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Duncan's Usual by Snipped Sam
The year is 1973, I am fifteen years old, a mischievous but thoughtful lad who basically just wants to be like other boys. In the 1970s there was often much conflict between fathers and headmasters with lads my age and the length of our hair. My dad certainly was not happy with the length of my hair, chestnut brown and covering my ears and over my collar, we had a number of arguments over this but of course dad was totally aware that I wanted to be like everyone else in my class and I was at a very difficult age. I knew that dad missed Mr Waters who had been our barber until he had retired and moved away more than two years before. His retirement had enabled me to choose a much more modern place and this had enabled me to have my hair the length it now was. It was very likely that had Mr Walters still been in business I would still be going there and still receiving a good short back and sides.
The local Rotary club were having a large raffle to raise funds for a new memorial shelter in the park, I was very keen to enter as one of the top prizes was a cine camera which was my current dream to own. I bought two rows of tickets and waited in hope. The results were announced but sadly I was not the winner of the cine camera but had won a prize which turned out to be a voucher for a haircut at local barbers as well as some hair preparations…gee whiz. I told dad that he could have my prize as if he wanted, I had never been to this barber but had heard that it was really old fashioned.
A few days later dad came home having had his hair cut, he remarked how impressed he was with his new barbers and he would definitely would be going again. I made a sarcastic remark about it and he reminded me that my hair was due to be cut. Unfortunately for me things took a sudden turn, a letter from my headmaster arrived two days later advising that my hair was not a suitable length and although I had been warned about it, to date I had paid no attention. Another argument about my hair began, although this time it was very clear that dad had reached the end of his tether with my hair. He told me that he had very reluctantly allowed me to have my hair longer, but because I had taken no notice of my headmaster when he had told me to get it cut, things were going to change.
Firstly, I was going to be having a new barber, Mr Brown the barber from the raffle prize, and secondly dad would be making all decisions regarding my hair namely when its cut and how short. I started to protest but dad said that when Mr Walters was our barber everything ran smoothly and he was absolutely certain that Mr Brown would be a suitable replacement. The next day I was horrified that dad was there to meet me out of school, I knew where we were going before he said. I really wasn’t happy at all, it was bad enough that I had to have my haircut but to be taken to the barbers. It was a ten minute or so walk from the school, we arrived and the barber was standing there chatting to someone outside the door.
"hello sir, you’ve brought the young rascal to me I see"
"yes, this is Duncan, and this gentleman Duncan is Mr Brown, your new barber"
"Hello Duncan, let’s go into the shop, and we will have you straight in the chair"
I followed him into the barber’s shop, it was so old fashioned just like Mr Walters had been, he pointed to the coat stand so I hung my school blazer up and followed him to the barber’s chair, he told me to sit right back in the chair which was made of leather now well-worn with wooden arms, he then proceeded to crank the chair up to raise it to the required level. He then draped what seemed an enormous white nylon cape round me and tucked it in very tightly and some white tissue tucked in at the back. He took the comb which was in the top pocket of his navy-blue barber’s jacket and combed my hair.
"It’s very long indeed Duncan, but I don’t think we will be seeing you with hair this length again, do you?"
"I suppose not Mr Brown"
"Good job we’ve got dad here, so we can make sure you get the perfect haircut, things are perhaps slightly different from where you’ve been going recently, here Duncan you don’t get a say in how I cut your hair, but as long as you remember to keep your head still and follow my simple instructions all will be fine"
"I think you can manage that Duncan just remember why you are here"
"Right sir. I am ready to make a start, I will off course clear away all this length first but what are your specific requirements?"
"When I used to take him to Mr Walters, he always had his hair thinned out, I really do not like his hair to be as thick as this"
"No problem sir, once I have stripped away all this, I will thin his hair right down"
Mr Brown started to cut my hair, dad went and sat down, they chatted away whilst Mr Brown set to work, he wasted no time in removing the hair that covered my ears and that had previously fallen over my collar.
"It’s such a relief to get Duncan back in the chair of a decent barber, it all went downhill when dear old Mr Waters retired, Duncan started going somewhere else, it’s my fault really, I should have lined him up with a barber of my choice then, but it was O.K to begin with, but then Duncan’s hair started to get longer then a bit longer still and then he became more difficult when I commented that he hadn’t had enough off and then of course the arguments began"
"Unfortunately, it’s a big problem, and regrettably this long hair phase doesn’t look like it’s going away, but at least we are taking care of Duncan’s long hair phase"
"Yes, and one thing is for certain, I will be keeping his hair short just like I used to"
"Well done sir, what sometimes works well, is to occasionally follow up a visit to the barbers with another very soon after perhaps ten days or so and so the boy has a very severe haircut. It takes him by surprise and serves as a reminder of who is in charge"
"Certainly, something to think about, but hopefully after two or three visits to you Duncan will accept that you are now his barber and its short back and sides with no arguments from now on"
I sat there feeling both angry and embarrassed by this whole conversation, if only I hadn’t won that voucher, no cine camera and now this ordeal. In the mirror a stranger was looking back at me and on the white nylon cape rested large pieces of chestnut brown hair that had up to a little while ago adorned my head. After what seemed like forever cutting with the scissors, he took some evil looking thinning scissors from the side, and started to thin my hair, they really banged at my head, he stopped at regular intervals to free the hair that was trapped in the teeth of the thinning scissors, after what felt liked several minutes he put them down and brushed all the loose hairs off my head and face and neck.
"I hope that’s satisfactory sir, I have thinned his hair right down"
"Very good indeed, just how I like Duncan’s hair to be … short and thin"
"Now sir, you just need to decide the final stage of the haircut, I can of course tidy up the back and sides with a little edging and shaping and shave off any loose hairs, neat and tidy and quite acceptable"
"that sounds as you say acceptable"
"However, sir I would recommend giving the back of his head and the sides a traditional clipping, it would look so smart"
"Mr Walters would use his clippers on Duncan, it always suited him, but he is a little older now"
"I don’t suppose that Duncan will be too keen on it, but I am sure you will be very pleased with the results, it would look so smart sir"
"You’re his barber now, we will be guided by you"
"jolly good sir"
He selected a set of very mean black electric clippers from a selection that hung from hooks beside the barber’s chair, he placed his hand on the back of my head and slowly but firmly bent my head right down.
"Now young Duncan, you must keep your head completely still for me, just concentrate on doing that, you’re just going to feel a little tickle"
I started to panic, I lifted up my head much to the surprise of Mr Brown who stood there at the ready with his clippers.
"Dad, I’m fifteen, please don’t let him do this, I know I’ve got to have my hair cut short but I’m not at my junior school now, everyone will laugh at me"
"Duncan, you know you deliberately ignored both your headmaster and me when we told you about your hair, you thought you were being very clever didn’t you?"
"I guess so"
"Mr Brown told you earlier that you don’t get a say in how your hair is cut and he told you to keep your head still, now you need to apologise to him"
"You can do better than that Duncan, now apologise to Mr Brown properly"
"I’m sorry sir"
"A number of lads your age and older still have the clippers Duncan, my youngest son is nineteen and I still give him the same short back and sides he has always had, you will find it a lot easier if you just accept it"
"I will try sir"
"ready for a tickle Duncan?"
Once again, he placed his hand on the back of my head and bent my head right down, this time he kept one hand resting on the front of my head. He switched the clippers on, they had a really loud buzz, slowly they began their journey up the back of my head, the hair fell onto my neck, I was not surprised how high he seemed to be taking them, after my earlier antics he was bound to want to teach me a lesson. The clipping carried on taking care of the hair at the sides around and above my ears, after a brisk brush down with a stiff nylon brush, he took another set of clippers and did some further work at the back. Once this had been completed he used a razor to take away any loose hairs on my neck. My head was then lifted up, and then applied some hairdressing oil from a chrome dispenser and combed the most exacting side parting to my hair. Loosening the cape slightly at the back a cloud of dusting powder was applied to my neck, the cape was removed and I was allowed of the chair. As I wiped my neck with the fresh tissue he had handed me I was able to get acquainted with the bareness of the back of my head. I had to hurry because Mr Brown was standing ready with his clothes brush to brush down my shoulders and collar.
Over the next months’ dad spent a considerable amount of time and money taking me to the barbers, I never got my cine camera but I did eventually get used to having my hair very short again. The first haircut Mr Brown gave me became known as my usual and the only variation of this was when dad occasionally asked for it to be "a little shorter today".