The Kaiser's kindest cut : BACK BITES

Sean Langan's hair-raising time in Berlin
The Kaiserschnitt, at number 80 Reichenberger, Berlin, is a hairdressing salon with a rather peculiar clientele, and an even more peculiar line in cutting techniques; the zebra cut, for instance, in which the hair is first mowed like a football pitch and then dyed black and white. That might not sound particularly avant-garde in this day and age, but if you were to see it weaving its way down the King's Road, the spectacle could well send you into shock. It would also send the proud wearer of thecut straight to court on a charge of gross public indecency. They cut hair at the Kaiserschnitt - and they do it rather well - but it's not the hair on your head they're interested in. Roughly translated as the "Kaiser's Snip", the salon is at the cutting edge of, well, not to put too fine a point on it, pubic hair. The Kaiserschnitt is the only pubic hairdresser in Europe, and possibly the only salon in the world where you can get a short back and curlies. As well as trimming, shaving (the Mohican is a favourite) and colouring pubic hair, Felix Vermeulen, the proprietor and chief crimper, will also weave pubic hair extensions on to the existing hairs. One client had the audacity, and the sense of humour, to request dreadlocks. For obvious reasons, no one has ever asked for a perm. When you enter the salon, it looks just like any other. Trendy stylists stand behind a row of barber's chairs tousling and teasing, and snipping and shaving the heads of their young clients, as the booming sounds of techno music reverberate around the room. But at the rear of the salon, down a dimly lit stairwell, is a basement room painted entirely purple. This is the pubic, as opposed to the public, cutting room, where only the brave shall enter. There are no wall mirrors, and no music, and slap-bang in the middle is what can only be described as a cross between a dentist's chair and a gynaecologist's bench. It's basically flat, with one end raised, and the entire contraption is covered in sterile tissue. The decor might not be as plush, but there is a book of photographs showing the styles on offer which the client can flick through for inspiration. It's full of great ideas for those whose knowledge of pubic hairdressing stretches from bikini-line waxingto bikini-line plucking. An unsuspecting person answering the "models required" ad in the window might be in for a bit of a surprise (allthough not as much of a shock, one might imagine, as the model's unsuspecting partner). And what kind of person could possibly be under the delusion that pubic hair extensions are this year's look? "We get all types of people in here," claims Dollie, one of the female stylists. "Men and women of all ages and classes, and they ask for the strangest things. One of them had pearls attached to his pubic hairs, a little bit like a chandelier. It's a question of aesthetics." And, judging by the nature of the requests, somewhat questionable tastes. The current trend was started in the pornography industry. "It helps establish who's who in a porno film," explained Lynne Proctor of Body Art magazine, a dandy publication which carries articles on tattooing, body piercing and pubic hairdressing. "If you have a distinctive hair style down below," says Ms Proctor, "it will help you stand out during the many, many close-up scenes." With the wide availability of hard-core videos on the Continent, it was only a matter of time before the general public started to pay closer attention to their own pubic hair. And, let's be frank about this, the hair down there is often in need of a bit

of tidying up, to say the least. "It's not that unusual," claimed Ms Proctor. "Mary Quant once had hers trimmed in the shape of a heart." Unfortunately, the geometric cut made famous by her friend Vidal Sassoon is impossible with pubic hair: it only works on straight locks. "It helps if a man or a woman has lots of hair down there," adds Dollie. "It gives you more to work with. We can cut flower shapes and colour them. It looks wonderful, a little bit like Van Gogh's flowers." Well, maybe; but you wouldn't want to hang it on a wall. A basic cut at Kaiserschnitt costs 40 marks (about £17); colouring 70 marks. No price quoted for a blow dry.