Abdul Scissorhands in Aldgate East

Hidden away in a quiet backstreet off Aldgate East with its office blocks, there’s Abdul’s barber shop ‘Abdul Scissorhands’. I met him during his quiet hours, after lunch and before knocking-off time. Abdul distinguishes between ‘nice and calm’ London accents and ‘agressive and angry’ ones, the former belonging to ‘posh people’ and the latter to ‘slum people’. He admits that the categorisation is sometimes not straightforward, as he had just served a customer, ‘a gentleman who came by taxi straight from prison, so proper slum!’. Abdul, whose native language is Bengol, is fluent in both accents. He also says that, in London, different people mix everywhere and one cannot tell from the accent where someone comes from.

Business is a bit quieter now, during/after Covid, but he hears all sorts of London (and British and foreign) accents in his barber shop. The ‘posh’ ones are by people who are ‘travelling in’. ‘If they were from round here, they would be talking street language’, just like him growing up in Aldgate East. He calls his own dialect ‘slang but trying my best to cut it down’.

I had a nice, calm chat with Abdul and he even trimmed my fringe, saving me a trip to the hairdresser’s.

Abdul, who is behind the camera, has run 2 different businesses here before he opened the barber shop: a convenience store and an off-licence. But the calmer and more well-behaved clients of the barber shop is what he prefers.
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