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Always Short by Chris

I am almost 40 years old now and have never had what I would call long hair. I now have MPB, but I think it doesn't bother me because of the way I wore my hair growing up.

As a young boy growing up in the mid 60s through the mid 70s, I saw long hair become stylish but was not allowed to have it. My parents insisted on short haircuts, sometimes giving them at home with clippers but usually taking my brothers and I to a barbershop. The rule was that we had to have a short taper cut (above the ears, off the collar and above the eyebrows when worn forward) during the school year and a real short cut at the start of summer vacation or as soon as it turned hot, whichever came first.

If the short cut was done at home, it was usually clipped with the No. 1 or 2 guard all over the head with little effort at a taper. The barbers gave us a 1 on the sides and back and tapered extremely close at the bottom, then cut most of the top to a No. 2. Even though it wasn't a flattop, the barber cut it short enough down the center of the top to have scalp show through. Of course, I now know that he was giving us a small landing strip.

Those were the rules in our house until 1976. The barbershop we went to as kids then closed after one of the two barbers retired, and my parents decided that we didn't have to get shorn for summer. We were allowed to keep our short taper cuts, and then in the fall were told we could wear our hair as we pleased under a couple of conditions. We had to stay out of trouble and we had to keep the hair clean and keep it out of our eyes and not let it go an extreme distance down the collar in back.

My brothers grew their hair over the ears and collars, but for some reason I decided that long hair wasn't for me. I chose a style that I could part down the middle and feather it off the face like a lot of guys wore then, but I differed from them by still getting it cut at a neighborhood barbershop instead of stylist and by keeping it above the ears and off the collar.

I wore it this way until I graduated from high school in 1982. I had a job working outside all summer, so I decided to get it cut very short like I did as a little kid in an effort to keep cool.

I wasn't sure my regular barber would do a real short cut, having never seen anybody in his shop except for a few real old bald guys get real short cuts. And they were usually done by the oldest barber in the shop. My barber happened to be on vacation when I was ready to go short, so I decided to try another shop nearby.

The U.S. Marine Corps had an office in the area, and I saw a lot of the Marines play hoops and run in the park near where I live. I loved the way their short cuts looked, and decided to try a barbershop a couple of blocks from their office and right by the apartment complex where a lot of them lived.

I can still remember waling in on a 100-degree afternoon, sweat dripping down my face. All three barbers were giving cuts, so I sat down and relaxed as the air conditioning began to cool me off. I noticed the first barber was shaving the sides and back of a guys head, the first time I ever saw a high and tight being given. That made me figure he could give a good short cut, and I was lucky enough to get him when it was my turn.

I didn't know a lot about short haircuts back then, so I couldn't be too specific. I just told him I wanted something very short but maybe not quite as extreme as his previous customer and let him go to work. He fired up his Oster clippers and quickly sheared the sides and back with a No. 1, then switched blades and ran a No. 3.5 across the top. After some blending and tapering, he then spread some hot lather around my ears and neck. My regular barber just finished my haircuts with an edger, using the straight razor just on older guys, so this was the first time I got to enjoy this. The barber shaved about 1.5 inches above the ears and rather high in back.

I went to my barber about two weeks later to get it trimmed. He loved the cut and did a good job of cleaning it up. The rest of that summer I got a haircut every week, alternating between my regular barber and the guy who gave me the short cut initially.

I let my hair grown back to a short taper during my freshman year in college, but I decided to go short for good the following summer. The day after returning home from college, I went to the barber by the Marine office, and he gave me a nice high and tight, shaving much higher than he did the previous summer and cutting it with a No. 2 on top.

After that summer I experimented with a lot of short cuts _ burrs, crewcuts, flattops, Ivy Leagues, even a Mohawk. I never got a haircut after that point that wasn't at least buzzed on the sides and back, even if I did leave enough to comb on top.

I regularly got crewcuts as I started to develop MPB a few years ago, thinking the short buzz would make it less noticeable, and my girlfriend loved running her hands over it when it was freshly clipped. I know go to my barber frequently for an edger shave, and she loves the way it goes from smooth on top to a sandpaper feel a day or so after I get it cut. It has a softer feel on the fringe a couple of days after being cut, so I get it buzzed at least once a week if not twice.

I don't shave my head with a razor because of some irritation I get when I do it, but I would miss the atmosphere of the neighborhood barbershop if I wasn't going there. I like going to have some coffee and talk sports with the guys on a Saturday morning.

I'm just glad my parents made me get short cuts when I was young and that I decided to keep them when given the choice. I'm sure it helped me not mind losing my hair and helped me gain an appreciation for the barbershop experience I now enjoy each week.

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