After 51 years and over 300,000 haircuts, Mike the barber finally hangs up his scissors

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After 51 years and a conservative estimate of over 300,000 haircuts, Mike Bowman will today hang up his scissors for good.

As the owner of Perfects Barbers Shop on Kingsway, ‘Mike the barber’ has been an ever-present in Altrincham town centre since the days of Harold MacMillan and Best, Law and Charlton.

Over the past half a century, it’s unlikely that anyone has put in more hours of work in the town. Starting as a 16-year-old at number 32 in 1963, he moved a few doors up to number 12 in 1969 and has been there ever since.

Six days a week, just one week off a year, averaging around 20 haircuts a day (his record was 38 one day back in the early 70s). What’s kept him going? “It’s the people,” he explains. “I’ve loved the people.”

A schoolboy at Norris Green Secondary School in Sale, Bowman was originally tipped for a career in art by his teacher. But on arrival at Salford Art College, it soon became clear that “the standard was so much higher than I’d ever achieved”.

[pullquote align=”right”]Sir Fergus Montgomery, the former local MP, was one of four Knights of the Realm who became Perfects regulars.[/pullquote]So he tried to get a job in printing, but alas found that membership of the printing union was a pre-requisite to employment.

Hairdressing proved to be third time lucky. “It interested me straight from the word ‘go’, and I stuck with it,” he remembers. “The printing went by the by and I just carried on with it.”

Over the years, Bowman’s unhurried style and warm manner have seem him foster a band of regulars who would not trust their locks to anyone else. He’s had countless customers who have been returning to his non-descript, first-floor shop for 30 or 40 years.

An 87-year-old customer has even been with him since he started as a 16-year-old. “When I told him that I had some news and was finishing, he looked me straight in the eye and said ‘B*****d, couldn’t you have waited til I died’.”

A fervent Manchester United supporter, he’s cut the hair of a few Old Trafford legends over the years, among them the legendary Bill Foulkes, who as a result became a good friend. Sir Fergus Montgomery, the former local MP, was one of four Knights of the Realm who became Perfects regulars.

“It’s a great thing to be in for anyone,” he says. “I’ve made proper friends through it over the years.”

Those trusty regulars can breathe a sigh of relief – he’ll still be offering private haircuts at his home near Bowdon Rugby Club. But there’ll be much more time for Bowman’s other passions – the golf course and his garden – and next month will bring the novelty of a month’s holiday in Tenerife. “After that, my wife’s got a list of jobs for me,” he admits.

Not too many though – as one of Altrincham’s great unsung stalwarts, Mike Bowman deserves to put his feet up.

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