Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mucho Macho at the Hecho Barber Shop

San Miguel scales new heights of urban sophistication at an astonishing pace.

A French bakery that calls itself an "Atelier du Pain" opened a month ago. Meanwhile, a new "Interpretation Cuisine" restaurant that offers a weekly tasting menu of six or seven delicious spoonful-size servings was so successful it moved to a much fancier location in the Centro. Naturally prices went up, to a still a bargain of $450 pesos.

Two weeks ago we noticed that the city had even purchased mid twentieth century-style compacting garbage trucks to replace the old system of an open dump truck with three or four disposal technicians aboard, knee-deep in garbage and fielding stuff tossed by a guy on the ground, while simultaneously swatting flies and keeping an eye on anything of value in the stream of debris.

Out in the boonies regulation dumpsters have appeared too, even in small towns, so folks frustrated by the lack of regular trash pick ups don't throw it along the roads.

Can't argue with modernity, I tell you.

Where macho men hang out. 
Of most interest to expat men, particularly those who have any hair left, is the opening of a barber shop dedicated to male grooming called "Hecho Hombre."

Not sure what the name means exactly. "Man Made"? "Made Man"? Whatever. Stew and I have become regulars.

Before Hecho, men only had two choices for haircuts.

One was the ancient Mexican-style barber shop where typically a guy who learned the trade from his uncle cut your hair for thirty or forty pesos. Cheap enough but you were likely to walk out looking like a rustic from Pátzcuaro, in town looking for a decent restaurant.

Shortly after we moved to San Miguel twelve years ago—true story—I spotted a shop near the Jardín that struck me for its silence when I walked in. No radios, no customers, no "buenos días" from the barber, no sound at all.

As I began to explain the cut I wanted, the barber shook his head and pointed to three heads for his electric clipper lying on the counter. The barber was deaf-mute.

The three clipper choices ranged from "a light trim," "medium well" and "you're in the Army now." I opted for the medium well. Though I was both awed and sorry by the man's predicament and tipped him generously, I didn't go back again.

Desperate to get a decent cut, some expat men resort to frilly women's hair salons, decorated with crystal chandeliers, plaster reproductions of Greek statues and copies of "Hola" magazine with breathtaking reports about the latest joys and travails of European royalty.

You soon discover that the coiffeurs at these salons are mostly interested in dye jobs and intricate cuts and styles for expat women, who'd sit on the chair for hours looking like Martians with little tinfoil bows stuck in their hair.

M. Israel Magaña, Maître Coiffeur
I was definitely not interested on a dye job. When I arrived in San Miguel I tried one of those coloring jobs out a bottle and the resulting jet-black mane made me look like a Halloween version of  Ricardo Montalbán.

When visiting one of these salons I distinctly felt neglected, as if men's cuts were something to fill gaps in the schedule while waiting for the more profitable women clients.

Not so at Hecho Hombre, where men are kings.

The shop is tiny but meticulously designed in a style I'd call Macho Retro. The color scheme is mostly black and white and the chairs the old-fashioned type that have been restored. Reading material includes GQ in Spanish and sports magazines.

Another satisfied customer. 
Greeting you at the door is a young guy with a fabulous black Babylonian beard that sets the tone. As a sort of maître d' he juggles appointments that can be made in person, by phone or online at Hecho's website. He then offers you a bottle of water or a shot of mezcal, as you wait your turn for one of the two barbers.

I've settled on Israel Magaña, a shy 21-year-old who must weigh about a hundred pounds. He has some barbering-related tattoos, including a pair of scissors under his sideburns, and holes in his earlobes.

Over the course of thirty or forty minutes he sculpts your hair carefully and meticulously as if he were dusting a hand grenade. That's the kind of attention I like.

The result is perfection. One time he was so proud of his work that he pulled out a camera and took my picture.  Vanity your name is Alfredo.

My latest tonsorial masterpiece. 
On the way out you're offered mints and a hot towel to wipe your face, as you peruse shelves of male grooming products. I understand Hecho offers old-fashioned shaves with hot towels and skin emollients to pamper you and soften the old wrinkles a bit, and even wax for moustaches. I don't have enough whiskers to indulge in any of that.

I was so elated after my last visit I walked out without paying the $250 pesos for my cut.

Not to worry: The Babylonian guy chased me down the street to ask for his money.

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