La Barbière de Paris

By the beard of the aesthete

The beard is to men what the hairstyle is to women. Mademoiselle Lili watched Paris’s most famous female barber at work.

What do you do on a cold and rainy winter weekend in Paris if you don’t want to spend any money? You accompany your male friends to the barber, and learn a whole lot about the opposite sex. For weeks, Christophe had waited for his appointment, and during this time he had abstained from shaving his facial hair. He decided to entrust none other than the boss Sarah Daniel-Hamizi with his makeover. When we met, he looked like Tom Hanks when he was stranded on a lonely island in “Castaway”. He joked that even if he didn’t have any more hair on his head, he definitely had some on his chin.

Sarah gently stroked both hands over his jaw: “The overall beard length has to remain the same if you want to emphasise your oval face shape”, she said. “The proportions are right, you need the volume. But here”, she said, as she twisted the moustache: “Your moustache is too bushy and is hiding your nice lips. The shape pulls the face down too much and emphasises your nasolabial fold. How about slimming it and turning it up to conceal the fold, like this?” “Wonderful. Great idea!” he said and reclined in the chair as he closed his eyes while Sarah went to work with scissors, razor blade and shaver. Aesthete Christophe who otherwise won’t even light a cigarette with a lighter in a colour he doesn’t like let her do her job without so much as a shrug. Apparently, Sarah knows what men want and how to talk to them.

In Paris, her barber shop “La Barbière de Paris” has become the first choice for anyone with a beard. Meanwhile, she has four salons in the city. The most recent one opened in the luxury hotel Crillon at Place de la Concorde. For Sarah donning a beard has nothing to do with a new machismo or masculinity cult, but rather with the growing need of men to gain approval. They have become increasingly vain: “What we women do with our hair is something men have discovered their beards for. Even if they suffer from hair loss, they can reinvent themselves through their beard, perform a visual metamorphosis or hide problem zones. The beard is no longer a trend. It has simply made a comeback”.

Whoever has the privilege of watching Sarah at work soon realises that she is much more than just a beard expert. She is above all a crafty psychologist. “You have to flatter men”, she says knowingly. “Double chins, receding hairlines, sparse beard growth and bald spots on the back of the head are their problem zones. If they bring these up themselves, you always have to praise something else”. This can be a little compliment about their striking chin, their soft beard hair or the stylish curve of their eyebrows. “Something original that nobody else has told them yet. Something that teaches them to discover themselves. Today’s men like to envision their own attractiveness”. What she learnt in the salon is something she exercises rather successfully in her personal life, where she lives in a patchwork family together with her husband and five sons, practicing praise and confirmation instead of grumpy nagging. “Men always have a goal in mind. If you tell them they haven’t folded the laundry correctly for the umpteenth time, of course they’ll respond with: Okay. Then do it yourself if you’re better at it! You get through to them much more effectively if you simply ask them for help and flatteringly show them how you would like it to be done”. Christophe left the salon as a new dandy. And I left the salon a little bit wiser.