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Quiet Observations by P.J.
Hi Folks, Pete here, from Pete's cuts way up in the frozen north country. I have to tell you what happened today in the shop, and later at dinner.
It's Saturday, and I'm just opening the shop when I'm approached by a good looking young man. Excuse me sir, he asks softly. Would you be the owner of the shop sir. Yes, yes I am son, I'm just opening up for the day, come on in and have a seat, I'll be with you as soon as I get a couple of things started.
I notice he has my favorite, thick dark auburn hair, longish, but not outrageously long. Definitely in need of attention. He sits and pushes the thick fore lock out of his eyes. I think to myself this is starting out to be a great day, as I'm turning on the hot lather machine and the coffee pot. I walk over to the door and flip the sign to open, casually looking at the long thick curls hanging below his t shirt collar. No ears in sight either , hmm.
I walk over to the big barber chair, pat the seat and say, O.K. now, come have a seat son. He stands up , I notice he's carrying a laptop, you can leave that on the counter here till we're done son, I offer , patting the long antique wooden shelf behind the chair.
He stands facing me and says well sir, I'm not here for a cut sir. He extends his right hand, my name is Jack sir, I'm a grad student at the university here. I'm writing a paper for a behavioral psychology class. We have to write about something we're passionate about, and give it a human interest twist. I shake his hand warmly and reply, nice to meet you Jack, how can I help you then.
Well sir, I'd like to sit and observe you for the day if that's possible sir. I'd like to watch how you interact with your customers, and observe how your customers behave with you. I promise not to annoy them sir. I'd like to sit somewhere out of the waiting line but close enough to hear your conversations. If anyone asks, you can tell them I'm working on a human interest story. I'm happy to talk to them, but I want to be careful to not influence any behaviors on yours or their parts.
Well Jack, this should be interesting son. How about if you sit in the spare barber chair next to this one . I don't have a partner, so it hardly ever gets used.
That would be great sir Jack says, sliding into the chair. My names Pete in case you haven't guessed Jack, I say. I thought so sir , but I was going to ask at some point to confirm. If you're interested Pete, after you close up I'd like to take you out to dinner and recap the day's activities and give you a more in depth explanation of what I'm doing. Well, I say back, that sounds like a great idea. I close at 4:30, I'll need to do a bit of clean up, and then we can grab a bite and maybe a beer and talk. Yes, Of course Pete, it's my treat you understand. You're doing me a great favor allowing me here sir.
Just then the door chime jingles and the day begins in earnest with the first customers, a dad and his teenage son. As the morning progresses I note that Jack pays particular attention to anyone with longer hair, especially if I'm cutting it short. Guys who come in and ask for a cleanup or a trim don't garner much attention from him. He occasionally asks a polite question, such as how long has it been since your last haircut, or where did you get the idea for that particular cut if they are requesting something specific. Most of the time he just listens politely to the banter between the client and I.
I also notice that if I'm giving a particularly short cut to someone with long hair, Jack starts running his hands through his plush thick mane nervously. That's usually followed by a furious typing session on the laptop.
The morning wraps up uneventfully, a good assortment of cuts have been given to a fair representation of age ranges. Jack conducts himself politely and professionally. As lunch time approaches he offers to buy lunch for me , asking where my favorite lunch spot is. I give him directions to the local sub shop, and my order. Shortly he reappears and goes in the back of the shop at the small table to eat, out of site of the clientele. He's back in short order, letting me know that mine is in the small fridge should the opportunity present itself for a break.
A half hour later there's a lull in the activity and I sneak into the back for a few quick bites. Jack stays out front in the spare chair. Half a sub later, I hear the door chime. I decide to have some fun with Jack. I peak out and see its no one I know. Jack, I call out, can you have whomever just came in sit in the chair, and would you mind putting the sterry strip and cape on him for me, I inquire. I hear jack scramble to his feet. Absolutely Pete, I hear him almost shout. I figure he's been watching me all morning so he knows where everything's at and should know how to attempt it.
I hear him instructing the client on what to do, and what he's doing. I quickly hit the bathroom and wash up. When I come out I see Jack running a comb through a lad of about Jacks age, with shoulder length sunshine blonde hair. Heavy and thick, center parted, pretty much all one length, graduating to shoulder blades in the back. Jack has a smile on his face, and is clearly enjoying the hand and comb in this lads gorgeous mane. Ah, there you are Pete, Jack says. I believe I've got it right, I was just combing him out for you.
Thanks Jack, I reply, taking the offered comb from him, and continue combing him myself. Jack hops in the adjacent chair, picking up his laptop. He asks the client how long it's been since he's had a trim. I introduce myself, and Jack. The lad says his name is Bryce. He hasn't had a proper haircut in several years. The last trim I had was probably 2 months ago, just a half inch or so off to tidy up the split ends by my boyfriend. Uh, huh, Jack reply's, typing as he talks. How long have you had your hair longer like this Bryce, he asks. Oh, I've always had it on the longer side, my mum usually trimmed it when I was home in grade and high school.
I pipe up, so Bryce, your hair certainly looks great. Its clean , shiny and healthy looking. What brings you in today. Well sir, as you might imagine, I'm going to be graduating this spring and I need to look a bit more like a young man who's interested in getting a permanent job. Job fairs on campus start next week. I've never had very short hair Pete, do you have any suggestions, Bryce asks. I take the opportunity to run my hands through the thick mane, pulling it back off his face, looking at his reflection in the big mirror. I gather it all into a pony tail, holding it tightly in back. Well Bryce, you have a strong jaw line, great frontal hairline, not too high, perfectly symmetrical ears, and a low nape in back. You also have striking green eyes , unusual for a Blondie like you. Bryce smiles, I get that all the time sir, thanks. Jack is smiling and plinking away at the keys .
Well Bryce, do you have any scars from earlier childhood sports injuries, or dare devil activities that are hidden now I say, giving the pony tail a gentle shake. No sir, none that I know if, but then I've never had hair short enough to see scalp either sir.
Hmm, I say, eyeing him critically. If you want to go mainstream and blend in with most of the guys your age, I'd suggest something tight on the sides and back , and long on top, a comb over or a pompadour. We can taper or fade the sides tightly, or even buzz them to the bone. ( I wanted to see what his threshold was for losing his treasured locks) His eyes shot wide open at that statement. Or, if you want to give a more conservative vibe, we can do variations of the short back and sides, clipping the lower parts tight, blending the upper parts with the shears, and leaving it long enough to comb over on top. If you want a more harsh, authoritative look, we can do high and tight, or a bald fade, those are popular with the guys from the army base as you might imagine. And there's the throw back cuts, the flat top, and butch. Or the plain old lazy mans buzz cut. I also watched Jacks face as I described each of these cuts to Bryce. He was clearly shocked to hear them, eyeing Bryce's plush mane, and fondling his own also.
If none of those interest you, I can do a layered cut, pretty much as long or short as you want. I'd suggest exposing most if not all of your ears, and a slight clipper taper in the back at the bottom, or at most an inch or so layered below your nape. Or, we can just trim the ends and pull it back as I have it right now, you look quite handsome at the moment too son. Your choice. Oh, and I almost forgot there's also the tie back under cut too, if you're so inclined. I saw Jack roll his eyes. That pretty much shaves the back and sides, we'll leave most of the length on top and you tie it back up high. Oh, and yes, there's always the man bun. Both Bryce and Jack cringe at that one. We all laughed too.
Bryce looked over at Jack, taking in the thick gorgeous dark auburn mane. Jack, you look like you've been out in the world a bit, would you have a recommendation, Bryce inquired. I let go of the gathered pony tail, letting the thick locks slid back along the side of his head, still gathered low behind his shoulders at the back because of the length.
Jack looked Bryce directly in the eyes. I do have a couple of suggestions Bryce, but first I want to hear what you like, if you have the choice. And ultimately the choice is yours you do realize that?
Bryce smiled warmly at Jack. Well, this might sound a bit weird, coming from a gen x'er. I don't use any type of product in my hair, never have. I don't want to get into some sort of fussy cut that takes a lot of time in front of the mirror and a blow dryer to look good either, that's not me. And, no fades or tight side tapers, everybody has them these days, there becoming quite mainstream and boring. Jack was listening and typing intently while Bryce spoke.
Jack looked to Pete, as if to ask if he could continue questioning Bryce. Pete nodded, of course, go ahead. Bryce, what makes you think you have to get a short haircut in order to get a job, if I may ask. Well, Bryce replies, my dad has always said I need to get the mop cut off in order to get a decent job, for one. The counselor at school also recommends I get something nice and conservative, more masculine, so no one mistakes me for a girl.
Jack smiles, Bryce, what type of a job will you be looking for? Well, I'm interested in something to do with software development or programming for starters. Jack laughs, oh really? Yes, why, Bryce inquires. Well, I'm back here at university getting my MBA. I graduated from here 3 years ago, and I've been working at one of the major aerospace defense companies not too far from here. The software and programming groups are an eclectic mix, to be polite. Really, truly, anything goes as far as guys and their hair. And there's no shirts and ties to be found either. It's wear what you feel comfortable in, especially if you don't interface directly with the "Customers". Tattoos, piercings, and pretty much any and all hairstyles can be found in those groups. I have to say, the really short cuts are extremely rare though. Everyone's expected to be nice and neat though, no unshowered masses.
The need to be conservative to get a job is dying out. My impression is that most employers are more interested in what you know than how you look. I can also tell you that the companies that are seeking young talent, will be sending younger staff to do their recruiting, you won't see many flat topped 65 year old guys at the job fair doing the recruiting. Make no mistake, dress well, and present a neat put together appearance, and an air of confident enthusiasm. I'd venture to say you don't really need a haircut at all, except if you think the ends need trimming. A simple gathered low pony tail would be fine. And you can be sure that with your build, I don't think anybody would mistake you for a girl, but all you have to do is turn around and present that handsome face to dispel the female image. Bryce blushed crimson at that comment.
Jack stood up and walked to me behind the chair. May I, Pete, he inquired, raising his hand to Bryce's head. Sure, sure, go ahead, as long as Bryce doesn't mind. Bryce smiled shyly and nodded ascent.
Jack asked, O.K. do you always part it in the middle? Well, no, I kind of just brush it back wet out of the shower and let it do its own thing as it dries. I'm always fiddling with it during the day, flopping it from side to side to keep it off my face, or tucking it behind my ears. Jack picked up the comb, and did a left side part, gently pulling the thick bangs to the right, sweeping across Bryce's fore head. When was the last time you had bangs Bryce, Jack asked. Wow, Hmm, been a long time man. Did you mind having them in your eyes, or hanging down across your face. No, not really Bryce replied. I love long hair, so that's not an issue. I like play with my hair while I think. Jack laughed, so if we buzz it, you won't be able to think anymore then? Bryce smirked, well, I don no, it might make it harder. And no, I don't want it buzzed. Jack tucked the bangs behind Bryce's right ear, leaving length sweeping across his forehead . I think that might look O.K., and it would be a change for you too. I'd cut about 4-6 inches off the back, leaving it long enough to drape behind you shoulders, and tuck behind your ears and do some long layered bangs that can be parted anywhere. Bryce studied himself in the big mirror, I studied Bryce in the big mirror, Jack studied the two of us. Bryce looked at Jack, that would kind of like be a longer version of the cut you have right? Jacks turn to blush. Jack looked at himself in the big mirror. Well, now that you mention it , yeah, but considerably longer though. Jack ran his hand through his thick bangs and pushed them back. I wish I'd left mine long, it was just cut about 4 weeks ago, and used to be about your length Bryce. I got it cut as part of my research. Now I was intrigued. I'd have to ask about that over dinner later.
Bryce looked at me and said, O.K. take off about 4 inches or so in length and cut the bangs so they'll be long enough to tuck behind my ears, to start. I smiled, picking up my favorite shears. I loved doing these types of cuts, no clippers except to clean up the edges. I was a barber, yes, but I had a serious hair fetish too. I loved to see good looking guys with long hair keep it long if it suited them. Most of the time their hair really wasn't suited to be long, Bryce was an exception. Too many times I'd had a guy ask for one of the used to be trendy fades or short side long top cuts and watch as gorgeous clipper fulls of hair fell to the floor. The guy left looking good, but now he looked just like everyone else walking around out there. I'd observed over the last few years, it took balls to break the stereotyped looks. I did also enjoy occasionally taking the clippers to an unsuspecting victim and taking them down more severely, especially if they gave me a hard time. That was the downside of my fetish.
I wet down the lower part of Bryce's hair and combed it all back. He'd easily be able to lose more than 4 inches so I gauged about 5 inches. Bryce looked down as I began cutting, I gathered the thick lengths of blonde locks reaching around and letting the thick locks slide through my fingers one last time, landing in his lap. I liked to show the customer how much hair I was cutting. Jack was mesmerized, he couldn't take his eyes off Bryce. The back finished for now, I combed his thick bangs down in front, they touched his collarbones, wow, what an amazing head of hair. Leaving them dry, I trimmed his bangs at about upper lip length to start, that sliced off an easy 6 to 7 inches. I heard Bryce inhale sharply as the first snips were made. Jack wrinkled his brow, getting a concerned look on his face. I had to spend a few minutes layering the ends so he lost the blunt grandma cut my bangs look. It was still basically still all one length except for shorter bangs. Bryce, do you want me to give you some layers I said, running my hands through the thick heavenly locks. I can do it in a way that won't make it look feminine, what do you think? Play with it for a minute and see how you like it.
I could see Jack almost drooling, hands twitching, as Bryce ran his hands through the shorter length, flipping it around, pushing it back. Wow Pete, this feels so different, and it's still quite long. It's still long enough that you could gather it at your nape and tuck the bangs behind your ears if you wanted. let me layer the last inch or two in the back, so it's not blunt cut. I was now beginning to think we had a room full of fetishers. I think this is enough of a first step Bryce said, looking directly at Jack instead of me. I'll go to a couple of job fairs and see what response I get. We can go from there. I pulled all the thick bulk up and clipped it out of the way so I could shave his neck and trim around his ears a bit. That also gave him a much neater look. Jack piped up and asked if he could give Bryce his cell number, and would he call him and let him know what feedback he got at the job fairs, and how he did. Bryce smiled warmly and said sure, pulling out his cell, what's your number? They ended up exchanging numbers , I uncapped Bryce. He paid and left, running his hands through his fresh cut. We got on with the rest of the afternoons haircuts. I suspected that Jack would hear from Bryce long before any job fairs took place.
Nothing much more eventful happened, a couple of moms with young kids getting first haircuts interested Jack a great deal though. The boys were quite young, and had relatively long hair, and the moms requested very short cuts. Jack wanted to know about their choices, typing furiously as they talked. Jack almost grimaced at the new cuts when the moms said how great they were. One in particular, practically gushing over her poor kid whom she'd had me give a basic buzz cut to. The kid had good looking hair almost to his shoulders at the start. I'd have never recommended that cut for him. He was none too pleased when he saw himself without hair either. he started bawling. She kept making comments about what a handsome man he was now. The kid was probably only 5. Gotta conform to the stereotype, I thought to myself as they left.
I ended the day with a high and tight on one of the GI's from the base. He was a wee bit shaggy, but it was basically a cleanup cut. It was interesting to watch Jack during that cut. He was clearly uncomfortable watching it, cringing as I pealed the guys sides and back with the balding clippers, I was only removing maybe 3/8 of an inch of fur but the change to bald sides was dramatic, the guy had dark brown hair. The GI smiled at Jack, and said, I know, I hate it too, but its regulation for now. I finished him up and cashed him out.
I flipped the closed sign and told Jack I'd be ready in a few minutes after I did a quick clean up. He took the broom from me and did the sweeping, saying it was the least he could to after such an interesting day.
We slid into a booth at my favorite tavern, ordering beers and munchies from the waitress.
O.K. Jack, I'm intrigued , tell me what this is all about.
Well Pete, as you've by now figured out I'm interested in everything about guys haircuts and guys hair. That's the "what I'm passionate about" part. I've always been interested in what drives the changes in men's haircuts, and who perpetuates the style. I decided to observe at several of the chain unisex salons, and several bonefide barber shops, such as yours. My goal was to observe. Who suggested the cut, what style was it? Was it a basic haircut, or a big transformation? Were there certain types of cuts for certain guys age ranges? Did salon experiences differ from barbershop experiences , and why? I wanted to talk with male and female barbers or stylists? Did male barbers or stylists have more or less, or different, influence over their clientele?
The only predisposition I had, or hypothesis , if you will, is that I didn't think most guys really gave a hoot about their hair. When it got too long , you got it cut. Didn't matter what style, whatever the stylist or barber chose was fine.
My hypothesis about stylists and barbers was that if they were a younger person, they didn't really know much about cutting guys hair with anything but clippers and consequently everyone got a clipper cut haircut of some sort. Older stylists or barbers wouldn't suggest anything but clipper cuts because they were faster to do, and required more frequent maintenance to keep them looking neat. Barbershops and barbers were back in demand.
I listened quietly while Jack explained what he was up too. I was curious to hear where I fit in to the research too.
What's your take on me Jack, I inquired, smiling warmly. Please be honest, you can't really offend me son. And I'd like to hear about the rest of your observations at the other places too of course.
Jack took a deep breath, well Pete, your my curve buster. Today was a most unique experience. By and large you ask your customers what they want, unless they want input from you right off the bat. You also do what they ask first, then make suggestions about going shorter, or other changes. You don't get offended if they don't take the suggestions either. Your able to do most any type of cut too, including shears only as exhibited by how you handled Bryce. I can almost guarantee that if Bryce was at one of the chain unisex salons, he'd have walked out with some variation of a shaved side long top cut, as recommended by the stylist in order to look trendy.
That comment got my attention. Really!, I barked. Oh, yeah. My research has shown me that usually the chain salons have a great preponderance of young inexperienced talent. They've only been trained in clipper work. Case in point, he said, gesturing to his own head. I walked into one of the chain salons, I won't say which one, to test my theory. 3 weeks ago I had hair as long as Bryce's. I'd walk in, ask to have a trim, or a bit more cut off, and see what happened. You can see the result. The young girl was great, polite, attentive, and couldn't wait to clipper cut my hair. She recommended, then almost insisted that I should be getting a much shorter cut, guys didn't have long hair anymore. Didn't I want to get with the current trend? I had to be persistent , insisting that I only wanted a couple of inches taken off, and trim my bangs to remove the split ends. Because I was a guy, she didn't know quite how to react. Was I absolutely sure, she asked? Long hair wasn't in style any more, did I know that. I finally had to request that if she didn't want to cut it how I asked, was there someone in here that would? She reluctantly combed my hair down in the back, chopped off close to 8 inches in back, and hacked off my bangs as you see them now. I wasn't impressed. But I'd pretty much proved my theory. It was also reinforced by my days of observations. I almost laughed out loud when some unsuspecting long haired guy walked in and asked for a trim at those places. It got even better at the bonifide barber shops. If you couldn't be talked into a clippered haircut, they were disappointed, some even outright frustrated. The "we don't cut those long haired styles in here" was strongly implied.
I you might guess, like my hair long, Jack said. I don't want to be like everyone else, I want to look different. If you don't like they way I look, stop looking at me! I especially don't like the stereotypes that to look good as a guy you need short clippered up hair. I thought Bryce looked stunning, both before and after you cut his hair. I thought for a moment about his choice of words there, but let it go.
If I had the ability, as part of this study, I'd like to recruit a group of long haired guys like Bryce, and send each of them off to the various salons and barbershops with instructions for a cut, and see if I could predict what the results would be., and what their experience was like. I'll bet I could predict by place what would happen.
jack was on a roll now. He said, I also noticed that most, not all, of the guys that had gotten clippered short haircuts weren't the type to come in every two weeks to keep the cut fresh. They averaged 6 to 8 weeks between cuts still. Some even laughed when it was suggested they come back in 2 to 3 weeks to keep it "looking fresh".
And, although I couldn't pin an age range on this, the younger guys were the ones who usually had something to say about how they wanted their hair cut. The younger crowd was also much more apt to cave to the influence of a pretty young stylist. Generally , from what I'd call middle age on up, they really didn't care too much. There were a few exceptions of course. Those usually were very handsome guys who wanted something specific. Kind of sad, when I think about it, that after a while, it just doesn't matter.
You, are the anomaly Pete. You don't seem to subscribe to the" got to make 'em look like the current trend" agenda at all costs. You also don't chop off more than they asked to have cut. You seem to study the individual, get to know them a bit, and go from there. Very unusual these days Pete. You also aren't clipper happy.
Well Jack, I have to say first of all, in case you haven't figured this out, I love guys hair. That's why I became a barber. I want guys to look good. young or old. I don't care if its long, short, buzzed, or what. I want you to look good when you leave , and feel good, not like you got screwed.
I get just as much satisfaction taking some long haired guy down to a high and tight, IF he wants it, as I do working with someone like Bryce. I have to say though, I wouldn't have suggested the same thing for him if he'd asked me. And you'll notice, once he'd heard your suggestion and liked it I didn't try and talk him out of it. Jack raised his brows. What cut would you have done on him then, Jack asked?
I'd have done a long bob type cut with a side part. Probably just off his shoulders. He has strong masculine lines and could stand a more feminine cut like that and not look girly. He doesn't like to use product, and he had perfect hair for that type of cut to fall naturally. Plus that cut almost requires that you play around with it. Also, he clearly didn't want a short haircut. Your suggestion was good too, and he looked great, don't get me wrong.
We'd devoured the munchies by this point and ordered more beer and our dinner.
So, I asked Jack, since you clearly aren't satisfied with how the salon folks cut your hair, and you still have great hair, by the way, what kind of cut do you want me to give you then?
Want me to contunue?