The Kindest Cut , courtesy of Bruno

Congratulations Bruno
50 Years of Excellent Service
From Your Loyal Customers


Haircut 100 was a moderately successful British band in the early 80s, with chart entries in 1981/82/83.

I was sitting in the chair of Bruno of Bentleigh, who, by my reckoning was up to Haircut 150000.

Adorning the walls of his tidy Jasper Road barber shop were posters of the 2010 Collingwood team, the erstwhile Melbourne Tigers basketball side and a brace of framed Black Caviar TAB tickets. In earlier years there were two or three fading raceday photos (home turn, finish, placegetters hand-written in rich black ink) of a conveyance named Regal Somethingorother, ridden by Pat Hyland. Plus the plaque mentioned above.

I’ve been coming to Bruno on and off over the past twenty years. There was another bloke in Centre Road near the old TAB opposite BBC Hardware who was pretty good, but as he got older and the tobacconist side of his business became more problematic, his chairside manner lapsed into crankiness and I looked elsewhere.

I remember a cheap, friendly and reliable outfit called the Melbourne Barber Shop in Lonsdale St which did the trick when I was helping Aussie Post select their new, you beaut ERP system in the mid-90s, but this only lasted until the work took me to other public service precincts.

I worked for a few years on Burke Rd, Camberwell. There I discovered a three generation, four chair operation opposite the station that reeked of history, Brylcreem and styptic pencil. Mid 80s photos of Dipper were offset by copies of Melbourne Victory’s latest annual report. It was a pleasant place for a cut and a chat, but once again, a workplace shift was the end of that relationship.

For a while I found a place at Melbourne Central which offered a satisfactory “early bird” service, but the combination of their staff churn and my irregular hair service intervals made the whole thing functional but impersonal.

I’ve been back to the locals for the past few years, but at the bigger place in between the two Japanese food outlets. Yes, they’ve got the big screen, showing whatever Foxtel is showing on a Saturday morning, but it is at right angles to the seating, and you can still wait half an hour before a chair becomes vacant, with no guarantee that you will get that nice girl who did it last time. Yes, they have one of those annoying loyalty cards – I’d be more likely to return if each cut cost $5 less.

Today as I peer into Bruno’s gaudy front window en route to the library, I see that he has no-one there. I waltz straight in and take a seat, missing out on the chance of a five minute flick through the sports section.

I’m briefly reminded of the frisson I experienced in my much younger days when the reading material at the Elizabeth South barbers may have included an Australasian Post, or if I was really lucky, Pix, People or even Man as I waited for my short back and sides. The smell of California Poppy still promotes an unexpected reaction in the South.

Although he has two chairs, I’ve never seen anyone else working with Bruno. My timing was spot on, as two more punters arrive just after me. He groaned when I asked him if he had seen Collingwood’s loss to the Crows; I decided not to gloat as he currently had a Costanzian amount of “hand” at that moment, sharpened scissors at the ready.

In the course of the 10 minutes he needed for my now customary “number two on the sides, leave a bit on the top”, Bruno had two people drop by just to say g’day. This happens every time I visit him, so he must have plenty of mates. He tells me of one customer who makes the round trip from Phillip Island on a regular basis.

Bruno shaves my neck without asking (the others don’t always bother), but he also decides on a Cedel happy ending without asking (wish he hadn’t bothered).

“When I come-a out here in 1963, I knew f— nothing English, now I know f— all”, he once told me when I asked about his past.

See you in six weeks Bruno.

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Speaking of barbers and sports memorabilia; one I used to go to in Geelong, Laurie Evans, had a divot of turf from a Tiger Woods golf shot growing in a pot in his shop.

    He scored it following Woods around Huntingdale or wherever when he played out here.

  2. Love it. Great description

    There’s a similar bloke runs Sport Back and Sides in Auburn Rd, Hawthorn East, Collingwood guy as well, loads of footy memorabilia, that he seems to have stopped collecting 15 years ago.

    Love the memories of Australasian Post and Pix or People, getting a sneaky look as a young teen as Guiseppe Boopadicci’s in Carnegie


  3. Great job, Swish. A memoir based around barbers- excellent idea. The haircut is one of life’s underrated experiences and personal markers.

    For many years I’d get my hair cut at a place along Rundle Mall. My dilemma: ask for the old fella who was the best hairdresser, or book with the cute female who wasn’t actually very good!

    Haircut 100- scary territory, that!

  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi mark great read. Never had a barber but loved the funnies in all those magazines especially the old Australians one of bush pub life. Can’t recall artist. Dead brain cells!


  5. Yvette Wroby says

    How I love google….Ken Maynard cartoonist drawings of the Ettanogah Pub

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Swish bought back a few memories the main one going with dad up to Summertown up the winding , Greenhill rd car sickness always a chance not a good memory

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says
  8. Read your piece on the smartphone going to work during the week Swish. Brought back great memories of growing up in country SA where the barber shop was the first rite of passage into the men’s domain.
    Sid Page’s barbershop in Yorketown had a snooker/billiards hall behind with 3 big tables. In Kadina the billiard hall was above the barbershop.
    We would rush down after school and try to get a frame finished before the men knocked off work. Unspoken rule was that men had priority. Even if there were only a few balls left, us kids would down cues for the men as they had urgent business at the pub. We guessed if there was one frame or two in them before the beer called. If it was one we could resume our game and be home before ‘tea’ (never dinner) was on the table.
    Sid was also the local SP agent, so there were always lots of blokes looking for a haircut (in more ways than one) on a Saturday morning. About 11 the phone would ring and Sid would take out his notebook to relay the bets, and he took a small commission rather than the risk.
    Sid had a son Cliffie who about 10 years older than us and played in the cricket team with us once we were 16 and playing with men. He had a bad stutter and we always used to joke that it would take Cliffie 20 minutes to read back the bets that Sid could do in 5 minutes.
    Great memories. Thanks Swish.

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