The shop boy

It was 1949 when Franco Bompieri, already a barber at his village, Volta Mantovana, started working in Milan in via Bassini 44, in the Lambrate area.

As those who in that period moved from the countryside to the big city, he was pretty ambitious and believed to be by now a great barber; thus, he could barely hide his disappointment when discovered that the main customers of the shop where the street sweepers form a nearby warehouse.

Franco still remembers Carletto, a barber of the shop in via Bassini, who on his first day of work asked him above all if he knew how to do the cleaning and instead of some scissors and a razor gave him a rag.

As a “piccolo”, that is a shop boy, his main task was to ensure the shop was always clean and neat, spending any free time sweeping and tidying up.

When you are young, and I consider myself the first in line, sometimes you assume you can reach the destination immediately, thinking that your skills enable you to skip the journey in between.

But as always the journey is the most important part, because without it you would not be able to handle everything else, especially success.

When I approached the shop for the first time, Franco gave me a broom and told me: “ When they are done cutting hair go cleaning right away”; then he handed me a rag and a sponge saying: “Now that they have finished shampooing and are putting the lotion on wash the sinks”.

I did not have the ambition to become a barber, so I did not got it wrong, but what happened made me understand that a barber is not defined only by the way he cuts hair or treats his customers, but also by  how much he cares about his workstation, his tools and the tidiness of the place where he works.

For as Franco Bompieri himself learned soon, a skilled barber has to be good also at cleaning his shop: a flawless place, now as then, is the best hallmark.