The Haircut of Haircuts by Snipped Sam
WOW, I thought seeing this really old-fashioned barber shop for the first time, the year is 1973 and I am fourteen years old and discovering that I have a growing interest and fascination with anything to do with haircuts and barbers shops. I know that my hair will soon need cutting but at this point feel that this place might just be too old fashioned, but I really want to check it out. From the outside, you cannot see in due to curtains and advertising boards, I can see signs for brands of cigarettes, I will go in and ask if they sell sweets because recently I have acquired rather too many combs purchased from barbers’ shops. I realise that I am taking great care chaining up my bicycle, this is not really necessary to pop in and get some sweets if in fact they even sell them. No, this is what a boy would do to make sure his bike was safe while he was at the barbers. My heart is racing and I feel butterflies in my stomach, I walk to the door, turn the handle of the door and walk in, the first think I notice is the barber, a rather serious looking man, medium height and build, balding with a moustache, he is smartly dressed and is wearing a grey barbers jacket. I would imagine the barber to be in his late fifties, an elderly man with white hair is sitting in the barber’s chair having his haircut. The shop is very traditionally furnished of an era perhaps of the 1940s, there is no one waiting to have their haircut. The barber looks up from the job in hand and says "hello young man" his tone is friendly but he still looks rather serious.
"Hello" I nervously reply and then ask the question "Do you sell sweets?" at this point I have not seen any sweets on display and have only known of one barber who carried a small stock of sweets.
"No, I am afraid I don’t young man, Mrs Jolly just around the corner, at the paper shop does though"
"O.K thanks, I just wondered if you did"
"No, young man it’s not something I do, but of course Mrs Jolly won’t give you a haircut…. well she might but I don’t think so"
"I’m sure Mrs Jolly would send you here" said the man having his haircut
"Anyway, young man I’m sure it’s not just for sweets you’ve come for, I rather think, a certain young man needs to have his hair cut"
"I suppose it will soon need cutting, and I will come here when it does" I replied with very mixed feelings, mostly wanting a haircut here and part terror of what sort of haircut I might get.
"You’ll be back at school soon, I think you’ll need it done before then"
"Yes, I have to have it cut to go back to school"
"It would make sense to have it cut now, Mr Daniels is a very good barber, he can take care of it for you right away"
I found the way this conversation was going rather exciting, with the customer in the chair joining in, surely, they would not let me wriggle out of getting my haircut.
"Not quite right away, but once I have finished this gentleman you are up next"
"Why put it off young man?"
I knew if I stayed any longer I would be having my hair cut there, in the beginning I had only come in to have a look at a proper old-fashioned barbers shop. I could now make my escape giving an excuse about being pushed for time never to return again. The barber’s chair looked as if it was several years old, how many haircuts had been given to customers sitting in that chair, the barber’s cape was white, my preferred colour of cape for a haircut, I loved seeing my hair sitting on it once it had been snipped off. There really wasn’t a choice, as I walked to one of the waiting chairs and sat down, part of me told myself I was crazy, the other part of me was full of anticipation. The barber gave me an approving nod, just because this barber was much older than the chaps who usually cut my hair didn’t mean he would give me a bad haircut. I wasn’t allowed to have my hair long anyway, just above my collar and off my ears was the rule, yes it was very likely to be shorter than part of me would like, but wasn’t that why I was here. I sat there trying to read a magazine too nervous though to take in what it said. Eventually there is a lot of activity and the man is off the chair, he is being brushed down by the barber and then he pays for his haircut. Having put down the magazine, I remain where I am, awaiting instruction, the man is still wiping his neck with the tissue, when the barber clicks his fingers and looks at me, then points to the chair. I stand up and walk to the chair, I am a bit unhappy about the clicking of the fingers but it’s too late now to change my mind, a new barber and a different approach. Once I have sat in the barber’s chair I am told to unfold my arms, then the white nylon cape is draped over me and tucked in snugly and he unhurriedly combs my hair. He exchanges a few more words with the man before his departure, he says goodbye to me as he leaves and says to enjoy my haircut.
"Not so bad once you’re in the chair, is it?"
"No, it was nice not having to wait a long time"
"And this is your first haircut from me?"
"I dare say you are a little nervous and worried about what I am going to do"
"Just a bit"
"Does your father usually tell you to get your haircut"
"Does he give you any instructions about your hair?"
"It must never touch my collar or grow over my ears"
"What about these?" he asked pointing to my sideburns
"I think he’s O.K with them"
"Only think heh young man, I dare say your father will be paying for this haircut so I shall ask you he question again, what about these?" this time he lightly tugged at my right sideburn.
"O.K he would prefer it if they weren’t so long"
"Where of course you rather like them, as I said earlier your first haircut from me, so I need to make a good first impression and also give you a haircut that really suits you, what say you, young man?"
"I think so, sir"
"So young man, today I must give a nice short back and sides"
"I thought that’s what you would say, sir"
He selected a pair of scissors which were on the shelf in front of me, and started cutting my hair at the back. This really was what I wanted, a haircut from a barber who would take charge, and although I knew it was slightly over the top, it felt right to call him sir. Of course, I should show him respect, he had after all taken the decision to give me a nice short back and sides. As he cut my hair he asked me a few questions like which school I went to, where I usually had my haircut. He cut my hair in a measured unhurried way.
"Is there a reason you have your hair parted in the middle?" he asked combing my hair forward
"I quite like a middle parting"
"A side parting on the left looks much better, much neater, do you ever use Brylcreem on your hair?"
"No, but my father has some"
"Just a small amount rubbed into your hair then combed into a sharp parting, I will cut your hair for a side parting, and I will Brylcreem your hair"
"I really like the smell of Brylcreem"
"You’ll have to think about getting your own pot, but only use a small amount to begin with, I will be putting on quite a lot on your hair today, but that’s to give you that just been to the barbers look"
He started cutting my hair at the front, he was standing in front of me as his scissors snipped away at my hair, after rather a lot of cutting, his soft nylon brush dusted away all the loose hairs from my face, when he stepped away I saw in the mirror my hair cut shorter with a side parting. He then changed his scissors selecting a very long pair of steel scissors.
"So young man, what do you think I should do about your sideburns?"
"I know I’m having a short haircut sir, but is there any chance you would let me keep them the length they are?"
"No young man they do need my attention, but I am going to still let you have them, but they will be shorter"
He first cut my left sideburn to a fraction of an inch and then thinned it and then did the same with the other side checking to see they were both even, he then gently patted my head.
"I know lad, you wanted to keep them the length they were, but that couldn’t happen"
"I Know sir"
He carried on cutting my hair for a bit longer, then brushed me down again, by now my nervousness had almost gone and I was really enjoying having my haircut. I was really happy the way the barber was firmly in control but also his approach to me is friendly which makes me really like him.
"You told me earlier that your father likes your hair to above your collar, I take it he prefers it to be well above your collar"
"Yes Sir, he does and I know he’s going to be really impressed with this haircut"
"I hope so young man after all he pays for it"
The door opened and in the mirror, I could see a man in his late twenties come in, he stood by the door, the barber went over to the counter area by the door after telling me he’d just be a minute or two. I realised that the man was there to buy condoms, I sat there thinking about my haircut, a little self-conscious about the being in the chair with a short haircut. But of course, the man would not even notice me, I began remembering nostalgically the super short haircuts I had at the barbers when I was really young. When I had the back of my head clipped very short, afterwards I really loved feeling the back of my head, I think even then my romance with haircuts was starting. I wanted to touch the back of my head there and then but I knew I should not, the man paid for his purchases and left and my barber came back. Thinking about it, I stopped having the clippings about two years ago when I started going to a different place to have my haircut.
"So, we were talking about your fathers ruling about the length of your hair above the collar"
"Yes Sir, he likes it short but he doesn’t like me to have a Boston, you know a square cut Sir"
"Yes, I know what a Boston is, and no I wouldn’t give you a square cut, I don’t like them either and certainly not for a lad your age"
I was now really rather surprised how much I wanted to have the back of my head clipped again, but I was reluctant to make such a request, and I wasn’t certain that his nice short back and sides included a clipping. It was true about the Boston haircut, I had been asked by the chap cutting my hair how I wanted the back finished and he said about the Boston. Dad was not pleased and it wasn’t very long at all when I was told I needed my next haircut.
"I didn’t really like it either sir"
"Good job that I know what needs to be done, lad"
He took the Bakelite clippers which were hanging on a hook to the right of the chair and selected a different comb from the shelf.
"You need to bend your head forward for me, that’s it, right down young man, now lift your head back up"
I lifted my head back up
"Not a bad first attempt, but I am sure you can do better, when I say bend your head forward I want you to bend your head down as far as you can, is that understood?"
"Yes sir, I am sorry sir"
"Bend your head down"
I did as I was told, and managed to get my head right down for him.
"That’s more like it, now be sure to keep your head very still"
He switched on the clippers, they had a different sound to ones I had heard before, I think because they were an older model. He lifted my hair with the comb and ran the clippers over the comb, I could feel the hair falling off my head onto my neck, this went on for a good while before he tilted my head to the right and did exactly the same above my left ear and then after adjusting my head he tackled the hair above my right ear. He then changed clippers and started to run the bare blade up the lower part of my head, then resting his hand on my head did above each ear pressing hard with the clippers. After that came bare scraping of my neck and above my ears with a traditional straight edge razor. My head remained down while he brushed me down, and then used a towel to wipe my head clear of all loose hairs. I was then told that I could lift my head up, oh golly I thought, he has scalped me, the hair above my ears had been clipped so short, and I knew the back would be just the same.
"I am afraid you had to lose the sides altogether"
I replied as I watched him open up the pot of Brylcreem, he then generously applied the wonderful smelling hair preparation to my hair. With his comb he gave me a severe parting on the left side, and he was absolutely right about me having a just been to the barbers look. He proudly showed me with the mirror the back of my head, just as I had imagined, clipped severely, I just loved it. After loosening the white nylon cape at the back, he took his powder blower and heavily powdered my neck and the down the collar of my shirt. As he removed the cape and I stepped from the barber’s chair, I had the haircut of haircuts.
After paying him and thanking him for my haircut, I left his barber shop and immediately began to feel very self-conscious about my haircut. Although running my hand up the back of my head reassured me that I loved it, as I was unchaining my bicycle a couple of lads a bit older than me walked past and laughed their heads off at my haircut. In 2017 that haircut is cutting edge style and I would not be in the minority and a target of jokes, but not nearly as much of a buzz as having a traditional no nonsense barber put you through your paces.