Haircut Adventures by Snipped Sam
I was really discontent with the status quo with regard to the length of my hair, the year is 1973 and I am fifteen. The length of my chestnut brown hair is currently neither short or very long, just touching my collar and has started to grow over my ears.
I remembered some of the barbers who had cut my hair when I was younger, Mr Smith an older man who always was wearing a trilby hat even when he was cutting hair, and usually smoked a pipe. It made me smile thinking of me sitting in the tall boys’ chair, Mr Smith wearing his trilby hat, smoking his pipe as he skilfully worked his hand clippers up the back of my head. Another time when we were on holiday in Scotland, it was raining and my older brother now a teenager had been difficult about having his hair cut. Dad decided that because our plans were on hold due to the rain, we would go to the barbers and get his haircut. There were three barbers there, all older gentlemen, my hair had only been cut just before we came away so I wasn’t in the plan. Dad and my brother both were having their haircuts, when the other barber became free without anyone after me.
"Right sonny step this way"
"I don’t think he needs his haircut, it was only cut last week"
"But if he has his hair cut as well, you will have the family special offer, it’s only a few pence more for the boy, so may be a little tickle with the clippers for the laddie"
Dad agreed to this and I was soon in the chair having my haircut too, he stripped the back and sides to nothing, after that when ever I had been to the barbers, my brother would tease me and say "a little tickle with clippers for the laddie"
Now a few years on, I was at the start of my haircut fetish, anything to do with barbers and short haircuts interested me.I was looking through the new yellow pages telephone directory, searching under gentlemans hairdressers. There was one listing which stood out,
P J Chapman Esq,
Traditional barbering for
Discerning Gentlemen and
Cutting, shaving and singeing.
The telephone number was listed below the ad, I looked up the address on the street map and he was just a short bus ride away. A plan was coming together, I was at home on my own so it was easy enough to telephone him. I wanted to make myself sound older, so I put some cotton wool in my mouth and practised making my voice deeper and rather grand. Shaking slightly,
I pick up the phone and dial the number,
"Good afternoon, Chapman’s"
"Is that Mr Chapman?"
"Yes, speaking, how may I help Sir?"
Good start calling me sir, I think, here goes
"I was hoping to arrange for you to cut my grandson’s hair"
"Of course, sir, will you be bringing him yourself or sending him"
"I was thinking of sending him to you tomorrow"
"Tomorrow is appointments day, and I don’t usually make appointments for boys ten or under"
"Quite understandable, but he is fifteen"
"Let me see what I have free……. I have an 8.30 early appointment or a 3.15 p.m."
"Could we take the 3.15 one please"
"Certainly, the name"
"Jolly good, he needs to arrive at least five minutes before his appointment"
"I will tell him"
"And how do want me to cut his hair?"
"Its on the long side at the moment, so I’d like a good amount taken off, but I am happy to leave it up to you"
"Would there be any problem if I decide to give him a short back and sides?"
"Not with me"
"Leave it to me sir, I will take care of his hair for you"
I came off the telephone really excited, tomorrow afternoon could not come soon enough, the morning passed by slowly, I decided to dress in some of older brothers’ clothes from a few years before. In the early afternoon I put on straight legged stay pressed trousers, a light blue button down collared shirt with a tie, and his Harrington jacket, and some suede dessert boots. I really liked wearing his clothes anyway and often wore them for a change, I had no intention of turning up for my haircut in flared trousers and platform shoes.
I had to wait ages for the bus and worried I was going to be late, eventually it came and once I got off the bus I ran to the barbers, when I got there I was a bit out of breath and red in the face. He was cutting the hair of an older gentleman, the barber was perhaps late fifties, medium height, dark curly hair which was quite longish on top and swept back with generous mutton chop sideburns. He wore an open shirt with a cravat, grey trousers and a burgundy three-quarter length barbers coat.
"Hello young man, I am afraid its appointments only today"
"Yes, my grandad made an appointment for me"
He went to his book,
"Wilson,at 3.15 is that you?"
"Yes, that’s me"
"Nice and early for your haircut, hang up your jacket then take a seat, once I have finished Mr Fairhead it will be your turn"
I did as he said then I noticed on the clock it was not yet five past, just before quarter past Mr Fairhead was off the chair, Mr Chapman attended to his brushing down, then holding his sports jacket for him to put on, he looked over to me
"Go and wait by the chair please Wilson"
I stood up and went and stood beside the barber’s chair, Mr Fairhead left and Mr Chapman came over to me.
"When I spoke to your granddad, I didn’t make a note of your first name"
"Take a seat Michael"
He soon had the white and grey striped nylon cape wrapped around me and snugly tucked in, with a length of cotton wool from the chrome dispenser tucked into the back of my collar. He picked up a comb and started to comb my hair.
"When I made your appointment with your granddad I just wrote down Wilson, and beside that I have written SBS with a question mark, not room to write Michael as well"
"No, I suppose not"
"I put SBS question mark, because your grandad wanted to leave it fairly flexible with how I cut your hair, and SBS is short for short back and sides and the question mark is because it was not decided"
"Any chance of a trim Sir?"
He laughed and ruffled my hair
"A nice try Michael, but I am going to give you a short back and sides, impress your grandad what say you?"
"I think he would really like that"
He placed his hand on the back of my head,
"I am going to bend your head forward…… you just need to keep looking at the floor, find a floor tile and keep looking at it. I know you probably want to look in the mirror to see what’s happening but I don’t want you to that"
My head was now bent forward, and he lifted his hand from my head
"You understand the drill Michael"
"As I say keep looking down, and you probably won’t even notice that your hair is falling from your head"
He picked up the scissors and started to cut my hair, Wow I thought this is even better than I thought, it felt great to be sitting to attention with my head bent forward, making sure I kept it absolutely still for him. He certainly had a firm, no nonsense approach and began by cutting my hair on the left-hand side, I soon knew that the hair which had begun to grow over my ears had been taken from the left side, he then started to cut my hair at the back, those scissors certainly were long and pointed as I felt them snip the hair off which had touched my collar, he snipped away at the nape of my neck, then after cutting away at the back for a long time, he found his way to the right-hand side of my head. He then took sort haired dusting brush and applied some powder then dusted the loose hairs away from the sides and neck.
"You can lift your head up Michael"
I noticed straight away how short the sides looked, and there was no hair visible at the back, he combed my hair at the front, then lightly snipped my fringe, appearing not to take very much off.
"The gentleman who had the 3.30 appointment had to cancel, so there is no hurry with your haircut"
He then took a flask from the side and poured something into a mug,
"A nice cup of hot tea"
He stood there drinking it whilst I sat there quietly.
"How long had your hair been that length Michael?"
"About a year or so Mr Chapman"
"You had it shorter before"
"Yes, it was fairly short"
The telephone started to ring and he went to answer it, he seemed to be a social call, because he said he was free to chat for a couple of minutes, it was something to do with snooker. He chatted for what was at least four minutes as I could see by the clock, then I heard him say,
"That will be fine, I will meet you at the hall at seven, I do need to go, I have a lad in the chair, who I am giving a short back and sides, yes see you then, bye for now"
He came back.
"Sorry about that Michael, snooker match this evening, so you had your hair quite short until a year or so ago?"
"Yes, fairly short"
"Then you let it get a bit longer,then a bit longer I dare say"
"Something like that"
"Good thing I know what you need to have done"
He selected a pair of black clippers from the side, and then changed the blade with one from the small steriliser cabinet,
"You know what I am going to do Michael"
"I think so sir"
"No need to worry"
He placed his hand on the back of my head, then slowly bent it right down, he adjusted his hand, so it was more to the front of my head
"I know you probably don’t like this bit Michael, but I am going to make you look really smart"
He switched the clippers on, they had a deep hum, the cold metal touched the back of my head, holding my head firmly with one hand the clippers began their journey up the back of my head, he took them a good way up, and he methodically worked on the back of my head.
"Your hair is falling away nicely Michael, this really suits the shape of your head"
Moving my head as required, he then tackled above my ears, eventually he hung up those clippers, and gave my head a good brush down, then with a different set of clippers which had a louder shrill he revisited the back of my head and just above my ears. Then after applying moisture with some wet cotton wool, he shaved just above and around my ears and the back of my neck. He then took a towel and wrapped it around my head and wiped the sides and back and my face of loose hairs.
"Wasn’t too painful for you Michael?"
"If your grandad was here he would be getting the choice of what you had on your hair"
"Yes, if he said I could choose, I really like Cossack hairspray"
"So, you like the Cossack Michael?"
"I think though a nice Brylcreem finish for that just been to the barbers look"
He picked up a pot of Brylcreem and opened it, then applied some to the palm of his hand and rubbed it into my hair, he applied more, then combed my hair into a precise parting combing my hair back slightly. He stood back and looked at the back,
"Perfect, and just to keep you happy Michael"
He picked up the can of Cossack hairspray and gave my hair a light spray with it. He then picked up the mirror and showed me the back, he had done the back of my head severely, having shaved bare above my hairline.
"A boy’s traditional short back and sides haircut"
"Thanks Sir, grandad will be really pleased"
He then loosened the cape at the back,
"If you loosen your tie, and undo your top button, I can wipe your collar, and dust your neck"
I did as he said and he wiped my collar and applied lots of powder with the powder blower, especially down the back of my shirt, he removed the cape and I stepped off the chair, he reminded me to fasten my tie. He then took the large brush which hung on a hook, and brushed my shoulders and back. I paid him for my haircut, thanked him and left. From there I went straight to the pier where there was a photo booth, four photos could be taken, very easy decision, the front, one of each side, one of the back bending my head forward.
The next morning, I was on my own in the house, out came the yellow pages, and some cotton wool once again in my mouth.
"Good Morning, Chapmans"
"Hello, Mr Chapman, this is Ernest Wilson, I just wanted to thank you for the excellent job you did on my grandson’s hair"
"Oh yes, young Michael, I thought a short back and sides would really suit him, and have to say I was right"
"You certainly were, I don’t Michael is quite convinced yet but that’s not important"
"Indeed, thanks for phoning Mr Wilson"
"No problem, thanks again, good bye"
This was the start of many haircut adventures for me, grandad would find other barbers and arrange my haircuts. Later on, I would have some rather strict employers, a landlord with some very strict standards of appearance for his lodgers, and be playing a soldier in a play and require an army haircut.