It’s mid-afternoon on a Thursday in Lisbon, and I’m about to have my hair cut by a bearded bald guy named Luis. In a barbershop that doubles as a cocktail lounge. With a pool table in the back. Next to a small stage where live music is performed most nights each week.
What in the name of product diversification is going on here?
It’s all part of the magic of O Purista , the quirkiest barbershop I’ve visited since I got shorn in a Melbourne joint where the guys blasted heavy metal music and offered customers an ice cold Coopers’ Ale.
O Purista takes customer service to new heights: your spouse can relax with the beverage of her choice while you get your ears lowered. Customers come for a cut and often stick around for a bit of elbow bending. Always sensitive to local ways, we’re easy touches for trying new things. So I hand over my graying pate to the talented Luis while Gabi snaps photos from a table nearby, a glass of cider in hand and a grin on her face.
I’m happy to report that Luis’s limited coiffe was no indication of his prowess with a pair of scissors and an electric clipper (which he proudly showed me was made in the USA – “So you see? You’re in good hands!”) – and he gave me one of the best cuts I’ve had in our travels. A sigh of relief from my “do critic,” who mutters her approval in a somewhat mellower tone than usual, thanks to the glass of Somersby.
O Purista has been around for about a year and a half. Judging from the flow in and out of the place, the affable nature of the staff, and the general vibe, they’ve concocted a winning mix. Wide open doors release pop music into the cobblestoned alley. Sunlight kisses the barber chairs. The bartender sports a big, welcoming smile and a feather earring in her right ear.
Both barbers were bald but sported impressive beards, which would explain the t-shirts boasting sayings like “My Beard is Bigger than Yours”. We saw many guys on the streets of Lisbon with the same look: clear cut mountain tops but expansive under brush below.
Odd as it was at the outset, I quickly grew fond of the place, with its chill vibe and happy banter between the two barbers and their customers. The other guy in the cutting chair during my visit was a Polish university student, a regular who lamented the gradual but alarmingly increasing rate of balding he was experiencing, and who deftly fended off his barber’s best shot to recruit him to sell “an exciting new brand of cosmetic products.”
Luis proved a serious and fastidious stylist, meticulously cleaning his tools and sanitizing his hands, then advising me on how to get the best from my natural hair style. He stepped perilously close to peer criticism when he clucked his tongue at the shortness of my hair along the part. “Whoever cut this took it waaaay too short,” he said in flawless English. “I cannot work with it. No. Nothing at all.” He advised me to let it grow so whoever next tackles the challenge (“assuming they know what they’re doing,” in obvious reference to the last barber I visited, who, well, did not).
All ended well – me with a decent cut, and Gabi with a rosy glow from the cider. We left with handshakes and a tip for Luis, along with another round of great memories. Call me another O Purista adoring fan. If I lived here I’d be a regular.
Now, if they would just open a Laundromat in the joint, or perhaps a hookah lounge….