One Hot Saturday by BaldSurfer
Even though summer came late, I'd already gone down to my "summer cut" of #3 on top faded to #1 on the sides. My "winter hair" never exceeded an inch, but once Memorial Day came I got my summer buzz and so loved the feeling of a short fresh and crisp buzz that I never went more than 2 weeks without a maintenance buzz all summer.
Well, by the start of July, we got our first heat wave and suddenly every day was sweltering - hot and humid. Summer was finally here for real and every day was over 90 degrees and the humidity made the air heavy and wet. This past Saturday, another steamy hot day, I was due for a re-buzz. While I sometimes enjoy the barbershop scene, watching lots of haircuts, when it's summer and I'm getting my hair cut so often, I prefer to go to the barber at a slow time, when I can just get in and out. And usually, if I waited until after 4 on a Saturday afternoon, my barber shop would be empty and I wouldn't have to waste time.
But the heat wave must have taken its toll, because as I walked into my usual shop at 4:15, every barber chair was full and there were quite a few people waiting for cuts. Joe, the owner and one of the 3 barbers, and my usual first choice barber, looked up as I walked in and apologized for the wait but said it wouldn't be long. I was in no big rush. I hadn't been there to watch lots of cuts in awhile. And things looked interesting, so I took a seat. Maybe I'd enjoy the show...
All 3 customers in the chairs looked close to being done. Joe, the young owner with a 50's style pomp, was finishing up a standard "regular" on an old man. Nat, a tall athletic African American barber whose crazy loud sense of humor always amused me, was finishing up a tight buzz on a teenager who, judging by the pile on the cape, had come in with very long hair. Jeremy was a fairly young barber with tattoos covering his arms from wrist to shoulder, and his hair was buzzed to a #1 but his beard hung down nearly six inches and his customer was just about done with his stylish spiky cut.
I sat down and surveyed the waiting area. A black man, shaved bald sat with his son - maybe 10 years old, with tight curly hair that rose at least 2 inches from his head in a small afro. A mid-thirties guy who looked like an accountant in his little round glasses, his blond hair slicked straight back, but the wispy strands on top barely hid the obviously balding crown. Three high school boys who looked like athletes, 2 with barely more than stubble on their freshly buzzed heads flanked the third, a boy with shaggy light brown hair covering his ears and brushing his collar who squirmed nervously. And in the corner, another high schooler, big and muscular with a messy head of black hair, probably no more than 2 inches long, but uncombed and unstyled. He was over 6 feet tall, defined and even from across the room, it looked like he shaved all visible body hair to show off his physique. So with all of them ahead of me, I sat down to watch and wait.
Joe was done first, He cleared his chair and looked at the kid between his buzzed buddies and said "You're next, pal." As his buddies laughed, the kid nervously took his place in the chair. Joe caped him and asked what he wanted today. The kid, scared and stammering, looked back at his friends and asked what he was supposed to say. In unison, the yelled "Number one on top, skin fade!" Joe asked the kid if that was really what he wanted, and sheepishly he said yes. Joe fired up his clippers - an old model whose motor whirred loudly - and placed them at the bottom of the kid's sideburn and pushed upward, 3/4 of the way up the side of his head. As the hair rained down, bare white scalp was all that remained. As that first pass of the clippers ended, the kid's eyes were wide as saucers as he exclaimed "Holy $h1t!". His friends cheered and laughed and told him it was too late to back out now. Joe continues shaving the sides and back of the teen's head as Nat cleared his chair, looked at the accountant-type and said "Ready when you are, Brad."
Brad was silent as Nat caped him, removed Brad's glasses and placed them on the counter, and ran a comb through the whispy blond hair. As Nat combed it and the gel lost its hold, it became even more obvious how thin his hair was on top, with a largish bald spot in the back now more obvious. "Clean up the edges as usual?" Nat asked. And suddenly Brad's face lit up with a confident smile and I was as shocked as Nat when I heard Brad say "Nope. It's time to throw in the towel. It took some convincing, but Nancy finally got on board with the idea, so Nat, buddy, let's shave the whole thing. If I'm gonna be bald, I'm gonna be BALD!"
Nat laughed uncontrollably. "It's about damn time! I've been trying to tell you that for years!" With that, Nat pushed the black clippers down the middle of the guy's head. By the time the clippers were halfway to the back, the combover fell away revealing a huge patch of already naturally bald skin. With every pass of the clippers, Brad seemed to sit a little taller, the big smile never fading.
In contrast, the teenager in Joe's chair looked terrified as the last of the sides and back were skinned. His tension eased for a second as the clippers napped off, but after a quick blade change they were again whirring. With his left hand, Joe lifted the bang that hung nearly down to the kid's eyes and his right hand pushed the clippers straight back, 4-5 inches of hair falling leaving only an 1/8 inch of brown stubble. The kid looked even more shaken, but sat silently staring at the mirror watching himself being helplessly sheared.
Meanwhile Jeremy was ready and asked the young black lad to have a seat. The kid eagerly jumped up and ran to the chair. His father stood up and followed him. As Jeremy wrapped the cape around him, the father asked the kid if he was sure he wanted to do this. The kid answered with an unwavering yes, so the father said "Then tell the man what you want, Shaun." Then, as if he'd been rehearsing it in his head the kid firmly said "I want a mohawk. Inch and half wide." Jeremy chuckled and said "As long as your dad's ok with it, you're the boss. How short we taking the sides, tough guy?"
"Shaved. All the way. Razor and everything. Dad said I could." The father reluctantly nodded and returned to his seat. Jeremy said "I'll start with a wider stripe, so I don't mess it up. But after the rest is gone, we'll make it perfect." And with that Jeremy started shaving away the left side of the kid's hair. It's interesting to watch African-American hair get sheared because it's so tightly curled that it falls in clumps instead of raining down as loose hairs. Like Brad, whose head was now completely clipper shaved, the kid smiled wider with every pass of the clippers.
Joe was blending the stubble top of the teenager's hair so that it faded down to the bare scalp on the side and back. The kid now looked just like his 2 buddies and now that the cut was almost done, he seemed less miserable, but still not comfortable with what he'd done. Nat hummed the theme from I Dream of Jeannie as he wrapped Brad's head with a warm wet towel so that it looked like a turban. A few moments later, Nat removed the towel and began to cover Brad's head with warm foam.
Jeremy finished the left side of Shaun's head, and as he started the right side, leaving an inches wide stripe of hair in the center, the mohawk was starting to take shape and the kid squirmed with anticipation. Over at Joe's chair, he was running an electric razor over the bald parts of the teen's head, clearly a new experience for the kid. Warm lather and a straight razor cleaned up the edges and the kid was done. He stood up, running his hand over his shorn head. His mood lightened as his buddies rubbed the top of his head and said "NOW you look like part of the team! You look almost as good as us!"
As they walked out, the muscle head kid sat down in Joe's chair. Joe asked "So what are we doing this time, Sully?" as if the kid changed styles often. "I'm heading to football camp and I want to look mean and intimidating. So I'm thinking flattop. But a Marine kind of flattop. Sides completely shaved. Top so short that you see scalp."
Joe smiled, and as he'd done with the last kid, started shearing the sides down to the scalp but this time, the clippers ran all the way up the sides. The hint of black hair and the shiny white scalp combined to look almost blue.
Over in Nat's chair, the last of the shaving cream was scraped away from Brad's now completely bald skull. The color difference wasn't as pronounced on him, because he was pale to start with and his hair had been so thin. It was amazing - this guy who looked like a middle-aged accountant now looked tougher and about 10 years younger. I can't say he looked mean or threatening. He was too lean for that, plus he still couldn't stop smiling! As he put his little round glasses back on, they looked less "nerdish" than before, but still softened the overall look - but still a million times better than when he'd walked in. As he rose up from the chair, running his hand over his gleaming scalp he said "I can't believe I didn't do this sooner! I'm gonna shave this every day." Nat laughed and agreed that it looked good but said "But I think I just lost a customer." Brad laughed and promised to stop by for a pro shave every now and then.
As Nat dusted off the chair, I looked over at Joe, who was now running the electric razor over the jock's sides and back, the top still untouched. So even though I usually prefer Joe's work, I knew Nat would do just as good a job. And as I walked to the chair, ready to ask for my standard #3-#1 fade, I started thinking about all the shearings of the day. The flattop kid was starting to look sharp. Jeremy had lathered up the young kid's head and was shaving the sides, leaving a crisply line mohawk. I had more time to think as Nat excused himself to wash his hands.
Sully, the jock, was now cleanly shaved on the sides. Joe wet the kid's hair, briefly blow-dried it straight and with a wide comb laying flush against the top of the kid's head ran the clippers across the comb. It was looking pretty cool.
But I wasn't a flattop sort of guy. I'd tried it once but it just didn't look good on me. And I was way too old for the mohawk that young Shaun was so excited about. The teenager's #1 skin fade would be a logical, safe progression from my usual. But then I thought about Brad - his head gleaming and smooth. I'd never "gone all the way" before. And unlike Brad, I wasn't losing my hair. But when Nat returned and asked what I wanted, I knew my time was now.
"Shave me bald - all the way. Just like that last guy."
Nat laughed, reached for his clippers and said "Another chrome dome coming up!"
It felt amazing as I watched all my hair disappear. I don't know why the urge had entered my mind and I certainly never expected to do it. But I guess it was because it had, in so many ways, been a VERY hot Saturday...