Uncle's Orders by Stillcropped
This took place in a remote Scottish village in 1972, I was staying at my Auntie's during the school holidays and had been caught, with my friend, stealing a pack of cigarettes from a local shop. It was decided there was no need to involve the local police.
As I settled into the chair and the nylon cape was being fixed just a little too tightly, the barber was making small talk and continued to comb my hair which covered my ears and over my collar.
"So how much do you want off?"
My moment of torture had arrived I swallowed hard and then just above a mumble and with a bit of a stutter I said it " ehm a cr.. crew....crew cut.....please"
The barber stopped combing and fixed eye contact with me in the mirror " A crew cut you say? I don't do many crew cuts these days and definitely not to boys of your age and with a mop like this" and he lifted a great clump of my hair with his comb , although he hadn't asked me a question it was obvious be expected a reply .
I cleared my throat "my UNC..uncle wants me to get one" At this the barber's demeanor changed and his questioning was rapid ' who was my uncle? and what exactly were his instructions' . Again I gave a little cough but I knew better than to deviate from my uncle's instructions and I told him my uncle's name then I continued '"he said , 'Go to the barbers and tell him you want a crew cut and to make it a good short one. Once you're done wait for me there, I need to borrow something from him and pay for your cut' "" I let out a sigh and felt something lift from my shoulders as I had done as instructed.
The barber looked at me again and asked me to straighten up in the chair, then he changed the way he combed my hair and started combing it straight down from the crown, my fringe covering my eyes and touching halfway down my nose. Next he combed each side over my ears then he asked me to confirm " Crew cut , good and short , that's what you want , yes ? "
My heart was pounding , it wasn't the haircut I wanted but I knew it was the one I had to get I nodded my head took a deep breath and said ' Yes, ...please'
The barber unhooked an old set of clippers and a loud BBRRRRRR filled the shop as he switched them on , he lifted my fringe with his comb and I raised my eyes as I watched him run the clippers against the teeth of his comb and four inch tufts of my hair fell into my lap. He continued this process across the top of my head sending mounds of my locks to the floor , surprisingly as the clippers clattered against the plastic comb at my crown he switched the clippers off. As I watched him unscrew the top off a jar of white hair cream I observed the strange haircut now adorning my head , long hair hanging down each side and short hair lying flat against my scalp down the centre of my head and a thick blunt fringe in the middle of my forehead. He rubbed the cream into the newly cut section of my hair and then with a brush in each hand for a full 30 seconds vigorously swept my hair back from my forehead making sure every hair was covered in the cream. When he put the brushes down the hair on the top of my head glistened and stood poker straight just over an inch long looking like a field waiting to be harvested. Although a lot shorter than my usual style I actually liked what I saw.
Happy with the top the barber now combed the hair on my right side down , then when he was happy it was free of any knots or tangles he reached for his clippers switched them on then lifted a huge lock of my hair in front of my right ear with his comb and the clippers roared in my right ear as I expected the noise of the machine against the comb but instead I felt the motor vibrate against my jaw then the BRRRR change to a rasping sound as he kept the clippers flush with my scalp and drove them up the side of my head right up to the parting where the freshly cut top hair was . As a great clump of my hair bounced off my shoulder and slid to the floor , I let out a gasp as the clippers had shorn me down to no more than a fine pelt. The barber had now sheared up and behind my right ear and I was now realising what was meant by ' make it a good short one' the barber now pushed my chin to my chest and held it firmly in place, through the cape I felt the ever growing mound of my shorn locks which were building up in my lap . Time and again I felt the clipper mow the back of my head from nape to crown I also heard the door opening and the barber nod a welcome to some new customers. As he released his grip on my head I saw in the mirror that sitting behind me were my uncle and my friend and his father. The barber spoke to my uncle who nodded and then took a seat in the next barber chair as the clippers effectively shaved my hair to the bare scalp high up both sides of my head , at last he turned them off and hung them back on the hook.
To my surprise he then moved over to my uncle and started to trim what little hair he had leaving me still sitting in the chair surveying my almost bald sides and what now looked like a stiff scrubbing brush across the top of my head . in the mirror I saw my friend run his fingers through his blonde locks and fighting back the tears knowing he too was to be shorn like me . The barber had finished my uncle who was now paying the barber then the barber at last undid the cape and let me down from the chair.My hand immediately feeling the prickly bristles which now adorned the back and sides of my head. As I turned to leave the shop the door opened and another two men came in , I felt my uncle's hand on my shoulder and he turned me round and guided me through to the back shop , I saw the barbers thick leather razor strop in his hand and tried to back off, but he had a firm grip of me and simply said " let's get it over with" at the same time my friend was being man handled by both his dad and the barber into the barbers chair.
In the back shop my uncle gave me a sound thrashing to teach me a lesson for both stealing and bringing shame on the family, I was bawling long before he was finished caused by a mixture of pain and embarrassment knowing everything could be heard in the front shop. When we went back through the barber was finishing giving my friend a copy of my haircut ,I saw in the mirror tear stains on his cheeks as his hair tumbled to the floor. My uncle nodded to the barber then to my amazement ordered me into the other barber chair . I squirmed with both pain and shock as I thought my ordeal was over but the barber was once again behind me tightening the cape really tight to my neck , I saw my friend being physically dragged to the back shop then the loud crack and wail coming from behind the closed door. The barber pushed my head firmly down so my chin was on my chest then I felt a soft warm brush being swirled around the back of my head then he let my head up and massaged pure white soapy shaving foam all around my head. I cried out 'No please ' only to be silenced by uncle stating " Quiet, or I'll get him to take it all off!" I sobbed waiting for the shaving to start but the barber reached for the clippers took out a fine toothed steel comb and slid it flat against my scalp across my standing up fringe , he lifted the comb a fraction , got a nod from my uncle and then the clippers clattered against the steel teeth and over an inch of my recently cut hair fell down my forehead and down my nose sticking to my tear stained cheeks .
It was his third pass with the clippers before I saw how close he was shearing me and I could see no more than a quarter of an inch of bristles remained. A loud wail and scream of ' No Dad p!ease' echoed round the room as my friend was brought back into the shop and had seen my lathered scalp . His dad handed the razor strop back to the barber who momentarily stopped cropping me and hung the thick leather back on it's hook. Another two swipes of his clippers and I was shorn.I watched as he stropped his razor back and forth on the leather strop who's hardness I could vouch for , then again my chin was on my chest and I felt a strange rasping feeling from the crown of my head down to my neck. Four or five long strokes was all It took to shave the back of my head and then I could see the long strokes of the razor stripping the bristles from the sides of my head leaving me with a totally smooth shaved bowl cut and tiny bristles on the top.
Finally I was released from the chair and ordered to sit and watch my friend go through the same procedure he was sobbing uncontrollably as he was lathered up then the barber asked his dad as he fired up the clippers ' to the wood?' A nod from his dad and the comment ' he was warned the last time , skin him' . His wail drowned out the clippers but the barber drove the machine tight to his scalp straight down the middle leaving a mere shadow of hair behind. His wailing continued as he was also shaved bald back and sides and he complained it wasn't fair that we both had tried to steal from the shop and that I should be shorn like him.
My Uncle said that I had learned my lesson and that it was my first time I'd had enough, the whole shop went quiet as I said it wasn't and that I had been caught before stealing from the school tuck shop . And so for the third time in less than hour I sat in the barbers chair and watched as four passes of his clippers reduced my bristles to dark shadow which contrasted with the white skin either side. This time I had learned my lesson but the final twist came as we left the shop the barber saying ' 8 o'clock Saturday morning for a tidy up boys, don't be late!'