The queue for Shy Styles snakes right around the block. The men and women patiently waiting in line are all completely silent. Some listen to music through ear buds or headphones. Others tap idly at phone screens and tablets. A few are reading books, while more still simply gaze about them, taking in the cars and people that pass them by.
The same goes for the lucky customers who are at the very front of the queue and able to find seats inside the salon’s foyer. None of them say a word. The only sound is that of a lone hairdryer, which the hairstylist wields expertly as she finishes off a sleek cut and blow dry.
When she turns the hairdryer off, the joint is completely serene. There’s the flick of magazine pages being turned over and the soft thud of the stylist’s shoes on the tiled floor. No music is piped in, and since the salon operates on a first-come, first-served basis, there’s no telephone that will trill and break the peaceful ambience.
The stylist holds a mirror up behind her customer’s head to show off her work. The customer nods and smiles. Neither of them says a word.
Once hair has been brushed from shoulders and scattered across the floor, the pair approach the counter at the front of the salon.
“Forty-five, please,” says the stylist.
The customer counts out her notes and hands them over with a smile and a polite, “Thank you.” Then she leaves without so much as a goodbye.
The stylist turns to the queue and the next customer steps forward.
“Hello,” she says brightly. “Fabulous place, here. Best advertisement you could get, too, with all the people lined up outside. You must be very good!”
The stylist’s mouth gapes open. She looks from the customer to the others who are still waiting. All of them look to be as shell-shocked as her.
“I just need a quick trim today, but I’m thinking of changing up my colour and thought we could maybe chat about it, figure out what could suit me.”
The stylist sucks air between her teeth.
“I’ve been through so many colours, you know. Can never settle on one. Get bored easily. I’d quite like a long bob type of thing. A lob, or whatever they call it, do you know what I mean?”
The stylist nods, but she can’t help but wince.
“Like that Emma Stone that was in La La Land. Do you know her? She’s got that lovely gingery colour, too. I quite fancy that. Do you think it would suit me?”
“Usually,” the stylist says softly, “people just bring me pictures and tell me what they want.”
The customer frowns. “You cut and colour hair just with pictures? You don’t talk it over, first?”
The stylist shakes her head.
“But what if you get it wrong?”
The stylist shrugs and looks pointedly out the window at the queue of waiting clients.
“You don’t say a lot, do you?” says the customer.
The stylist forces a smile.
“I don’t get it. Why are you so popular? Have you won an award?”
The stylist sighs. “We offer a certain type of experience here. Most of our clients are introverts. We don’t do idle chatter.”
The customer’s eyebrows shoot up to her hairline. “So, you’re not going to help me figure out if a new colour might suit me?”
“I just do whatever a client requests,” says the stylist.
“And you won’t ask me where I’m going on holiday?”
The stylist smiles and shakes her head.
“But I just booked a fortnight away in Bora Bora,” the customer says, her voice high and panicked. “I need to brag about it.”
The stylist grimaces. The rest of her clients stare at the scene in front of them, some perplexed, a few others looking completely horrified.
“I don’t belong here, do I?” the customer says.
The stylist shakes her head. “You might get on better at the salon over the road. They’re a bit more… traditional.”Follow Ellie Scott on WordPress.com