Mr Appleton "the hair Ogre" by Snipped Sam
Secretly I was quite excited when our new neighbour Mr Appleton broached the subject of my hair, we had recently moved to a new town and our neighbours had invited my parents, myself as well as my younger sister round for drinks. Their son Robert was also there, who was in his early twenties, Mrs Appleton was showing my mother and sister some of her embroidery, so it was the perfect opportunity for Mr Appleton to strike. Being 1973 and at the age of fifteen most boys were not wanting to hear the word haircut or anything related to it, my feelings were mixed on the subject.
"So, I expect you will be needing to make a decision on which barber to send Mark to, of course we have a number here in the town but some of course are better than others"
"Yes, that is something which I will have to think about, with him starting at his new school soon as well and they seem to have a stricter approach to uniform and appearance than his last school"
"Yes, it’s a very good school, a no-nonsense headmaster at the helm and I would recommend Mark making a good first impression on his first day"
"Yes, that makes good sense"
"I would be inclined to have him near enough scalped, young Robert here maintains an efficient length but when he was at school I kept his hair very short"
I had noticed the first time I met Mr Appleton what a very short traditional haircut he had, it was almost like you would instinctively call him Sir, by his air of authority and manner. Robert also had a very short haircut for a young man in the 1970s, his hair looked more from the 1950s but not in a Teddy Boy way.
The conversation changed when the women returned, and for a couple of days after that I was thinking about the conversation. Mr Appleton clearly had a much stricter approach to haircuts than my father did, I kept remembering his words:" I would be inclined to have him near enough scalped". A few days later my father handed me a list with three barbers on it with their addresses it was not in his hand writing but he had been talking to Mr Appleton whilst in the garden. My instructions were to remember than my new school was far less free and easy, I had until the end of the week before school started the following Monday. It seemed that Mr Appleton was on holiday as he seemed to be gardening quite a lot that week. I was giving him a hand to bag up the clippings from a bush he had been cutting, being quite happy to lend the "hair ogre" a hand.
"That looks a lot better, I’ve been meaning to give that bush a good haircut for a long time, thanks for your help with it Mark"
"No problem Mr Appleton"
"Speaking of haircuts, I’d better go and tidy myself up, I am going to the barbers this afternoon"
I looked at him, his hair was already short, I really wanted to say something but he beat me to it
"You’re very welcome to join me Mark"
"I do have to get my haircut this week"
"The barber I am going to is the best on the list which I gave your father"
"Is that the best barber or best for a short back and sides Sir?"
"He’s the best for lots of reasons Mark"
Once again, I was remembering his words "I would be inclined to near enough have him scalped" and also that he always kept his son’s hair very short when he was at school. I felt really sick in my stomach, the idea of a really short haircut was exciting, it was a pretty safe bet that he would take control, but there would be no backing out for me.
Ten minutes later Mr Appleton and I were walking into town, we arrived at the barbers which appeared very traditional from the outside. I noticed the name above the door Joe’s Barbershop, which had been top of the list, I still felt really sick in the stomach, this was partly due to the excitement and another part of me seriously questioned if this was madness. We sat down, there was no one else waiting just one man in the chair, Joe was quite an older gentleman, tall and quite stern looking, he wore a full length grey barbers coat, and I noticed how shiny his black shoes were too. He seemed very unhurried in his approach, the man in the chair was a stern looking middle aged man having a short haircut followed by a beard trim. Eventually he came off the chair, and Mr Appleton gave me the choice of going next, but said I was happy to wait. This was also out of politeness to him and partly a delaying tactic, although having agreed to come with him there was no way out of having my hair cut. He was in the chair for several minutes, coming off with a very short haircut, I remained in the seat waiting whilst he was brushed down then the barber held his summer weight linen jacket for him to put on.
"Ready for you now young man"
I nervously stood up and walked to the chair, he was holding the white nylon cape in readiness, it was soon around my shoulders covering me, then tucked in snugly at the back, with a piece of tissue. The chair was extremely comfortable, he took a comb and started to slowly comb my hair. Mr Appleton had gone back to the chair which he had sat on waiting to have his haircut.
"So young man, what are we going to do today?"
"I would like the same as it, but a bit shorter please"
"Just a bit shorter young man?"
"I think we can do better than that Mark"
Mr Appleton said in a commanding voice, and I felt certain he was ready to take control of my haircut.
"More than just a bit shorter then please"
I replied looking at Mr Appleton in the mirror who shook his head his head
"He needs a good short back and sides"
He’s done it…. well done Sir I thought.
"Looks like you have been over ruled lad"
"Yes, it certainly does"
"Mr Appleton knows the best haircut for a lad of your age"
I was very happy that Mr Appleton had stepped in, but that was the reason I had come with him to have my haircut.
Selecting long pointed scissors, the barber started to cut my hair, I sat to attention, the barber and Mr Appleton chatted whilst large pieces of my hair were snipped off. From the conversation I gathered that Mr Appleton still decided when his son Robert’s hair would be cut, by his words sending Robert to see him, and a bit more off this time. After several minutes of this my hair was looking very short
"Is that short enough at the front?"
"I think so" I replied
"I was asking Mr Appleton, lad"
"Sorry, I thought you were asking me"
"It’s alright Mark…I think he should have it a bit shorter"
"I thought so, but just wanted to check"
He combed my fringe down, sprayed my hair with water then took a flat razor and moved it from the top of my head down, thinning my hair, it was a strange sensation as the razor pulled a bit at my hair. He then took a different pair of scissors which were slightly shorter and cut probably just over half an inch more off my fringe, he then brushed the loose hairs away and combed my hair into the neat side parting.
"That looks much better, makes a big difference"
Mr Appleton replied clearly approving, the razor bit was something completely new to me, although I had been given some rather short haircuts by some of the barbers I had been taken to by my father a few years before.
"I take it you would like the back and sides done the traditional way, the same as Robert always had"
"Is there any other way?"
"Not when you are in charge of the haircut, Mr Appleton"
The barber adjusted the cape at the back of my collar, tightening it considerably, then with his left hand holding my left shoulder, he placed his right hand on the top of my head, he then firmly bent my head forward.
"You must now keep your head exactly in that position young Mark, don’t move it even a fraction so I can get at your hair"
"Your barber has very important work to do Mark, so you really must do as he has said"
Clippers were chosen and he switched them on and they began their journey up the back of my head, I could feel the hair falling onto my neck, as he worked away the cold metal of the blade began to warm up. He tilted my head to the side when he worked above each ear, once I was done he asked Mr Appleton if that was short enough to which he replied it was very satisfactory. I was then brushed down, my neck shaved with the razor and then powdered then my hair slicked into place with some Brilliantine with the sharpest parting.
I was released from the chair and as I wiped my neck with the tissue, I felt the bareness on the back of my head I thought this is what you call a haircut. I paid the barber and Mr Appleton stood up for us to leave,
"Not too much of an ordeal for you Mark"
"You said you would have me near enough scalped Sir"
"That’s just short Mark, nowhere near scalped"
He replied tapping my head with the folded newspaper, I saw Robert a couple of days later his hair had been cut very short, he made a little joke about our haircuts and saying about good old Joe.
"Joe seems to know what he likes done"
"He certainly does, but there is a barber a few miles from here that dad sometimes goes to, he cuts it even shorter, the last time he did mine I hardly had any hair left, he shaved the back and sides to nothing just bare skin and a little hair on top"
Going with Mr Appleton to have my haircut became a regular thing, the first two or three times were very much like the first time in that he asked me if I would like to join him. After that it became more like I am going to the barber’s and you are coming with me. It was about four months later Mr Appleton advised me that we were due haircuts on the Saturday morning. Robert smiled when he saw Mr Appleton indicate to get in his Austin Cambridge car, I realised that we weren’t going to have our haircut at Joe’s barbershop as we always walked there. I had got quite used to Joe, so I was quite apprehensive in one way and the other part of me was quite excited about this new adventure. It was a sure bet that we were going to the barber that Robert had told me about.
The barber seemed an old fashioned no nonsense type of man, we had a bit of a wait, up to now I had always gone to the chair after Mr Appleton, but this time he sent me first. On the wall there were a number of photographs of men and boy’s haircut, some of which were exceeding short.
"He will have third from the left at the top"
Mr Appleton advised the barber, I tried to turn my head to see the photographs, but the barber moved my head back to face the front, and told me not to move my head again. I came of the chair with an identical haircut that Robert had described. On the drive home he remarked to me "that is what you call almost scalped Mark" to which I replied that I couldn’t believe how short it had been cut. His reply was to get used to it as it wouldn’t be my last visit there. In a period when lads my age had longer hair, I had very short hair, the hair ogre saw to that ruling me with a rod of iron. Occasionally I would look at other lads longer hair and think that looks great, but the length of my hair was now non-negotiable after the second or third trip to the barbers with Mr Appleton and that’s how I liked it. Even now when I go to the barbers, I often think his ghost is sitting there watching me, ready to order a touch more off the back or" I think we should go a bit shorter", I always have my hair cut very short, I like to think he would approve.