So, Portugal tends to be really progressive (especially for a Catholic country) – it’s one of the reasons why we’re moving there – but there was one sticking point that came up that was absolutely surprising. While it probably wouldn’t apply to most women, who in the US don’t typically go to “barbers”, I thought it was worth mentioning.
In Lisbon, like in the US, there is a bit of a line between “barber” and “salon”. Salons will typically be more full-service, can handle both men’s and women’s hairstyles, can do coloring, blowouts, undercuts, etc.
What you’ll end up seeing in most of the cities I’ve been to in Portugal is the there are salons, and then there are barber shops that specifically say “men’s haircuts.”
As someone with a mohawk, I don’t usually pay any mind to signs like that in the US, because my haircut is not particularly gendered. I don’t need anything fancy. Shave the sides down, take a little off the top. Easy peasy. I can usually walk into a barber shop in the US and get a haircut without any fuss.
Turns out in Portugal, that’s not always the case.
During our first 6 weeks in Lisbon, Brady desperately needed a haircut. We were in the Restauradores area of Lisbon, which is admittedly very expensive and touristy, but we found a place close by to our lodging. (I had a badly sprained ankle, so “close” was important.)
It was over-priced, with very hipster vibes, but it looked clean and they had an appointment available, so we went. In addition to Brady needing a haircut, I could also use my sides shaved, so I was hoping they’d handle me as well if they weren’t too busy. I didn’t need a wash or blow dry or anything, so it’s pretty quick, I just hadn’t brought my own clippers to Portugal for fear of them going off in my luggage and shredding all of my clothes en route.
As I’m sitting, waiting for Brady’s haircut, I see this t-shirt for sale in this establishment:
I thought “hahah hipster edgelords are here too, great – but hey, money is money, right?”
Nope. The barber (who we think was the owner), good looking young man in his early 30s made it very clear that they don’t service women. It “ruins their aesthetic.” I left and got myself a wine while waiting for Brady’s cut and shave to be finished, but I was pretty steamed. I had a lot to say about, but it’s funny how little you want to lash out when someone has a straight-razor against your husband’s throat.
It’s one thing if I’m asking for a haircut you don’t know how to do – something complex, like a perm, or layering, color, or whatever. This was a level 0 clipper, that’s it. Brady ended up paying 40 euro for a shave and a haircut.
So anyway, fuck Figaro’s in Lisbon.
A few days later, we ended up wandering around and came across Manisha Cabeleireiro e Estetica Unissexo, a nice family-run hair salon & barber shop. (It might have been renamed, but it was very local, so I don’t know if they have a new website.) Raj was surgically precise with my mohawk lines, and his entire family was super sweet. 6 euro.
So, long story short (too late, I know) – pay attention to the barber shop signs, even if you have relatively basic needs for a woman’s cut. If you’re not sure, walk in and ask them if they can cut your hair. I suspect a lot of them will, if they know how to do it. I was able to walk into a barber shop in Faro (Jerónimo’s Barbearia Clássica), asked the barber if he could shave the sides down, and he was a complete gem. He complimented me on the colors in my hair, did a great job, and charged me 6 euro.
While I can’t speak for all barbers in Portugal, some of them will be misogynist shits and some will be wonderful. Lisbon is progressive, but you’ll still run into the occasional shocking bit of sexism when you least expect it, so it’s always best to ask.