Mr Snip the Barber by Snipped Sam
These days, I always look back to my teen years in 1970s with a smile, lots of boys my age had their hair quite long, I guess I was different because my dad had very fixed ideas on the length of my hair. I spite of my requests to grow my hair longer dad was not budging, and when he said haircut I had to get my haircut. He always chose which barbers I went too and would from time to time take me so we could both get our hair cut. On other occasions, he had adapted a system of using the Mr Snip the Barber card from a pack of the game happy families. The card would be at the breakfast table where I sat along with my haircut money, but I guess this was better than being directly told to get my haircut.
In spite of keeping my hair a reasonable length, dad was not happy about having the right barber for us. About three years before the barber we had always had retired and moved away, and despite us having gone to three different places since then dad still missed Mr Seymour. I thought he was a nice old chap but the haircuts he gave me were very short indeed, nowadays we went to Richard and Chris who were both in their thirties and it was a far more modern place than Mr Seymour’s. Although I was not allowed to have my hair long they never gave me anything drastic, and when I went on my own they would have a joke about keeping dad happy.
It wasn’t long before my fifteenth birthday, dad had been talking to one our neighbours a bit further down the road. He came back in a very good mood, he told me that during his conversation with Mr Jenkins he had been told about a possible new barber for us. This possible new barber was a good way from where we lived being situated on Mill Road, over the bridge as we called it as if another world away.
"But dad, we go to Richard and Chris because they are right in the town"
"This isn’t really a lot further Mark, and besides Mr Jenkins says he is first class"
Mr Jenkins was retired with a very short haircut, and I had a horrible feeling that it would be old fashioned like Mr Seymour’s had been.
"But dad, I really like going to Richard and Chris"
"You start the summer term at school next week Mark, I was going to leave out the Mr Snip card for you tomorrow, but I’ll take you to meet this new chap tomorrow afternoon"
So, my fate was sealed, I had to meet dad in town, and then we walked over the bridge and turned into a longish road, dad had clearly done his research and knew where we were going. After a couple of turnings, we were in Mill Road, which had a lot of terraced houses and a couple of corner shops. Then I saw the barbers, exactly as I had dreaded, very old fashioned looking, dad said something to the effect that it looks alright. We went in, the barber was busy cutting the hair of an older man and a boy a bit younger than me sat there reading, he must have already had his haircut as it looked extremely short and had the look of just having been cut. We sat down and the barber said hello to us both. The barber was probably in his late fifties, with receding dark hair and a shaped moustache, he wore spectacles and was quite short in height and certainly was not slim. The shop was very old fashioned, with a very old looking barber’s chair, we were sitting on very old fashioned wooden chairs. The coat stand, the mirrors as well as the curtains and light fittings all looked to me as if they had been there for decades. This was so different from where I had recently been going, the smell was of dusting powder and hair cream, in fact I thought this was rather nice. It wasn’t too long before the man was finished, had paid and left with the boy who turned out to be his grandson. Dad told the barber that our neighbour Charles Jenkins had recommended him, which seemed to please him.
"Do I take it that you are not too happy with your current establishment then sir?"
"Yes, you could say that, Mark is a good lad and accepts that he isn’t allowed to have his hair long, but I’m afraid his hair is never quite as short as I would like, sometimes when I go with him, I have to ask for him to have a bit more off, even though they think they have finished his haircut"
"Oh, dear sir, that’s not good, if you bring him to me to have his haircut, he would never be finished until you had given your approval"
"That’s so reassuring, it has always made me feel like I’m an ogre"
"Well young Mark, it looks like it’s our job to keep your dad happy, so we had better get you in the chair"
I stood up and walked to the barber’s chair, he was waiting with the white nylon cape over his arm, I sat down, and he soon had the cape draped around me and then all snugly tucked in. He placed both of his hands on my shoulders and sat me right back in the chair, he then took a comb from the top pocket of his navy-blue barbers’ jacket and combed my hair.
"So back to school next week Mark?"
"Yes, on Monday"
"Then we need to send you back to school looking very smart"
"That sounds good doesn’t it Mark?"
"Yes dad" I replied knowing there was no point saying anything else.
"You are very wise to keep Marks hair on the short side sir, I would suggest that I give him a traditional short back and sides"
I was not at all surprised by this, in view of the barber’s chair I was sitting in. My chestnut brown hair had grown to just about half an inch above my collar, just off my ears at the sides, with sideboards which were about an inch and a half in length and my fringe when combed forward would be half an inch above my eyebrows. I rather liked my hair at this length, but had known for a few days that the Mr Snip the Barber card would be putting in an appearance very soon.
"Traditional short back and sides sounds perfect, what I am really wanting is for Mark to have a barber, with a no-nonsense approach. I have a good feeling that you are that man, and of course you will also be my barber"
"Very good Sir, I will do my best to impress you"
He selected a pair on very long steel scissors from a group of cruel looking instruments of torture to a boy of my age, placing his hands on my head he positioned my head forward and then started to cut my hair at the back of my head. The snips were loud and precise, of course he was an older barber with lots of experience, especially with teenage boys like me, I thought as he snipped away, positioning my head every now and again. He and dad chatted away and seemed to have immediately hit it off, much more like the old days when he used to take me to Mr Seymour, something that was never evident with Richard or Chris. When I went to Richard and Chris, although they knew I had to have my haircut short, they still treated me as if I had a choice in my fate and would talk to me during the haircut. Even though this barber seemed quite nice, my head was very forward, and his conversation was with dad. He soon knew all about the Mr Snip the barber card and he thought that was an excellent system, eventually he adjusted my head up, to enable him to cut my fringe, combing my hair forward, and four snips later I had a very short fringe. After a brush down, he picked up a pair of steel thinning shears.
"Doesn’t seem that he had his hair thinned out on his last haircut Sir"
"No, I don’t think they ever thinned his hair"
Chris certainly sometimes thinned my hair out when he cut it but I didn’t think there was any point in even mentioning it. He set to work with his thinning shears, attacking the whole of my head, he regularly stopped to free my hair from the teeth in the shears.
"That looks much better"
"Yes, he has very thick hair, that’s why it’s best to strip it away with these"
Eventually he finished and placing them back on the side and brushing me down, he smoothed the cape on my shoulders, and then adjusted the cape at the back. Taking his dusting brush and his rubber powder blower, he applied a sweet-smelling dusting powder to the back of my head and above my ears. It was no surprise to me, when he then went to the clippers which were to the right of the barber’s chair. Three sets all hanging from hooks, he paused a moment to make his selection, then having decided, removed them from the hook. He came and stood at my left side, so far during my haircut my sideboards had remained untouched but I knew this was only a matter of time, and that time had come. He moved the clippers which were now buzzing and ready for their victim, towards the top of my ear, and attack, and I lost my left sideboard and very quickly lost my right one too, not even an angle or a fraction of an inch. I could not believe that he could be so mean, but then again of course he wanted to make a good impression with dad, two new customers or should I say one new victim and one new customer. He placed his left hand on the back of my head and bent my head right down, firmly holding my head down, I felt the clippers touch the back of my head, very slowly they started to journey up the back of my head. He was taking them really high, there was no conversation between him and dad at this time, he was clearly very experienced in this procedure, it went on for what seemed ages, he skilfully adjusted my head during my ordeal, to enable him to clip away, once the back of my head was attended to, he took care of the hair above my ears. With his hand remaining on the top of my head, he changed clippers, with my head down, I noticed that his hand and the cuff of his barber’s jacket had rather a lot of very short dark brown hairs which was from the clipping of my hair. The next lot of clipping was much more uncomfortable, pushing quite heavily into my head, but not going very high. After a vigorous brush down, he moistened the back of my head around the hairline and the above my ears with some wet cotton wool. After shaving around my hairline with his cut throat razor, he lifted up my head and then used the razor above my ears, I would later see that he had shaped exaggerated arches above my ears. He then set to work with his powder blower, dusting me with the sweet-smelling powder. Taking a small hand brush, he brushed my hair on the top of my head giving me a severe side parting. He then stood back and surveyed his work.
"Your boy now has a traditional short back and sides Sir"
"I am very pleased, and I am particularly impressed with the smooth way you handled Mark throughout his haircut"
Before releasing me from the chair, he gave my hair a good spray from the aerosol can, something quite masculine in its smell. As dad paid for my haircut, my fingers explored the back of my head, it felt so bare and rough, dad had only had his haircut the week before so he wasn’t having his haircut this time, but said to the barber that he would see him soon. As we walked down the road I could tell that dad was in a really good mood,
"So that’s your new barber Mark, and he’s quite a bit cheaper than the last place"
"At least you’ll save some money dad"
"Good point Mark or course it could mean you’ll be getting more haircuts....but not if you tow the line"
At the time, it all seemed a bit unfair, and I guess most people reading this in 2017 would think the same. I would love to go back to 1974 and come down to breakfast and the Mr Snip the barber card waiting for me, with my haircut money at the side.