‘Meet the Locals’ is a semi-regular column showcasing the faces and places of local, independent communities. Not necessarily native to the neighbourhoods in which they operate, these guys and gals are the lifeblood of their cities’ burgeoning cultural industries. Small symbols of change. Tiny fabricators of flux. They are the subtle ingredients that give their respective scenes such a unique flavour. They are the locals.
I am a man of habit.
Sure, I take the occasional stab at spontaneity. And shift work affords me a certain whimsicality in my daily affairs, a little wiggle-room in the dance I call my day-to-day. But I am, above all, a man of habit. That’s why – every three weeks – I take a stroll down the backstreets of Liverpool’s city centre until I find myself at Cutthroat Pete’s Barbershop on Gradwell Street. I take a seat in Pete’s vintage Belmont, I politely decline the beer I secretly know would make a fine breakfast, and I let him go to work on what I’ve just come to call ‘the usual’.
A ten-year veteran in perfect command of his craft, Pete is a firm believer in letting his work speak for itself. By my count, that leaves us with a solid forty five minutes to sweat the small stuff: music, fashion, the perils of having big feet but owning tiny dogs, world domination. Like I said, the small stuff.
It doesn’t take much of that small talk to see that Pete is a man with his finger on the pulse and his eyes on the future. Over the last ten years the Cutthroat Pete moniker has evolved steadily from humble barbershop to thriving lifestyle brand. The shop itself – now one of two – is a testament to that tenacity. The flagship shop is a veritable trophy room bearing the spoils of Pete’s relentless ambition. Its walls are adorned with carefully curated collections of staple garments and grooming essentials, all bearing the now unmistakable Cutthroat Pete bearded skull in a confident promise of lasting quality. Clearly, Pete’s love is not for passing trends, exciting as they are evanescent. His is a love for the trade itself. From undercut to choppy crop, razor fades to textured scissor work, Pete revels in the challenges and creative possibilities that only his trade can offer.
And beyond his trade? Pete is an avid blogger and aspiring photographer. Having recently installed his very own photography studio in his flagship store, Pete is not only proving that an eye for detail and a desire to learn are surefire keys to success, but that fashion and artistic expression have always been two sides of the same coin.
The statement is well-timed: Over the past two decades we have seen a steady resurgence in the male fashion and grooming industries. From the casual cool of the hype-beast street wear fanatics to the Savile Row severity of an altogether more sartorial inclination, men are switching on to the almost long-lost idea that to be style-conscious is not to be self-interested or vain. It is simply an expression of good manners; a silent sign of polite self-awareness.
The result of this resurgence is as liberating as it is frustrating. Of late, the modern gentleman has fallen victim to gimmickry, it has become synonymous with a haircut, a scent or a slogan. The term ‘gentleman’ itself has been reduced to an odd anachronism, a marketing toy. There is no longer a gentleman’s code per se, only playground rules: No girls allowed, man up, suit up, shut up and drink up. The modern gentleman risks becoming a pretext for snobbish excess and casual sexism; some perverse, oblivious caricature of himself. Worse still, the very concept of the gentleman has been reduced to a hokey hiding place from very real insecurities and anxieties.
And that’s where Pete’s 45 minute slots come to really mean something. Amidst the idle chit-chat and pleasantries is an open and sincere invitation to get something off your chest, should you need to. Pete’s work with CALM is a further call to all men to step out from under the false security of hackneyed stereotypes and just talk it out. In true barbershop fashion, Pete’s chair is at once the confession booth and the chaise lounge for those that need it. In a scene often saturated by sensationalism, superficial slogans and a truly unhealthy level of self-aggrandising, Cutthroat Pete’s Barbershop is a welcome dose of humble confidence and quiet understanding that resonates perfectly with the city of Liverpool’s calm and collected cool.
But I digress.
My forty five minutes come to an end. I throw one last, longing glance at the would-be Pistonhead pilsner breakfast before paying up and saying my goodbyes. I do this every month, and each time I do, I have to remind myself of Pete’s decade-long dedication to the game. For the years have done nothing to quell the fire and enthusiasm of a man who is, to his own delight and by his own admission, just getting started.