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Office Boys by John

The office I work in is a very style-conscious environment. All the people who work there take great care with their clothes and hairstyles - particularly the men. House rules decree that guys have to wear smart shirt and tie, and hair is to be "neat, not touching the collar." That always suited me fine, as I usually got a fairly conservative buzz cut - #3 top, #2 back and sides. That was, I did until one fateful day last August.

It was Friday lunchtime, and I left work to go for a haircut. It was only a half-mile to my usual barber's, so I walked to avoid the Friday afternoon traffic. I reached the familiar shop which had a traditional red-and-white pole above the door, and a gold-lettered sign which advertised "Old World Men's Barbershop." To my dismay, the shop was closed, so I walked on for about another half-mile until I found a barber's shop I'd never seen before.

The shop was located in the basement, well out of street-level view.

I walked in to see that only one chair was in operation, manned by a huge guy with a goatee beard and a shaved head - not a hair to be seen on that smooth, shiny scalp. He was easily 6'6" tall, and built like an ox. He was about my age (late twenties); two gold earrings in each ear added to his slightly menacing image.

This guy was cutting and one guy was ahead of me in the queue, so I shrugged off my suit jacket and sat down to wait. It was a warm day, so I rolled my shirt sleeves up, loosened my tie and opened my collar button. I smoked a cigarette while I waited.

It had been almost a month since my last cut. My sideburns extended to my earlobes, and were squared at the ends. They had started to take on that rather "fuzzy" look, which I detested - I had to brush them with an old toothbrush. I intended to trim them, but I never got up the courage because I was afraid I'd make a mess of them. The back of my neck was also getting a bit fuzzy around the neckline, which I usually got tapered.

Eventually the barber was ready for me; he motioned for me to sit down. I hung my jacket up and sat in the chair.

"OK, big guy, what'll it be today?" he asked breezily as he stuffed the drape into my shirt collar, loosening it still further. His touch was firm but not unduly rough. This guy meant business.

"Just a trim, please," I replied. He nodded knowingly - he had guessed my response before I spoke.

He oiled his clippers and began. The comforting buzz of the clippers stimulated me as always, making me feel almost mesmerised as I watched the big barber in the mirror.

"What about your fringe?" he asked. My fringe was gelled up at the front.

"Just get rid of it," I said. He nodded, and passed the clippers through. My fringe fell into my lap with a satisfying plop. The mirror told me that this guy wasn't using the #3 clipper - more like a #1 on top, I guessed. I didn't mind - the thought of something new stimulated me. As the barber finished the top, I wondered what number he would use on the back and sides. I soon realised as he began that he was using a #0 - shorter than I had anticipated!

My heart raced - was this too short? Should I stop him? But then something at the back of my mind made me curious - why shouldn't I let him? Besides, he was way too big to argue with! It was deeply satisfying to see the amount of hair that was being buzzed off, and this was the shortest my back and sides had ever been!

When the barber had laid down the clippers, he brushed the clippings away from my neck, pulling the shirt collar out as far as possible to reach any stray hairs inside.

This done, I got ready to get up, but he clearly had other ideas. He produced a can of shave gel and squirted some into a small bowl. This he whipped into a thick lather with a soft brush, releasing a tantalising smell of lime and tea tree.

He applied the lather to the back of my neck, coating the whole area, pulling my collar well down to get at my hairline. Pulling the skin taut, he shaved my neckline with a cut-throat razor, tapering it meticulously. After he had wiped away the excess foam with a soft towel, he showed me my rear view reflection. My neckline looked excellent, although the skin was reddened from the shaving.

"Good man," I smiled, thinking the cut was at an end. However, I had again pre-empted him. He began working up more lather, and I wondered what he would do this time.

Using the same soft brush, he lathered my sideburns. I hadn't asked him to, as I was fond of them, but something made me resist telling him not to.

When my sideburns were fully smothered in lather, he tilted my head to the left, and pulled the skin under my right sideburn taut. My whole body tingled with anticipation.

Three swift, smooth strokes with the razor, and my right sideburn was gone. The same process was applied to the left. Again, the excess foam was wiped away. Then he splashed some lotion onto my clean-shaven cheeks, and rubbed it all over my face and neck, again pulling my collar right back.

"Short back and sides, big guy!" exclaimed the barber, whipping the drape off. I nodded and smiled, and fixed my collar and tie - all that collar-pulling had left it rather too loose! The job done, I stood up, feeling and looking like a new man. I paid up, and strolled out happier than I had come in.

I glanced at my reflection in the windows of shops as I passed by, admiring my new look all the way back to the office.

When I arrived back in work, many of my colleagues stared in amazement at my shorter-than-ever buzz cut. I met my colleague and friend Andy at the coffee machine. The same age as me, Andy blended well into the ethos of the office - he loved expensive clothes, particularly dress shirts with French cuffs and fancy cufflinks, like the one he was wearing that day. Andy also took great pride in his hair - he had thick, pale blond hair, very wavy, almost like wool. He had long sideburns, down past the earlobe. His hair thickness meant he had to get it cut once every two weeks, usually a #3 all over, otherwise it looked terrible. He trimmed his sideburns almost daily with a beard trimmer.

"That's some tight lookin' cut there, John," grinned Andy when he saw me.

"Yeah, I know," I smiled, running my hand over my newly-shorn head.

"I could do with a trim myself," Andy mused, stroking his unkempt sideburns.

"I'd recommend the place I was in today," I said. "I've never seen it before, but I'd say it's as good a barbers' as I've been to."

"How do I get there?" asked Andy.

"It's about a mile away. Tell you what, I'll take you there. It's on my way home anyway, and I can drop you off at the bus station afterwards."

"Great," he smiled. "I have to leave at 4 today, though; I need to get an earlier bus than normal."

"That's fine, see you then." We parted company, and I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in my office excitedly anticipating what the barber might do with Andy's hair.

At 4 p.m. I called for Andy and together we went to my car. Andy loosened his tie as we drove through the clammy heat of the Friday traffic to the barber's. I parked the car around the corner, and we arrived at the door of the shop just as the barber was turning the sign to Closed.

"I'm closing," he said wearily as I opened the door.

"Have you got time for just one more?" I smiled. He remembered me from earlier.

With a nod and a sigh, he motioned us inside. I sat down and lit a cigarette as Andy took his place in the chair. On went the drape, tucked firmly into the shirt collar as before. "Just a trim, please," said Andy loftily. The barber grunted and glanced over at me, then switched on the clippers.

I tingled with anticipation. What would he do? Would Andy be pleasantly surprised, or annoyed? The clippers sheared a path through the middle of Andy's hair. It was evidently a #1 on top! My heart pounded. Huge clumps of Andy's hair fell onto his lap. I watched gleefully as Andy's expression turned from one of complacency to one of horror as he saw his beloved blond waves cascading onto the floor!

To my relief, he didn't make any protest. I hoped he was starting to enjoy himself. The clippers were changed to a #0, and the back and sides were shorn like mine had been earlier. Then, to my delight and Andy's obvious horror, the back of the neck was lathered and shaved, the collar being pulled back even more roughly than mine had been. I secretly hoped it would rip his expensive designer shirt!

Next the sideburns were lathered up and ready to go. Just at that moment the phone rang. The barber went into the back room to answer it.

Andy swung round in the chair and stared at me.

"Get me outta here!" he hissed.

"Relax!" I grinned. "You look great!"

"But what about my sideburns?" Andy said, almost weeping.

"Chill. Who needs sideburns? Let them go." I grinned and winked at him.

The barber reappeared, and picked up where he had left off, leaving Andy's face shaved clean. When the job was finished, Andy sullenly payed up and we left. The barber had been rougher with him - no aftershave lotion, and his collar and tie looked as if he'd been in a fight. Andy was so spaced out he didn't even notice.

"You look fantastic, that's a real man's haircut," I smirked as I drove Andy to the bus station.

"Thanks," he mumbled without conviction.

On Monday morning, Andy came into my office with a spring in his step.

"You know, John, you were right about this look," he beamed. "I think I'll get it cut this way from now on."

And he did - so did I. Once or twice I've even got a #0 all over for a change - and now I always go to that barber who is just too big to argue with!

The End

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