Ben Schott

Where are all the proper members’ clubs?

‘How would you like your hair cut?’ ‘In silence.’ So goes the ancient joke. My answer, however, is ‘at home’. You see, this week marks the 15th anniversary of having my hair cut in my Highgate flat by the great Jane Davies, peripatetic barber to London’s loucher gentry. (Just as Jeeves is not a butler, so Jane is not a hairdresser.) In 1970, Jane left her Cromwell Road convent and, with scissors in hand, descended to a smoke-filled basement on Sloane Street. Here Vidal Sassoon had established a speakeasy barbershop for men who wanted their locks left groovily long. Some 15 years later, Jane went freelance, but rather than open a salon or hire a chair, she visited her clients at home. Such domesticity suits a snipper-up of unconsidered trifles, and Jane is blessed with a miscellanist’s mindset and Borgesian library of books, pamphlets, clippings and photographs. It’s not uncommon to return home to a hand-delivered oddity relating to a recent mid-cut conversation; her envelopes are always labelled ‘Hair Mail’.

Like a mafia hitman, Jane acquires her clients through word of mouth. And like a Savile Row tailor, she is discretion itself – yet never so discrete as to be dull. Over the years, to facilitate an introduction or extend an invitation, names are slipped deftly into conversation. (Death permits me to disclose Robin de La Lanne-Mirrlees, Harold Evans and Jim Henson.) But the true extent of her network is shrouded in mystery. Indeed, if Jane did not exist, we would need Greene or le Carré to invent her. Lunching recently at the Garrick, I spotted three of her other clients. And those were just the names I knew.

Speaking of clubs, something is afoot in clubland. Not the lingering debate about women members, nor the cost of staffing and heating cavernous palazzi.

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