I started growing my hair long back in the summer of 2011—coincidentally the last time I cycled around Britain. My central reason for donating my hair to make wigs for children with cancer is, as you could guess, guilt.
But it wasn’t guilt felt for the injustice of being a healthy and hair-lthy adult when there thousands of kids undergoing chemotherapy while still in primary school.
No: I felt guilty for taking the piss out of a friend for growing his hair long. It was only after six months of gentle, yet persistent ribbing that he turned to me and said: ‘So what are you doing for kids with cancer, Dave?’
Over the past nine years, I’ve donated my golden locks no less than five times. My reason for doing so has morphed from that schoolish guilt into no-brainer logic:
‘My hair is growing anyway, so why the blue blazes would I not donate it to charity, if it’ll do some good in the world?’
Now, sadly, the time has come to hang up my hairbrush and put away the conditioners. I have been advised that my male pattern baldness may have become too extreme to pull off long hair a sixth time.
But, you know, two of my favourite comedians of all time are Andy Zaltzman and Bill Bailey so never say never.
Above: Two handsome style icons.
If you decide that you might as well let your hair grow so that kids can get cancer wigs, then look up the Little Princess Trust. They’d love your long locks, ideally anything upwards of 11 inches. This time around I went out with a record-breaking 16 inches.
After last week’s missive on rejection, this week I’ve dabbled in a little rejection therapy. I can’t tell you the story of what I tried on Wednesday, but I can describe what happened when I took rejection out for a spin yesterday.
Picture the scene…
Drenched on the aptly named Fishponds Road, I walk out of the rain and into a hair salon. A lone woman sits in an armchair (I can already see that it’s a special kind of salon), footling with her phone.
‘Hi there. I’ve got a bit of a strange request.’ Oh god. That sounds like I’m going to ask for a lumbar massage. ‘Well, it’s not that strange. I’ll explain. I’m a comedy writer and – ‘ Confused looks. Legitimise, legitimise! ‘It’s for the BBC.’ Back on track. ‘It’s a sitcom set in a hair salon and I like to come into salons and, you know, soak up the atmosphere.’ What am I saying? Who, you know, knows that? ‘Would you mind if I sat here for fifteen minutes, if you’re not busy – or you can get on with what your doing, I can sit in the corner while you…’
This is a definite no.
She puts her phone down: ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
I’ve caught Lara at a good moment. She’s got 15 minutes before her next client – an unusual occurrence at Tame The Mane, the only all-vegan, all-natural hair salon in the UK.
Teaching English to Libyan teenagers divided by Gaddafi’s Little Green Book, Lara dreamt of escaping that dead-end and running her own business. She spent 3 years writing up a business plan to set up a cafe, before her little brother had the temerity to suggest she open a salon.
Temerity because Lara hates hairdressers and, even more so, salons. She couldn’t sleep for three nights after her brother’s infuriating suggestion.
But the barb had lodged.
‘I’ve loved hairdressing since I was five or six. I used to beg my grandmother to do her hair. Every Sunday night: Can I do your hair, can I do your hair?’
As a teenager, Lara learnt hairdressing from an Italian woman and cutting hair became a great sideline for cash right through her English degree and even while she was teaching.
Then she realised that maybe her brother had a point: she couldn’t be the only one who hated your typical salons.
Sometimes we struggle to see what was right in front of us all along.
Tame The Mane looks more like a stylish living room than a styling salon. Potted plants crawl along any available surface. The walls are decorated with portraits of colourful women – not crass posed photographs, but original oils and pastels.
Lara wanted to create an anti-salon atmosphere and thought that her all-vegan, all-natural approach would draw in an exclusively (and quite possibly penniless) hippie clientele.
There’s a record player (‘Can’t play records, though, because of all the hair – didn’t think that one through’) and a bookcase where she does book swaps.
But she was far wrong about the hippies.
The mirrors are covered with scarfs, and Lara will only remove them if a client asks. So she gets a lot of clients who suffer from anxiety in other salons. ‘I get people who haven’t set foot in a salon for years.’
(Plus it’s weird, huh, having someone watch your every move while you do your job. I hate people looking over my shoulder when I write.)
Lara passes me what looks like a laminated menu. It’s a lucid explanation about why she only uses natural products, about how the salon business is so often built on convincing customers to put crap in their hair.
She offers suggestions about how we can reduce our reliance on products that aren’t all that different to Fairy Liquid, from diluting harsh shampoos to simply using a squeeze of lemon juice.
The back of the ‘menu’ has two recipes for Lara’s products: an oat conditioner and a flax gel. They sound delicious. There are more on her blog, free for you to create for yourself. If you don’t have the time, Lara’s got her own apothecary out the back.
With a mischievous smile she suggests that, if you want a protein-enriched wash, you should really just crack an egg on your head (although not in her vegan salon). It strengthens the hair, and gives a really nice shine, she says.
As an English graduate, Lara often dreams of writing her salon stories up. I’m lucky to have the chance to turn lives like hers into, well, this. And who knows what snippets from our conversation might turn up in Series 3 of Foiled…