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Unintended Consequences Part 2 by stopfordianstationer
The following Monday, as anticipated, was murder. Not only was it obvious that Joe and I had received majorly severe haircuts but since we’d both suddenly had the same cut at the same time it was more obvious that we didn’t do it by choice and that it had been forced on us involuntarily. At the time, if anyone came in with a new haircut with any amount at all of forehead (or fod, as it was known) on show, the custom was to creep up behind the recipient before slapping them on the forehead and shouting ‘FOD’. Suffice it to say that by the end of the day, my forehead had been slapped what felt like so many times that I was sure it must be glowing red. Even towards the end of the week, I was still getting the odd "fodding" from those who chose to bide their time. Although it pissed me off, I knew it would blow over before long and I was still keen on the cut and how I looked with it. Joe was not dealing with it so well though and was quick to let dad know at every opportunity that he’d ruined his life with the awful haircut he’d made him get. Dad just laughed. Conversely, Joe’s behaviour at school did actually improve a bit and he didn’t make as much trouble as he had before so it did at least have some positive effect from that point of view. As the final term of the school year wore on though, the spectre of our skinheads loomed larger and larger. Joe had shut up about his haircut by this time and seemed to be hoping that dad would forget about the whole thing but I knew full well that wouldn’t happen and denial was not an option. Although I liked the short back and sides, clippers all over was a whole different kettle of fish and as we got to the last couple of weeks I almost started to wish that the school holidays wouldn’t come along.
I talked to one of my mates, Darren, who’d gone from a full head of hair one day in junior school to a skinhead the next and been that way ever since, and asked him what to expect. He stated the obvious. ‘Nothing special, he’ll use the clippers all over your head and it will probably be done in five minutes. Don’t worry about it, mate, just sit there and it will all be over before you know it!’
‘Aren’t you bothered?’
‘Not any more. I was to start with but it’s my choice now, I could have grown it out a couple of years ago or more if I’d wanted but I decided to keep it. I wouldn’t have been allowed to have it really long but I could have it longer than yours is now.’
I decided to go into more detail, not that it helped. ‘And what number do you get?’
‘Two. I’ll let you into a secret though, I’m getting a one before school finishes. Never done that before.’
‘Will you even be able to see a difference once it’s that short?’ I asked.
‘Oh yeah,’ he replied. ‘You know how short it is when I usually get it cut?’ I nodded. The one only leaves half as much hair as that. You’ll see soon anyway!’
I still wasn’t convinced but a few days later Darren turned up pretty much shaved bare and the difference was discernible. ‘Told you!’ he said when he saw me.
We broke up from school on a Friday and dad struck straight away. That night he told Joe and me he’d be taking us to the barber the following morning. ‘We’ve got some unfinished business to attend to haven’t we?’ he said. ‘This time tomorrow we’ll have two neat and tidy shaved boys in the house.’
Joe had still been in denial and his bottom lip started to wobble at this. ‘But I’ve really been trying!’ he protested (to be fair, he had) can I not just get short back and sides again if I’ve got to have another haircut?’
‘No, replied dad. ‘You were told a skinhead and a skinhead it is. That’s for saying what you said to Chris to provoke your fight. For that you get a number two all over so the top will be as short as the back and sides were last time. If it’s any consolation though,’ he turned and looked at me and then back at Joe ‘because Chris was violent and he should have known better because he’s older, that’s earned him a number one all over so his will be even shorter.’ Dad looked at me again, as if waiting for me to say something. I opened my mouth but nothing came out. I could feel my cheeks burning but no words would come. ‘Excellent. That’s settled then,’ he continued. ‘I’ll look forward to our trip out in the morning.’
Joe tried pleading a couple more times that night but it was obvious to me that it was all in vain. I reconciled myself to receiving not just the most savage haircut I’d ever had but the most savage haircut I’d ever seen. I tried to tell Joe that it would be easier for him if he just went with it, but he wouldn’t listen. The next morning the three of us were heading back into town and it wasn’t long before the bell was ringing again as the door of the barber’s opened. It was early enough that it wasn’t busy yet and Graham was sitting in the barber’s chair waiting for his next customer, which was a relief as I wanted this over as soon as possible. He rose to greet us. ‘Hi, Tom, hello again lads. Summer cuts is it?’
Dad took control. ‘It is, Graham. They’ve not quite learned their lesson yet so here we are again. Put it this way, you’ll not be needing to use your scissors this time.’
‘I do love a good summer skinning,’ Graham replied. ‘Who’s first then?’
‘Up you get, Joe,’ said dad, and then, looking at Graham, ‘Two all over for him’.
Joe had to wait whilst Graham put the booster seat onto the barber’s chair and then he sat down on it. He wasn’t tearful this time but was still in denial and as the neck strip was attached and the cape enveloped him (I noticed the cape was different this time, it was now white with dark pinstripes), he had one last go at getting out of it. ‘Please, dad, I’m begging you, not clippers all over, short back and sides.’ He looked pleadingly at dad in the mirror.
Graham had by now added the number two attachment to the clippers and clicked them on. He turned them upside down and moved them towards Joe’s forehead but paused and looked at dad to see if there would be any last second change of mind. Dad said nothing but just gave a single nod of his head. At that, Graham moved the clippers down the middle of the top of Joe’s head, chewing an almost bare strip between the longer hair on either side. That was followed by another and another backwards from the front until there was nothing left (or so it looked) on the top of his head. Joe’s couple of inches of blond hair now lay on the floor around the barber’s chair as he quietly sat with a shocked look on his face as he was shaved. After that, Graham made short work of the back and sides until everything left was the same uniform short length and tidied up the edges with the smaller clippers. As Darren had told me, the whole thing was over in five minutes. Joe was silent as he was brushed off and turned to face dad and me after getting out of the chair. He ran his hand over the top of his head and he still said nothing as he sat down in the waiting area. I actually thought he looked better now. The skinned look made him look harder and rougher somehow compared to the previous cut which made him look like a little kid. I’d go as far as to say as it suited him.
Seeing how Joe looked, I was reminded that in a few minutes I would only have half as much hair as he did. I was further reminded straight away as dad nudged me and pointed to the barber’s chair. I stood and walked to my doom before sitting down on the chair after Graham had taken the booster seat off. The neck strip went on and Graham covered me with the cape, fastened it at the back and folded the strip over before looking at dad. ‘Same again?’
‘No. One all over for this one.’
Graham raised his eyebrows and ran his comb through the hair on the top of my head. ‘One? Are you sure? That’s right down to the wood, you know.’ He was at least doing his best for me.
His best was unfortunately not good enough. ‘Yep, that’s what I want,’ replied dad with a touch of irritation, I thought. As if to rub it in, he added, ‘Take it all off.’
‘OK, you’re the boss,’ said Graham. He added the number one attachment to the clippers and turned them on.
As with my previous visit, I looked in the mirror and waited. I’d got to a stage where I was really happy with how the hair on the top of my head looked. It was grown out from the short back and sides as I could mess with it and tousle it a bit if I wanted to. As he had done with Joe, Graham came straight down the middle of my head from front to back and I felt my head tingle as the clippers moved back and then came for another pass and another as all my hair was swiftly and efficiently mowed off. As I looked, I could see the top of my head was virtually bald. It was even more brutal than I had expected, nothing visible was left. As the sides were stripped away and the clippers were passed over my head again and again, I got a proper sense of how I was going to look and I hated it. I don’t know if it was the shape of my head or my hairline or what it was that made it so bad but for whatever reason it just looked awful. It was so bad that this time I could feel tears pricking my eyes but I was able to blink them back quickly. I was 15 for f***’s sake, you don’t cry just because you don’t like your haircut. Graham put his hand on the top of my head to shove it down so he could attack the back and I felt more or less skin on skin contact. The clippers made pass after pass up the back of my head, digging in as they went, it was so close until finally there was nothing left. Graham kept running the clippers over my head to make sure no stray hairs were left behind but at last he was on to the outlining so I knew it was nearly over. After that was done, he brushed my head off and loosened the cape. Dad gave his approval and Graham then showed me the back as he had the last time. I actually quite liked the extreme shortness of the back, but the same length all over just made me look horrible. As I stood up to leave the chair, I wondered about buying a hat. I looked at my watch and again it was only five minutes. Far from the feeling of almost euphoria after the previous visit, this could hardly be more of a contrast although I did at least enjoy the sandpapery feel when I ran my hand up the back of my head. Mainly though I just wanted to go and hide. I suppose it was at least effective as a punishment as opposed to my previous ‘punishment’ haircut which, ironically, I’d really liked.
I got used to it a bit over the summer but I was still really self conscious. It looked a bit better as it started to grow but I hated that it was all one length and it just looked limp and thin. I looked like a cancer patient. In contrast, Joe’s thick blond hair really suited the cut at every stage of growing out. If I were him, I’d be keeping it that way but Joe moaned at every opportunity and kept on about wanting to grow it back. As we got towards the end of the summer holidays, I suspected back to school cuts would be on the cards and I dreaded having to get the same again. I didn’t want to ask dad to start with but Joe and I discussed it a couple of weeks before the end of the holidays. ‘You were right at my being a stupid, ugly freak anyway,’ I told him. ‘I am now.’
Joe was surprisingly sympathetic for a change. ‘Don’t say that, no you don’t. It’ll be even better as it grows out anyway.’
‘If dad lets it,’ I replied. ‘I’m not as lucky as you anyway. I don’t know why you keep whining, yours looks great, you rock it. And I really mean that.’
‘I know,’ he said. ‘I love it.’
I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘Then why . . .’ I trailed off.’
‘Easy. This way I get to carry on as much as I want and dad will make me keep my hair like this as a punishment.’
‘Oh for God sake, Joe,’ I replied. ‘You’ve got everything arse about face as usual. All you’ve got to do is say to mum and dad that you like your hair and ask if you can keep it like that. It will make everybody’s life so much easier, especially yours.’
‘That would be no fun though would it?’ he replied with one of his infuriating cheeky grins.
‘Please, just listen to me for once. You can do anything you like in life but just stop doing things the hard way. You were OK after you got your hair cut short first time and didn’t play up as much, even though you hated it and it made you look like a little boy. You got on with everyone and everything was happier here and people actually liked you! That wasn’t so bad now was it?! Look, you can still be yourself, but maybe just tone it down a bit. Trust me, I’m trying to look out for you here.’
‘Well . . . Oh, I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘I suppose I might think about it.’
A couple of days later, I decided to come out and ask dad what his plans were. ‘Are we getting back to school haircuts?’
‘Well that depends,’ he replied. ‘Do you want one?’
That flummoxed me a bit but I decided honesty was the best policy. ‘Well, I don’t want another skinhead. I’m really sorry about what happened and I’ll never do it again, honestly. I was ashamed of myself. And I hate the skinhead, please don’t make me keep it. I actually like having short hair. Just not that short. I’d be really happy if I could get the back and sides cut and leave the top to grow out a bit.’
‘Don’t worry, that was a one-off’ dad replied. ‘You’ve learned your lesson and I wouldn’t make you do it again. I reckon you’re old enough to decide your own haircut anyway. Besides, your mum wouldn’t go for it. She thought it made you look a thug.’
I inwardly sighed with relief. ‘Can I let you into a secret?’ I said.
‘I teased Joe on purpose because I wanted shorter hair and knew I wouldn’t have any choice that way,’ I continued. ‘I was only expecting a scissor cut at the hairdresser though. And then things got really out of hand.’
‘Well if it wasn’t for the fight, that’s all you’d have got. I couldn’t have you fighting. Whatever else happens here, we stick together. So I decided to teach you both a proper lesson. Do you understand why I had to do that?’
I nodded. ‘Yes, ‘I’m really, really sorry.’
‘I know you are,’ said dad. ‘And I think you’ve apologised enough now. Look, Chris, I know Joe takes up a lot of time and attention but that doesn’t mean we don’t think of you too.’ Dad paused for a moment. ‘At the factory, we have different machines which are all crucial to what we do. Some need a lot of messing about and we call them high maintenance. Some don’t, so they’re low maintenance. I suppose Joe’s just a bit more high maintenance, but it doesn’t mean he’s more important than you. We don’t say stuff like this enough, but you’re a really good lad, Chris, we’re lucky to have you. I can’t tell you how proud we are of you.’
I wasn’t used to this, still less expecting it. I blushed and could feel a lump in my throat. ‘Thanks,’ I muttered.
The Saturday before school started again, dad took us back to Graham’s. As we were walking from the car, Joe piped up. ‘Dad, can I please have my hair cut like last time? I really like it and I want to keep it like that.’
Dad and I exchanged glances. ‘What’s brought this on all of a sudden?’ dad asked. ‘You’ve never stopped moaning about it since you got it done.’
‘Well I’ve changed my mind,’ Joe said. He turned towards me. ‘Chris told me it suited me and I decided he was right. He usually is actually.’ I think that was just about the first compliment Joe had ever paid me.
‘Well if that’s what you want, that’s fine,’ dad replied. I was going to let you choose today anyway, I assumed you’d just want a trim to tidy it up while it started to grow again.’
‘Nah, long hair’s on the way out now,’ Joe assured him. ‘Me and Chris are both looking good. Well, he will be when his grows out a bit more anyway. And I’ll look even better when I get mine mowed off again.’
I couldn’t help but chuckle.
So it was that when it was Joe’s turn in the chair, he confidently and happily asked Graham for a number two all over of his own accord. This time he had a broad smile on his face as Graham took the first stripe out of the top of his head and chatted away happily as his hair was taken back to a quarter of an inch of blond stubble. I got a number one at the back and sides and left the top to keep growing. Since then I’ve kept the back and sides at number one or two depending on how I felt (and how cold the weather got) and kept the top well trimmed once the skinhead grew out properly but have never had it shaved again. Dad stopped bothering to take us after that visit and he just gave me the money when I asked and Joe and I went together after school. After a couple of visits he didn’t even have to ask for a number two all over any more and it simply became "the usual". He even stopped being a total pain in the arse and is well on the way to becoming one of my best mates as well as being my brother. And all thanks to a couple of haircuts resulting from a foolproof plan turning out to be not so foolproof. I suppose you could put that down as one more unintended consequence! He’s talking about really going for it next summer and getting the dreaded number one all over. I think I might need to offer some more brotherly advice there . . .