Sharp objects are a part of every hairdresser’s arsenal, but one Madrid man has taken it that step further. Alberto Olmedo is the ‘samurai hairdresser’, and he uses swords, fire and metal claws to get his clients in shape.
It’s safe to Alberto Olmedo isn’t your usual hairdresser. Instead of scissors, he uses swords to style hair – a technique dating to the Middle Ages.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
How does he do it?
Olmedo’s tools include a large curved sword, which he wields two-handed, holding the handle and the point, and using it as an elegant saw across the hair. He also uses two shorter swords, one in each hand, with which he cuts and manipulates the hair.
His weapons are complemented by a blowtorch, which he uses to singe his clients’ locks, plus Wolverine-style claws and smaller talons, which he works the hair with.
The story of the swords
Olmedo’s approach may seem like a gimmick – and his clients can’t see much given they’re lying back in the chair while he’s flourishing his blades behind them – but he claims there is a method to the approach.
“Other hairdressers cut one side at a time,” he says, “but as any sword-wielding hair guru knows, the only way to do it in an exact mathematical way is to cut both sides simultaneously.” He says the technique is centuries old, having originated in the “darkest Middle Ages”.
His blades, which sit on a stand by the mirrors in his bright salon, are based on both Western swords and samurai swords. The longer katana was the Japanese warrior’s main weapon, and the shorter wakizashi was traditionally a sidearm.
Olmedo has been offering his ‘samurai’ cuts for several years, and his clients come back for more, with some praising the “amazing experience” and “glamorous” results. His staff are also fully trained in the use of the weapons.
Hair through history
Hair has been a statement of identity for thousands of years. Many historians believe that humans used prehistoric brushes for cave paintings. Combs 5,000 years old have been found in modern Iran, while hairpins and bronze knives and tongs were used by the ancient Egyptians. In some African cultures, it was believed that a person’s spirit lived in their hair – making the hairdresser a vital part of the community.
Keeping hair clean and neat can be a hassle, and that led to long hair being associated with power in Medieval Europe. Kings and nobles kept theirs long because they had the time, money and servants to keep it clean. Meanwhile, peasants hacked theirs off regularly, because it grew dirty fast, and could hold parasites. In Civil War England and Revolutionary France, short hair was associated with those who fought against the king.
As technology has developed, so have hairstyles, with perms, sophisticated dyes and clipper cuts coming into play.
Sword or scissors?
Knives were undoubtedly used to chop and style hair, and razors have been used to trim beards and body hair since the days of the pharaohs. But there’s not much evidence of the widespread use of swords to do the job. Instead, scissors have been most hairdressers’ tool of choice.
A Vietnamese hairdresser called Nguyen Hoang Hung used a samurai sword at a salon in Danang for a number of years, after trying it out for a competition. He eventually, like Olmedo, graduated to using two wakizashis at once and claims it helped him give his clients a light, feathered look.
But, right now, Alberto Olmedo is the best-known option if you’re looking to put your hair to the sword.
Getting a haircut
Alberto Olmedo is at Carretera de Carabanchel a Aravaca 11 in Madrid’s La Latina neighbourhood. Olmedo’s staff – including his wife – are also trained in the use of the weapons, and dying and straightening are on offer alongside various cuts.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.