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  • Franco Bompieri of Antica Barbieria Colla

    Franco Bompieri of Antica Barbieria Colla

    Franco Bompieri runs the most prestigious barber's in Milan, though his origins are in Volta Mantovana. Eighty years and a life full of friends, success and love for his job. He started working  at the age of nine for Bruno Peverada in his home town. At fifteen he left for Milan. “I had five thousand Lire in my pocket and the boss wanted me to buy my own tools” he tells me with a faraway look in his eye, “I spent almost all my money on a tram pass and buying my equipment from Preattoni.” After a few years he went to work at Lambrate, in Via Bassini 44, in the “Milan road sweepers barber's, at Christmas the same year he moved on to the Kasba, near Via Marco D’Oggiono. He had three great years there, meeting all sorts of customers. “There were customers who couldn't afford a shirt, so they just wore cuffs, a dicky and collar.” Franco was ambitious though and when he heard there was a job going at the  Hotel Continental in Via Manzoni he went along. “It had revolving doors, I'd never seen them before”, but he was considered too young for that class of hotel customers, so they told him he could go. He had set his heart on that job and he gave vent to his anger in Mantovan dialect. “A friend of the owner was from my area, he recognised my accent and had me taken on” continues Bompieri. At the Continental, Franco met with the upper class Milanese, “real gentlemen”, and so a new era began for this young, ambitious Mantovan.
    The real change came in the 1950s, when he started working at the historic Colla barber's in via Gerolamo Morone, founded by Dino Colla, in 1904. He began as an employee, became a partner and then the owner. “My customers even helped me financially, because they cared about me”, he tells me. What is his secret? “Honesty, but I'm a lucky man, life has given me a lot” he confides to me, sitting on one of his eighty year old barber's chairs. Chairs that have seen the greatest Italian politicians, artists and actors. He tells me about his friendship with Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio de Sica, Romolo Valli and Luchino Visconti. “I used to go to his house to cut his hair, when he couldn't come here” he remembers smiling at the memory of the famous producer. It is true that most of his customers became his friends, as you can see from the photos around the walls of the shop. Franco Bompieri is a writer too, with nine novels to his name, “My customers were my university”, he says with an understandable hint of pride. Amongst his works is “Il vangelo del capello”, which he wrote by hand and his wife copied onto the computer. After all if so many famous people have come here for a “cut” there must be a good reason, “the best go to the best, my friend” he explains with a wink.
    At Colla's shaving and cutting hair are considered arts. A hair cut must be comb and scissors, heating the tips of the hair with a candle to strengthen it. Then comes a massage with a sulphur-based lotion for an oily scalp or natural oils for a dry scalp. After a shampoo with their own in-house products, they use their capsicum and menthol lotion to reactivate the circulation. Six are the towels used for each patron and they don't use hairdryers in summer, because “it is like poison for hair” to quote Franco. Nowadays his daughter Francesca is running the business. “We've created a range of products starting from those that have always been used in this shop”, she explains. These are original recipes from 1924 and some are still secret today, like the capsicum and menthol lotion; “my dad didn't even want to tell me the recipe” - she confesses. Six types of shampoo, of these the almond shampoo stands out (you should try it) as so does the egg and rum, which is a speciality. The range extends to after-shave with apricot shell, pig bristle shaving brushes and a cream shaving soap with almond oil. It is lunchtime, the faithful employees leave with Mister Bompieri, one of the last kings of the old Italy, the good Italy of real gentlemen, both in dress and thought. An Italy to actively preserve, not as a relic.

    Bespoke higs,

    Burning the tip of the hair with a candle to save keratin - Bruciatura della punta dei capelli con candela per conservare la cheratina

    Mr Franco Bompieri
    Mr Gianni Donzelli
    Mr Beppe Fazzio

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    Bespoke Hugs,

    Ph: Enrico Magri 

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