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Make him look smart by Anon & Sean Barnet
This story is a particular favourite of mine from the Angelfire Haircut Story Site. No author is given, so I felt free to poach it - it might encourage people to look at that site themselves. The story reflects my own interests, but there are plenty of others about flat tops, head shaves etc. There are some problems with the site - sometimes it seem to works OK, and sometimes not, and I have not worked out why. I have edited the story slightly to improve format and punctuation.
MAKE HIM LOOK SMART
I hated it - having my hair cut. I was just an average kid growing up in England in the 70s, with an average hairstyle, you know, just covering my ears, just over my collar, and a fringe (or bangs) that stopped just short of covering my eyes. My parents were pretty easy-going about virtually everything in my life, but they soon grew tired of my constant moaning and protesting every time haircut time came around. This was usually 3 times a year, at the beginning of Christmas, Easter and Summer school holidays. Although I dreaded the time, I much preferred it happening at the beginning of the holidays rather than the end, so that I had plenty of time to get used to the new look before I had to face my friends and their typical cruel comments. Now, having said all this, my usual haircuts were never really that drastic. If I could I would go alone to the barber's so that I could explain in detail how little I wanted cutting off, what a light trim I wanted, etc, etc. If I couldn't wangle it to go alone then it was definitely best to have my mother take me, she was kind of sympathetic to my cause, she wanted my hair “Tidy and neat”, as she would say, but she knew I hated the whole barber shop thing so she was very lenient.
On this particular occasion, however, it was not to be - I had gone probably 4 months without being pushed to the barber's and I was loving it. My dark brown hair was really thick and almost touching my shoulders, the sides were a good couple of inches below my ears and my fringe was at eye level, making me constantly flick it out of my eyes. But the time had come, and mum and dad started the usual routine of "When are you going to get your hair cut?" and "You look just like a little girl" and many other similar taunts. It was the beginning of June and so I was really hoping that I could hang on until the summer holidays, but deep down I knew that 6 weeks was just too much to hope for. I dodged as long as I could, making myself scarce after school, not asking for lifts home in the car in case it involved a detour on the way via the barber's. But the day came, it was just a normal Wednesday, I went to school as normal, mum did her shopping and dad went to work. I had no reason to suspect that anything was out of the ordinary would happen. So after school I made my way home as normal, and when I got there there was my dad sat in the kitchen reading the day's mail, and mum was chatting away to him whilst she prepared the evening meal.
Dad immediately said to me "Don't disappear son, we're going straight out."
"Where?" I said without the slightest hesitation or clue as to what lay ahead.
"It's time for haircuts, lad, me and you. I've got a letter from your school here. It's photo time tomorrow and you are not having a school photo taken looking like that. No “Ifs”, no “Maybes”, and I need a haircut too, so let's go. Get in the car."
My heart sank. There was no arguing with dad. He wasn't forceful very often, but when he was, he was! I looked at mum for support, but I knew she couldn't help, because if dad needed a haircut then there was no reason for her to take me. She offered a sympathetic smile, but that was all the help I got.
So, with a sense of dread, I sat silently in the car all the way to Michael's. Michael's was where I always went for my haircut, he was a young-ish guy and he knew what teenage kids wanted from a haircut. That's not to say he didn't know what parents wanted too, but he had a way that could usually satisfy both parties. I was daydreaming when we pulled into the car park, thinking of the school photo tomorrow and the taunts from my so-called friends. So, when dad cursed I was shocked, and I snapped back into reality as I saw that Michael's was closed. He always was on a Wednesday, I knew that, I always went on a Friday evening or a Saturday morning, but dad didn't know about the Wednesday situation. Great, I thought as we reversed back out on to the road, I got away with another day, but my relief turned to horror as dad said the worst thing he could say. "It'll have to be Simpson's."
As we pulled off, all the horrible memories of Simpson's came flooding back. This was a barbershop from hell, an old fashioned shop with "Jack the Knife" as we used to call him at the helm. Dad often went there but mum didn't like Jack and hadn't taken me there since I was about 7 or 8 when Jack had actually cut one of my ears accidentally, and when I cried in pain he just told mum that I was a stupid baby.
Ten minutes later we were outside Simpson's, and I remembered another reason why I chose Michael's - it was on the outskirts of town, so none of my friends went there and so I never had to suffer the humiliation of having my haircut in front of anyone I knew. Simpson's, however, was on the high street, not that far from school, so all the unfortunate kids had to suffer from Jack's harsh transformations.
Dad pushed me into the shop and we sat on the long bench by the back wall facing the chair. Jack himself was busying himself with a regular crew cut on a businessman, but turned to say “Hi” to dad. I could see him smile as he glanced at me and my thick long hair - obviously relishing the thought of getting as much of it on his shop floor as he could manage.
There were two young brothers of about 9 and 10 waiting quietly with their mother, but that was all. Dad picked up a magazine, and was soon lost in it.
Jack finished the businessman, and curtly called "Next!"
The younger of the two boys got in the chair and was caped up.
Jack pumped up the chair he turned to the mother and said "What are we doing today, mum?"
"Short back and sides please," she answered, "and part it on the right."
"OK." said Jack. "Forwards or backwards?"
"Oh, forwards please." replied mum.
Jack turned to pick up his comb. While he was combing through the boy's hair I wondered to myself "What does forwards or backwards mean?" but I couldn't figure it out, and besides the TV in the corner was tuned into a programme I liked, so my mind soon wandered back to it.
Jack made swift work of the boy as his hair was pretty short anyway. The lad seemed indifferent to the cut as he was probably a regular here and was used to the routine. He did grimace towards the end though when Jack sprayed the finished cut with what looked like a fine oil and then perfectly combed in the requested parting with a mathematical precision - leaving the poor boy looking like a small funeral director!
His brother jumped up after the curt "Next!" was called again, and Jack went through his "What are we doing?" thing again. Just the same was mum's reply, and the the "Forwards or backwards?" question again. "Forwards." was the answer, and off went Jack again. I was mystified as to what this could be, and couldn't ever remember hearing it all those years ago when I was last there, but I was distracted from the TV as I heard Jack say to his small client "Just relax. If I put your head down, keep it there!"
The boy was obviously unhappy with his lot, and was fidgeting around uncomfortably and kept lifting his head to see the TV. Mum called out for him to behave, but by then Jack had his hand tightly holding his head down with the poor boy's chin resting firmly on his chest. The clippers humming away as the regulation short back and sides was created once more.
My stomach was churning - I was up next, it was my worst nightmare. All I could hope for was that dad would let me ask for my “Trim”, and not make the "Style" decision himself.
Then things got worse.The door opened and in walked Phillip. He was a friend from my class at school, and a particularly cruel one when it came to the haircut jokes. He came in with his dad and younger brother. They both had crew cuts and had them serviced regularly, so he always looked the same - I think he quite liked his short hair, but he knew for sure that I hated the taunts about my hair fresh from a cut, and that I was easily embarrassed. I tried to cover my feeling of dread by chatting to him about the day's events at school. He was surprised to see me there, but realised why when I explained to him about dad, the forthcoming photos and Michael's being closed. I felt terrible.
The oil was on the new funeral director! And he was frowning through the mirror at his mum who was indifferent as she searched through her purse for the money to pay Jack. The boy was then out the chair and rubbing his freshly shaved neck when the cry came out "Next!"
I slowly got up and went to the chair - a few short steps that seemed like miles.
Jack took the mother's money and bid her goodbye, then turned to me and said "Come on, I haven't got all day."
With this Dad looked up and caught my eye in the mirror as I sat tensely in the big chair. To say I was miserable was an understatement! Jack looked at me and I thought, here's my last chance to come out of this OK.
Then he said his usual "What are we doing today?"
I was just about to answer when dad stood up, walked over to the chair and said "I think it's about time we made a man of him. It's school photo time tomorrow, so just make him look smart, will you?"
I was close to tears as dad moved to sit back down, and I could feel my stomach churning away beneath the crisp white cape as it was fastened tightly around my neck.
"I'd love to." laughed Jack as he stepped towards his worktop to pick up his “torture instruments". "Backwards or forwards?"
"Oh, backwards, please. I'm going to enjoy this." said my dad.
Then my question was answered. To my absolute horror Jack turned the chair around away from the mirror and toward the bench where dad, Phillip and his family were sat. I was in hell. There I was, having my beloved hair combed out neatly by Jack the knife, whilst my dad and the cruel Phillip stared right back at me. Not only was I going to have the humiliation of a Jack Simpson haircut, but it was to be right in front of an audience. I didn't know how much hair I was going to lose, and to top it all, I wouldn't even know what it was going to look like until right at the end.
"Make him look smart." How would Jack interpret that? I could only wonder, but here was a guy who was "Old school". He wasn't like Michael. To him hair was just an inconvenience (even though he made his living from it). Girls had long hair and boys had short hair - that was it, there was no in between. You could tell all the kids at school who were "Jack's boys" they had short hair, no question, no medium length, no way, it was short. My God, how was I going to live this down?
Before I knew it Jack had started. He started at the back, combing and snipping, combing and snipping. Wow, I thought, no clippers! Maybe it was to be just a trim, maybe it wouldn't be too bad after all. Combing and snipping - he moved around my head. Combing and snipping - the scissors loud in my ears. Combing and snipping - Jack was thinning out my lovely mop like there was no tomorrow. Combing and snipping - how I wished he wasn't.
After what felt like hours of this endless combing and snipping all over my head he changed his thinning scissors to what seemed like the biggest pair of scissors I had ever seen. I had no idea of what damage had been done, but due to the look on my dad's face, it was obviously considerable. I felt the huge cold steel scissors on the back of my neck above my collar, and heard the crunch, crunch, crunch as they opened and closed. This was “Collateral damage” as the army would say. This was Jack deciding on the length and what was "Smart". It felt high up to me, but I just had no idea. Round the side came Jack, and Phillip caught my eye when he smiled a big broad smile as Jack shaped the hair around my ears - around my ears!!! My ears had not been uncovered since the sixties! I was living in a nightmare of epic proportions, and Phillip was playing a starring role! I closed my eyes as Jack moved to the other side, and thought about Phillip's graphic description of my ordeal to all my friends at school the next day. My eyes snapped open though as Jack placed the cold steel against my forehead and my fringe began to fall onto my lap in three quick snips.
Jack then humiliated me further as he asked my dad "Is that high enough?"
Dad casually looked up from his newspaper and said quietly "No, a bit higher would be better I think."
A giggle came from Phillip as Jack repositioned himself and his scissors. Three snips later my lap had more fringe on it and my forehead had less. I could only wonder how stupid I looked by now as I thought of my ears sticking out and my forehead white and shining from the beads of sweat, with a ruler straight fringe edging it in dark brown.
"How about that?" Jack asked.
And unbelievably dad said "Just a bit more still, don't you think?"
"OK. You're the boss."
And didn't I know it, I thought, as Jack the knife snipped away another bit of my pride.
The scissors were put down, and Jack combed through my hair again inspecting it closely for any bits he may have missed. Thank God, I thought to myself, at least it's almost over. Of course I was wrong. It was like the Nightmare on Elm Street - never ending - and Jack suddenly turned into my own Freddie Kruger as he picked up his clippers. I didn't see them, I heard them, and hoped above all hopes that he was just going to tidy up my sideburns. I wouldn't mind that too much. But no, not Jack, he took my head like the last poor boy's, and pushed it firmly down, chin on chest. I couldn't even look up enough to see that grinning fool Phillip. Then the cold steel struck, on the back of my neck, it started where the evil scissors had finished, and, humming and clattering as they went, the clippers went up, and up, and up. Would they never stop?!!! 5, 6, 7 times they went, mowing away. I just wanted to cry. My head was allowed up for a second as Jack moved round, and I could see my dad, even he looked a bit shocked now, which meant things were not good. Then, with a vice-like grip my head was tilted to one side, and with my neck aching with the stretch, my ears were filled with the buzzing of the clippers doing their dirty work in a new area - with Jack niftily folding down my ears so he could get right to my scalp at those difficult bits where boys don't wash! By now I had a good idea of how dreadful this was even though I couldn't see myself. I could see my hair, most of it was on the cape in my lap, on my shoulders, everywhere. Jack destroyed the other side of my head in the same manner as the first, and the clippers finally went silent. How much longer was this ordeal going to go on for? Forever, if Jack had his way.
He started making a slapping noise behind me, I had no idea what it could be, but I was about to find out - he was sharpening his razor. Why? I was 13. I didn't need a shave for God's sake. No such luck. Cold, wet shaving foam was slapped liberally around my ears and neck, and the indignation of the head positioning started all over again. Jack was tapering his cruel clippering to absolutely nothing - clear, white skin. Aaaaargh!
Five minutes later he wiped me clean of the bits of sickly sweet smelly foam that were left, and the razor was put away.
Phillip was loving it. I, on the other hand, was most certainly not.
The final hurtful phase was about to begin.
"How's that, dad?" Jack said loudly. "A proper little gentleman now, isn't he?"
"He is, Jack. Thanks for that." said dad "It's a transformation."
"You're welcome." he answered "Any dressing?"
"Only if you think he needs it, Jack."
"NO!" I screamed (in my head).
"I think it would finish it off nicely." said Jack.
Then without further ado he reached for the hair oil. The sticky, stinking stuff was sprayed lavishly over my head, and Jack's comb went to work again, his comb and hand smoothing down the thin, lank remains of my hair.
"Maybe a parting would suit him?"
"Whatever you think." said dad.
And the finishing touch was combed into place leaving me looking exactly like the two boys that went before me - only smarter. Jack whipped the cape from me, and, with one deft push, spun the chair away from my audience and into stark reality. The mirror threw back this incredulous image at me - a new me! I stared with disbelief at the harshness of my new cut and quietly cursed Michael for being closed on Wednesday's.
This was something I was going to have to live with for a long time to come. Not only would it take months - no, years - to grow out. It would be forever with me in the form of tomorrow's school photo.
I stepped down from the chair with somewhat unsteady feet, and went to sit back down on the bench. Dad patted me on the back as he strode confidently into the chair before Jack could even bellow "Next!" Phillip didn't say a word. He just stared at me with a big stupid smile, obviously thinking of tomorrow's day at school.
I sat quietly, whilst dad had his haircut, struggling to keep back the tears whilst I considered how cruel dad had just been. I couldn't believe it. I hoped that mum would be angry with him when we got back home.
"Next!" said Jack as dad paid him and thanked him again for making a "Man" of me, and, whilst Phillip climbed happily into the chair, I heard dad say to Jack that whilst having his own hair cut he had decided that Jack was to cut my hair the same from now on, there was no more going to that namby-pamby Michael's, and that Jack was not to listen to any protestations should I turn up on my own, or even with my mother - this was how my hair was to be for the foreseeable future.
I thought to myself “No way!” But we all know that dad was the boss, and Jack's very short back and sides was to become a regular feature in my teenage life for quite sometime to come.