The Kings Domain experience
If clothes maketh the man, then a skilled haircut is surely his crowning glory. Teamed with a bespoke suit, it’s an unbeatable combination.
Yet the simple ritual of having one’s hair skilfully tended can be so much more than a mere chore, if a visit to the Kings Domain barber shop in Melbourne’s Collins Street is any indication.
Set half a dozen steps above the bustle of the so-called ‘Paris end’ of the famed boulevard, amid glamorous boutiques representing the storied fashion houses of Paris and Milan, it’s a relief to step into an oasis that upholds the best traditions of men’s grooming.
An ancient grey cash register just inside the door is the first and most obvious clue that this is indeed an old-school establishment. White tiled walls are reminiscent of the inside of a London tube station, contrasting with dark timber frames surrounding the large mirrors. White marble benchtops and old-style barber chairs, sumptuously upholstered in black and white leather, complete a subtly masculine effect.
First things first, a complimentary coffee or tea is on offer for our morning appointment; although if the sun had crossed the yardarm we’re likely to have been offered an extra choice, from the fully-stocked beer fridge. While the coffee brews we’re whisked to the back of the shop for a pre-cut wash – a rare pleasure that includes a gentle massage, invigorating the scalp but also driving tension from the face and shoulders.
Already feeling the weight of the city grind lifted, we’re transferred to one of the six beautiful, comfy old-style chairs and joined by our barber, Jed. He’s from northern NSW but loves the cosmopolitan feel of inner Melbourne - even if its winters are a mite chillier than he’s used to.
We talk over the cut and agree on a plan and then Jed’s off in a blur of scissors and comb. With some cool beats playing in the background, we chat about his old stomping ground of Byron Bay and how much it’s changed over the years, then segue onto the Tour de France, having both discovered a keen interest in cycling.
In what seems like a heartbeat, Jed’s finished his work, styling in some product, and checking we like what we see. It’s the signal that relaxation time is over. It’s time to settle the bill, square our shoulders and reluctantly take on the world again.
It’s disappointing – but not surprising – to find the beautiful old cash register plays no part in the financial reckoning; in a sign of the changing times, I tap a piece of plastic on a tablet-style terminal instead of handing over cash.
The world may have changed in many important – and convenient – ways; yet it’s nice to know you can still get an old-fashioned haircut that will not only make you look great, but feel good as well.
Next time, maybe we’ll go beyond the basic cut ($50) and have a vintage shave, complete with hot towels and straight razor ($50); or perhaps a ‘Kings Cut’ with a leading barber ($70); or, maybe, combine the best shave and cut experiences with the ‘Royal Treatment’ ($90).
Kings Domain barber shop is at 1/12 Collins Street, Melbourne. Bookings are advisable, especially during peak times, on 03 9939 5117. Kings Domain also has shops in Richmond, Prahran, South Yarra and Myer’s Melbourne and Sydney stores