Joining Up by Stillcropped
It was 1974 and work was hard to come by so I took the option of joining the army. I had kept my decision quiet until the week before I was due to start my basic training and it came as quite a shock to everyone especially my girlfriend Sandra. The day before I was due to leave we spent together, and she ruffled my long collar length hair and asked when I was getting it cut, I told her I wasn't as I would get cropped at camp as part of my induction. She was disappointed as she had never seen me with short hair and it didn't take her long to talk me into a visit to the barbers. As we sat on the waiting bench she asked me how short it would be and I genuinely couldn't tell her I would ask for an army haircut and see what I got. Of the three barbers cutting my turn came with the youngest and as I took to the chair he asked 'just a tidy up is it?' I cleared my throat 'Ehm no, I'm Ehm joining the army and need a basic haircut' he looked at me in the mirror 'Seriously? You want a regular army haircut? Like a short back and sides?' His voice was loud enough for one of the older barbers to look over and remark 'leave him to me if you want' he shook his head and I replied 'Yeh, rather get it done here than there' I caught Sandra's reflection in the mirror and she was giggling, which set me smiling. He unhooked a set of clippers and using the clippers over his comb quickly reduced the bulk of my hair from the right side of my head and then the left exposing my ears for the first time in years, he then attacked the top with his scissors lifting my hair up then shearing off a good 5 inches leaving it about 1 1/2 inches long,I was sporting a very short mullet with the back still well over my collar. He returned with the clippers and pushed my head down and I felt them buzzing on the back of my head then being pushed up to my crown, after three or four passes I could feel the air on my neck, then he ran them up and over my ears clippering the already short hair close to the skin, as I looked up I saw Sandra again this time with a pretty serious look on her face, and my ears sticking clearly out from the sides of my head. The barber then made a fine line with the teeth of the clippers level with the middle of my ear and then shaved my jaw length sideburns off to this point, then I felt the teeth of the clippers nibble along my neck above my collar finally he took a set of thinning shears and removed great clumps of hair from the top of my head, before unhooking the mirror and showing me the back 'OK? ' He said, I nodded my head seeing a neatly square cut back, short clippered sides and the top side parted and lying close to my scalp and looking down a great mound of my hair now lying in my lap , as he undid the cape I stood up and turned to Sandra 'well what do you think?' She let out a little smile as she stood up ' I , well I didn't think it would be THAT short, it's just a bit of a shock!' We both laughed and I said 'You should try it from this side!' And I felt the skin on the back of my neck and the short bristles of hair on the back of my head. After paying we were walking out when the older barber who had offered to cut my hair said 'Good luck son! You'll need it if you turn up with a haircut like that!' I was taken aback and slightly annoyed when I sharply replied 'Why, what's wrong with it?' He eyed me up and down then said 'For a soldier, apart from another half inch higher at the back, nothing! But you earn your haircut in the army and you haven't earned a haircut like that, that's a regular's cut and you're a new recruit'
I had just lost a few years worth of my hair and wasn't best pleased to be instantly ridiculed so I answered 'Well I'll take my chance, I start tomorrow so I'm pretty sure this will be fine' at that he grabbed my arm and even although I tried to shrug him off he had a vice like grip, and looking me in the eye he said in a low voice, 'Take a bit of advice from someone who knows, within an hour of you reaching training camp tomorrow you'll be in the barbers chair, everyone is no matter what length your hair is, so it's coming off anyway, but if you turn up thinking you're already a soldier just because you've signed a couple of forms then you'll have marked yourself down for some 'special treatment' during basic training and that's something you don't want! Think on - take a seat now and I'll tidy you up or go away and think about it we're open for another couple of hours - but either way do yourself a favour don't turn up looking like that' and he let go of me. Sandra, had heard most but not all he had said and so I explained it all to her , we then walked to a cafe and drank a coffee in silence before I eventually said 'Do you like it, then?' She ran her fingers up the back saying 'it's REALLY short and feels funny , I never ever thought you would get your haircut as short as this but it suits you!' then after a few seconds 'what you going to do?' I tapped the table and ran my fingers through what was left of my hair 'I don't know, if what he said is true then, well, well it makes sense, but I don't know whether to believe him'
She let out a sigh 'I know,but he had no reason to say anything and he did offer to cut it for you at the beginning so he would probably have explained then' I looked at her 'you think I should go back don't you?' She nodded slowly 'If as he says they'll cut it again tomorrow you should at least I'll get to see you with REALLY,REALLY short hair!' and giggled . I drained my coffee 'come on then, I can't believe this two haircuts in one day!'and laughing we set off for the barbers again, just before we got there she stopped ran her fingers through my short crop and gave me a long kiss then taking a deep breath we went in.
The older barber was free and looked up as we entered 'Seen sense , good lad come on 2 minutes and it will all be fixed' as I sat down he had me caped in a flash, before I could speak he had the clippers in his hand and continued 'You see I was an army barber for 15 years and most young lads like you come in with a freshly cut scalp like this!' And he drove the clippers straight back from my forehead to crown four times in quick succession leaving barely a 1/4inch of hair behind, next he addressed the sideburns and using the teeth of the clippers he followed my hairline from around my ears and then sliced them off at an angle stating 'There that wasn't so painful was it ? And now instead of being a smart Alec you'll be someone who's tried to make a good start to army life' and he undid the cape. I looked at my reflection in the mirror I had been shorn skinhead tight and even though I had only had my short back and sides for less than an hour I missed it! As I got up I turned to him 'so this will be Ok? I can't believe you done it so quick'
He laughed 'You won't have any problems with that ' Sandra was laughing and calling me a skinhead , then we both stopped as he continued ' And it will take even less time tomorrow, my record was 20 in less than half an hour' I looked at him bewildered and feeling my newly shorn scalp said 'what do you mean, I mean there's nothing left,! This has to be short enough, isn't it?' Again he looked at me seriously 'You've a lot to learn kid , remember what I said earlier everyone gets a haircut no matter the length of their hair it's regulations, I've left it so they can take the back up another inch, at least, and another half inch outline round your ears , shave those sideburns square with the top of your ears, and then take the top down another notch so that the length is uniform all over , regulations see' both Sandra and I stared at him in disbelief, I was already sporting the shortest skinhead I had seen.
But the following morning just over an hour after arriving at camp I sat in the barbers chair getting that exact haircut along with the other 29 new recruits, some of whom were regretting not getting a 'trim' before joining.45wl!x45wl!x
Sandra did get to see that first day haircut as,18 weeks later, it as the last thing we all were ordered to do before our first home leave, all us survivors paid a visit to the barbers and were proud to get another 'Entry level cut!'