The Right Barber by Nigel Beresford
"So lad the main reason you are worried about having your hair cut a bit shorter is what your friends at school will say”
"Yes, they will make jokes about it”
"You seem to me to be a sensible lad, I would have thought looking smart would be important to you "
"I know what you are saying, but my hair does look smart”
This conversation with the man who owned the garden and pet shop had started when he had seen me looking at and picking up some hand clippers which although were for dogs, as he had pointed out were once used by barbers. The year was 1974, I was fifteen and had grown my hair a bit, so it was now on my collar and had started to cover my ears. I did have a bit of a thing about barbers and haircuts going on secretly liking shorter hair, but had conformed to being like most of the other boys in my year at school.
"Yes lad it's clean and neatly groomed, there's no disputing that, but with a trip to the right barber it could look so much better”
Feeling the hair on the back of my head where it was now touching my collar, I nodded politely and smiled
"Do you get told when your hair needs to be cut?”
"I'm reminded if it gets a bit untidy, but I guess I've been a bit difficult about it recently”
"Teenage rebellion lad that's what it's called; do you have a specific barber where you have to go to?”
"Not any more, I choose where I go”
"Have you ever been to Mr Brown, just round the corner from here?”
"No, I haven't, but I have seen it, looks like proper traditional barbers”
"Have you ever thought of going there?”
I smiled, "I have wondered what it might be like”
"Mr Brown is a very nice gentleman, he has nearly forty years experience cutting hair, of course he cuts my hair and he always cut my sons hair before he moved to London”
"You must know him really well then”
"Indeed young man ,and of course I can introduce you to him, as its quiet today, I can put the back in five minutes sign on the door, and we can take a little stroll to his shop”
"When you say introduce me to him?”
"If I take you to meet him, it's not a social visit; it means you are going to see Mr Brown to have your hair cut”
"Could I meet him first and then decide if I have my haircut?”
"I suppose I will need to have my hair cut fairly soon”
"So you're ready to go to the barbers?”
I nodded, he smiled and the next thing I knew we were on our way to meet Mr Brown, when we got there he told me to go in first, Mr Brown was cutting the hair of an older gentleman, a boy a bit younger than me was sitting waiting to have his haircut.
"I have brought this young man to see you; he's been having a bit of trouble finding the right barber”
"Jolly good, take a seat young man, you'll be straight after Christopher "
The man patted my shoulder,
"I will see you back at the shop, you're in good hands with Mr Brown, he will take care of your hair for you”
I sat down and the man left
"There are magazines and comics there to look at young man, if you would like "
I already saw that the boy was reading something, I stood up and took a magazine from the table and sat down, but I felt really unsettled, part of me just thought enjoy this and another was thinking was this a good idea. Eventually the man came of the chair and the boy was called to the chair once the man had left. I noticed that the boy was prepared for his haircut and the barber just started cutting his hair without asking him what he wanted done or anything related to his haircut. From where I was sitting I could see large pieces of hair falling from the boys head. I have to say though the barber spoke to him really nicely and chatted to him whilst he cut his hair. He looked over at me
"Alright young man”
"Yes thanks” I replied feeling my throat was a little dry being so nervous
"Nothing to worry about "
He then carried on with the boy's haircut, eventually after a brush down, he started to clip the back of the boys head, and he had bent the boys head right down for the procedure. As he moved round to attend to the area round the boys head he winked at me.
"Do you see what a good lad Christopher is, he keeps his head really still for me "
"Yes, I see that "
"I shall need you to do the same when it's your turn, "
"Oh no” I thought it's been ages since I had the clippers, but maybe I won't have to "
The boy eventually came off the chair looking much barbered but very smart, I was called to the chair straight after him and sat there whilst he paid the barber, I was prepared with the gown all tucked in by the time he had put on his jacket
"What do you think of Christopher's haircut, young man?”
"Nice and short ...”
"Yes, it's very short”
"I expect you would like me to cut your hair just like I have Christopher's "
"I think so”
"Just as well lad, as I had already planned to give you the same haircut”
"Is it alright if I stay and finish reading my comic Mr Brown? "The boy asked
"Yes Christopher, "
He picked up the scissors and started to cut my hair, as the boy sat back down
"When did you last have this cut young man? "
"About five weeks ago”
"So you have had a bit of trouble finding the right barber for a while then?”
"Yes, that's right”
"I would say you have, if this is just five weeks growth of hair.... but at least you had the good sense to talk to Mr Fairkettle about it, so he could bring you to me”
I wasn't too sure at first about having it cut shorter, but I suppose deep down I knew I needed it done”
"That's right lad, what's your name?”
"I could see the look of panic when you saw Christopher having his hair shortened with the clippers”
"Yes, I am a bit worried about that, I was hoping that you might let me off that bit”
"Why young Nigel, is there any reason you can give to persuade me to let you off that bit?”
"Well Mr Brown, I am fifteen”
"Bit old for the clippers you think then Nigel”
In the mirror I could see the boy looking at us, he was smiling to himself; I wished he had left after he'd had his haircut
"Yes Mr Brown "
"We will have to see wont we?”
He now started thinning my hair with some rather old and well used thinning shears, this seemed to take ages, large clumps of my hair came off, and he kept stopping to pull the hair from the teeth of the thinners.
"That looks so much better Nigel; you have a nice shaped head, a nice short haircut shows it off rather than it is hidden under lots of hair”
"Thanks Mr Brown”
He brushed my head down and combed my hair on the top ensuring my side parting was severely defined; he then stood in front of me facing me directly
"I have thought about what you said Nigel, and I realise this has already been a big haircut for you, I have taken a lot of hair. I have also considered the fact that you did come here willingly and have been a good lad”
"Yes Mr Brown, I am afraid the boys at school will laugh at me if I have the clippers”
"I understand that Nigel, but I am an old fashioned barber who thinks that all lads look better with the back and sides of their heads shaved short with the clippers. But I don't blame you for asking”
He placed his hand on the back of my head and bent it down, he removed the clippers from the hook beside the chair, came and stood behind me and switched them on, I felt the metal touch the back of my head and he moved them slowly up the back of my head. I felt the hair fall away from my head, and I remembered seeing the boy's hair fall from his head when he was clipped. I knew that the boy would be watching
"This was you earlier Christopher, and you both will be feeling the chill from the wind on the back of your heads when you step outside”
"Yes Mr Brown”
"But you are used to being clipped, this boy will find it strange at first, I noticed while he was waiting to have his hair cut, he kept feeling the hair on the back of his head, there's nothing there now so it will feel strange.”
"He'll get used to it Mr Brown”
After the back of my head he did above my ears, when the task was complete his brushed me down and then came lots of dusting with powder. I left the barbers at the same time as Christopher, and went to see Mr Fairkettle who was really impressed with my hair.
A week later I was standing in front of my form with my headmaster who was addressing them.
"I know that a lot of you have been amused by Beresford's new hair cut, but in fact this is the perfect example of how a boy of your age should have his hair .I have already told Beresford that I expect his hair to remain this length .You would all do well to follow his example. It is most unfortunate for Beresford that because Johnson your goading and making fun of him he threw a book at you. But school books must be treated with respect and not thrown at other pupils. Do you understand this Beresford?”
"Yes Sir” I replied
"Sadly for Beresford in spite of him having the perfect haircut I must now take him with me to my office, to cane him”
On the way to the office he remarked
"First time for the cane I think Beresford”
"First time and hopefully the last Beresford”
"I hope so Sir "
"Pity, I have to do this, you have the smartest haircut of any boy in this school for a very long time, but no leniency, I am going to cane you severely”
This was the only time in my school career I had to be caned, I kept out of trouble and thanks to my new barber Mr Brown my hair remained short. I felt much happier having my hair short and learned not to take any notice of snide comments. After I left school I went to work for Mr Fairkettle in his shop. Needless to say my hair was kept short.