Featured image: Pre-threading slugs.
‘I had my eyebrows threaded once,’ says my friend Michael. ‘It hurt like hell and I looked permanently startled.’
It is just another Friday night at the Kennington house, which – let’s face it – is ground zero for all the best material. ‘What hurt like hell?’ asks Chris, wandering into the lounge.
‘Eyebrows,’ says Michael. ‘They take a length of cotton and they tear out all the stray hairs, roots and all. The first few days I looked like David Gest, but it was totally worth it.’
‘Don’t be so ridiculous!’ Chris strides over to the large mirror above the fireplace. ‘Why would you want to mess around with your eyebrows?’
‘Do we take it yours are au naturel?’ I tease.
‘Yes, they bloody well are,’ he says. ‘I can’t think of anything more stupid, more narcissistic…’
‘â–ˆâ–ˆâ–ˆ does it,’ interrupts Michael.
‘â–ˆâ–ˆâ–ˆ has pec implants.’ I shake my head at him. ‘Very bad example.’
‘Well,’ says Chris, ‘I don’t feel like I need to.’
‘Then why do you keep looking in that mirror?’ I point out. The door slams. Little footsteps pound upstairs. Michael and I look at each other. ‘I honestly didn’t think we’d get that strong a reaction,’ I say.
Eyebrows. Nowhere in the field of male grooming have so many been so divided over how to manage so few hairs. If you believe the hype, you’ll know beauty experts have come to regard eyebrow maintenance as key to total facial transformation. Just a few sweeps of the tweezers, they say, and you too might look like Brad Pitt. Only younger. And minus the bitch wife.
Those of us with fair hair have rarely had much to worry about in the monobrow stakes. While my darker friends require a near-constant programme of deforestation to keep them from looking like Sam the Eagle, I’ve always muddled along on little more than a sporadic tweeze at the top of my nose. But now that I think about the men I consider perfect – Beckham, Efron, Dicaprio (yes, still… yes, even carrying that little bit of extra weight) – I start to wonder whether my mission might benefit from a little reshaping.
Intrigued, I make an appointment at Malika, one of London’s most popular threading chains. According to those in the know, threading is one of the best forms of hair removal, more effective at maintaining straight lines than tweezing and kinder to the skin than waxing. Malika also has a branch near my home; a concession in the Toni & Guy salon beneath Canary Wharf. By which I mean a chair in said Toni & Guy salon beneath Canary Wharf.
‘What, here?’ I ask, staring at the chair. (This is not really what I want to ask. What I really want to ask is: ‘What, two feet away from this middle-aged businesswoman in foils, who is clearly pretending to read Grazia while at the same time wearing an expression more commonly seen in the front row at public executions?’)
‘Yes,’ says my therapist, pushing me gently into a sitting position. The chair is lowered backwards, dentist-style, and she looms over me, winding a thin length of cotton thread between steady hands. I can’t actually see what she’s doing to the cotton, but I know from their website it’s something ancient and Asian, so that’s reassuring.
‘Do you get many men asking for this sort of thing these days?’ I ask, trying my best to relax into the sensation of line after line of tiny blond hairs being ripped from my face.
‘Yes, many men,’ smiles the therapist. Her voice is extremely soft. ‘Everyone want to take care of their eyebrows now.’
Around us, the salon is a hive of activity. Women chatter. Hairdryers roar. The sound of turning magazine pages is conspicuously absent.
‘How many men would you say come to you? You know, as a proportion. Would you say it’s an equal 50/50, or…?’
‘Yes, equal 50/50,’ soothes the therapist in that soft, soft, cocoa butter voice. It is around now I realise she is not really listening to me. So I give up on trying to make conversation, and concentrate on trying not to cry.
How painful is it? Well, on a scale of one to ten (one being a light tap on the wrist and ten being driver on the N-Dubz tour bus), I give it a five. It’s reasonably uncomfortable, but a long way from unbearable, and when Lady passes me the hand mirror all is forgiven.
‘See,’ she says. ‘Much better. You want tissue?’
Amazing, I think, turning the mirror to get a better view; a little red but a definite improvement. I’d always assumed my eyebrows were fine, but I’d no idea how much difference a bit of careful shaping could make. I purposely raise one of my new pets, to see if I can bend it like Beckham. Nope. I look like Elvira.
Back at home, and keeping my brows resolutely flattened, I can think of only one person to text. ‘What do you think?’ asks the note, sent with a photo.
Almost instantly, Chris texts back. ‘At least now we know what happened to Baby Jane,’ it reads.