hairline on my neck

Relaxation

Again, the barber turned off the lights and washed my hair, making sure not to miss my ears and nose. He rinsed me clean and then lathered and scrubbed my hair one last time with what I suspect to be a conditioner. He towel-dried my hair, styled it, blow-dried it, and further continued to style it. He made very minor corrective trims during the final styling process. When he was satisfied he took off the smock and massaged cream into my entire face. He spent 5-10 minutes massaging my face, shoulder, and back. Karate chopping and tenderizing me all the way down to my lower back. The barber did not neglect my arms, hands, or fingers.

I slid out of the chair, limp as a noodle, and thanked him in Turkish, teşekkür ederim. I left clean, relaxed, and rejuvenated.

In need of a haircut (roughed up for effect)

In need of a haircut (roughed up for effect)

Well groomed and invigorated after My turkish haircut