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First-time Flattop - Part 4 by Tate
I take my seat in the large Koken barber chair. The barber, who is older than my father, is wearing a white barber's jacket. He pumps up the chair and pulls a tissue from a holder and places it around my neck. He then puts the red-striped cape over me and tightens it around my neck.
He says, "Flattop, right?" "Yeah," I say. "Take down the top a little and ...." "I know how to cut a flattop," he says, interrupting my instructions to take down the top and leave the rest alone.
I think about speaking up, but then just decide to go along. It's only hair.
"What I need you to do," he says, "is uncross your legs and put your feet flat on this," pointing to the metal footrest. I do.
"Now," he continues, "when I put your head down, I want you to keep it there until I lift it up." He picks up the large military clippers and gently but firmly positions my chin on my neck. I hear the clack of the hungry clippers.
I feel the metal of the blade touch down on the center of my neck and begin to glide upwards. They reach the point where my normal barber tapers away but keep going, pressed firmly against my scalp. I have never felt clippers go this high before. The sensation is definitely metal against skin -- he's shaving me! My heart skips a beat. The clippers continue upward and stop only after crossing the top of my crown. I'm losing all my hair!
The clippers return to the neck and climb again. This continues for about six swipes and then I hear the clippers go silent. Is he done? The clippers are returned to their hook. My chin is still on my neck. I hear different clippers fire.
This time he starts at the neck and I feel the more familiar tapering motion. But the sensation is still metal on skin, and he is pressing firmly. He goes across my neck once. In at the bottom, then scooping out. Then again all the way across, scooping out lower. Then again, lower still. I feel no hair remaining. My neck is now cold and the clippers are hot against it.
Is he done? Can I lift my head? Why didn't I stick with my regular barber?
The clippers are returned to their hook. My head is repositioned up and tilted to the side. This time the Osters are taken fully around my left ear. Not angled on edge to create an outline, like I'm used to, but rather pressed flat against the side of my head to remove the full clipper width of hair from above my ear. Then straight up to remove the side burn and continuing up until my head rounds over. Soon all the hair from my left side has been removed.
The phone rings and the barber turns off his clippers. "Barbershop," he says when answering.
For the first time, I'm able to turn my head to the side and see the damage in the mirror. It's not as I had thought. The skin is fully exposed, but there is visible hair. I exhale.
The phone call over, the barber finishes the right side of my head in a similar manner. This is the first time I have ever had a direct contact shearing with clippers. It felt so good as the metal clippers got warmer against my skin with each stroke.
He switches clippers again. I can now see he is switching between the large Osters and the Andis adjustables. He now uses the Andis to taper the hair around my ears, to the skin. I can't yet fully tell what it looks like, but the sensation is incredible.
The back and sides, which I had not wanted cut, are now military tight, and the barber picks up a comb to begin the top.
He stands behind me and places the comb horizontally in my front hair, about half way down. Without a moments pause, the clippers remove all the hair above the comb, and I immediately know the top will now be short enough. I try hard not to move. My feet are square on the footrest and my hands have a death grip on the chair's arms.
He proceeds from front to back running the clippers across the top of the comb. About midway through, I feel the comb rest directly on top of my head.
When he his done leveling the top, he places the comb vertically against the side of my head and squares the corners.
He takes a small round pocket brush, the kind you put your finger through, and uses it to brush my hair from forehead to crown.
He opens a small round container of Krew Comb butch wax. He rubs a small amount in his palms and then lightly touches it onto my flattop. He combs again with the pocket brush. He then pulls out his sheers and scissors off a few stray hairs on top that only he can see.
He asks me, "Did they shave around your ears last time?" I obviously look confused. He puts his hand on my shoulder and tells me not to worry.
He loosens the cape and places a towel around my neck. He then takes out a straight razor and strops it on the leather strap hanging from his chair. I hear a whirring sound and soon feel hot lather being applied around my already denuded ears and neck. "Please don't shave it any higher" crosses my brain but not my lips.
He tilts my head down again and strokes my neck firmly with the razor. It kind of hurts, but kind of feels good. My head is raised and tilted again, as he shaves over each ear. A warm towel removes any remaining shaving cream from my head. A splash of bay rum stings and then cools, and I'm wiped down again.
This is so much more of a haircut than I was prepared for, but I do feel cleaner and fresher than ever.
He spins the chair around to face the mirror at the counter and pulls out his hand mirror to show me the back.
"See if this is short enough for you." The hair on the back is gone completely from the bottom inch and then fades perfectly into a short stubble that continues to the crown. The sides match.
He then raises the mirror up and tilts it downward, to show me the top of my flattop. A wide strip of skin is clearly visible on top, and he touches the center with his finger, remarking that my head shape produces a nice "landing strip."
I'm somewhat in shock, as I study the precision military flattop I'm now wearing. I look so different than I did when I entered, and this was not my first-time flattop!
I tell him that it looks good. I'm not sure that I believe this, but I know that he does. And I could not have asked for a more complete barbering experience.
He dusts me down with talcum and removes the cape. I stand up slowly, but still feel the wind rush against my ears. My remaining hair feels as hard and sharp as steel. I don't dare touch it.
He places a can of butch wax and a pocket brush on the counter and suggests I'll be wanting these. Total costs: $12, including the haircut.
I pay, thank him, shake hands and step outside. It's 1991. Three days ago I shocked my parents with my first flattop. I wonder what they will think of my second.
I notice two ladies on the other side of the street do a double take when they see me. I look away and see my flattoped shadow on the sidewalk in front of me.
All I can do is smile!