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Pierre and Andy go to the barbers by Snipped Sam
It had all started when I had seen the barbers shop when I was out on one of my bike rides, it looked so much more old fashioned than where I usually went. I really wanted to have my next haircut there, not only this, I wanted to be less in control, the idea of having my haircut without being able to say very much or have input in was really exciting. The year is 1973 and I will be fifteen in a few weeks time, a plan started to unfold in my head, I would write a note to the barber saying I am French and speak only a little English. My name will be Pierre, and my father who has written the letter cannot come with me but would like my hair to look neat and tidy.
The letter has been written, and I have even cut the label from my shirt, just in case the barber notices that it is not a French make when he tucks the cape in when preparing me for my haircut. It is a dull misty afternoon on a day in late October, it’s the half term holidays, my mind is now full of concerns. Suppose the barber speaks French, a problem because mine is not that great and I would easily be exposed, what If someone I know is there. It’s a bit of a walk, so by the time I reach the shop I am rather anxious, even so with the note in my coat pocket, I open the door and go in, noticing the name W. Baker Esq above the door. The shop is more or less exactly as I imagined, very old fashioned, the barber is an older man with thick white wavy hair, smartly dressed, he looks over and smiles kindly and says hello. Wanting to appear to have very little knowledge of English, I nod and say hello very quietly, I sit down. There is an elderly man having his haircut, a middle-aged man waiting and also a boy who is a bit younger than me reading something, he looks at me when I sit down. I feel too sick to read anything, I am telling myself that this is not a good idea. Only a few minutes later the panic button has gone off, I stand up and say to the barber I will come back and I leave.
The barber is really nice about it, saying not too worry and hopes he will see me soon, as I walk down the road I am really angry with myself. My hair has to be cut anyway, so I look for another place to go, but there is not a place that I really want to go other than where I have just been. After an aimless wander about, I decide to return and drop the story about being French, and just be an ordinary boy needing to have his hair cut before returning to school next week. When I get there I still have a bit of hesitation but open the door and go in.
"Yes, I remembered I had to post a letter"
"I see, I thought you had changed your mind about having a haircut, anyway take a seat young man it won’t be a long wait"
I sit in the same chair as I had done earlier, I see that the boy now is in the chair, he has his head right down and the barber is buzzing the back of his head with the electric clippers. I remember when I used to have that done, it had been quite a while since my hair had been cut that short. Now my fair hair is just above my collar, parted in the middle and I had just over inch and a half sideboards, certainly not long compared with the times. My level of anxiety has now returned, supposing this is what was in store for me, part of me only wants a trim, another part of me is excited about a much shorter haircut, but I could not really make another run for it. He looks over at me and smiles and winks, he seems such a nice chap in a kind sort of grandfatherly way. It isn’t long before he has hung up his clippers and the boy has his head brushed down, he has certainly been shorn.
"There young Richard, nice and smart again, ready for school on Monday"
The boy thanks the barber, who looks over at me, as he loosens the navy-blue cape on the boy,
"I am ready for you now young man"
I take off my coat and hang it on the peg, this is it there is no way out now, the boy was now off the chair, and stands at the side, wiping his neck with the tissue he had been given. I sit in the barber’s chair, which is really comfortable, he wastes no time in preparing me for my haircut, before taking payment from the boy for his haircut whilst chatting to him. I am sitting with the navy-blue nylon cape snugly tucked in, waiting my fate, the boy leaves and the barber turns his attention to me, starting by combing my hair and lifting it up with his comb.
"Am I right in thinking this is your first haircut from me?"
"Yes, it’s the first time"
"Have you been sent here or perhaps you have been recommended or maybe just passing by?"
"I saw this place a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would come here for a change"
"That’s good young man, I noticed you had a very worried expression when you were looking at Richards hair, perhaps it was a bit shorter than you would like?"
"It was very short, I would just like a trim please if that’s alright"
"I wonder what you mean young man, if that’s alright… I think perhaps it means that you would like a trim but are not sure if I have other plans for your hair"
"Something like that, yes"
"Well young man your hair certainly does need cutting, but that’s why you’re here"
"Yes, Mr Baker"
"But I don’t think a trim will be enough today"
He is lifting my hair with the comb
"Oh, I really wanted just a trim, what if I had a good trim?"
"A good trim heh …. I think we can do better than that don’t you?"
"I suppose we could"
He selects a pair of long steel scissors,
"Leave it to me young man, I know what needs to be done"
He starts cutting my hair at the back
"Where do you usually have your haircut?"
"Tony’s on the Market street"
"Oh, yes I know, rather modern compared with here, you would easily get away with a trim there"
Feeling a bit more at ease and starting to enjoy the haircut, I decide it’s time for a little addition,
"My dad always wishes he would take a bit more off, he says sometimes my hair doesn’t even look like it’s been cut"
"I think we can safely say he will notice that I have cut your hair"
"Yes, I think so too"
"You can’t see the back but I have already taken a lot of hair off"
"I thought so by the amount of snipping you’ve been doing"
He carries on chatting to me whilst he cuts the sides, front and the top which goes on for quite a while, my hair is now looking short. He returns the scissors to the shelf in front of me and picks up a pair of thinning scissors.
"Now for a good thinning out, young man"
He works his way all over my head, thinning away at my hair, there is tugging and also at times the thinners bang my head especially when he does the front. He then combs my hair forward and taking a shorter pair of scissors cuts my fringe even shorter, then combs a side parting in place
"That looks better, a parting on the side suits you far more than a middle parting"
"It looks very smart sir"
At this stage I am quite surprised that he hasn’t touched my sideboards, maybe he is going to leave them how they were. Whilst I am rather enjoying this haircut, two things I really want is to keep my sideboards and not have the back and sides of my head clipped. He picks up a small battery-operated clipper which I have seen used on sideburns before.
"I have only just got these, I find them rather handy, and it’s about time I neatened up those sideboards of yours"
"I was really hoping that you wouldn’t touch them, Mr Baker?"
"You like them heh?"
"Even though my hair is short it’s still nice to have them, a lot of boys in my class have them about this length"
"But they need to be done so they are neat and tidy and not straggly, you don’t want them to be all straggly, do you?"
"I suppose not"
"No suppose about it young man"
He switches them on and takes an inch off them and then narrows them down.
"That looks much better"
The door opens, in the mirror I can see a man standing there holding a box
"Ah hello young Henry, looks like you have my order"
"Yes, Boss all here for you"
"I won’t be long young man, I just need to sort out this delivery"
"If you want to unpack it and check it off I wouldn’t mind having the box back"
"No problem Henry"
He opens the door to a cupboard and starts to empty the box, the man is standing close by the barber’s chair now, he is probably in his early thirties very trendy looking with a modern 1970s hairstyle and a short beard.
"Hello" I reply, feeling really self-conscious
"Sorry to interrupt your haircut"
"The kettles on if you’d like a brew Henry, that’s of course if you have time"
"That would be great, thanks boss"
The man chats to me for a couple of minutes and then the barber returns with a mug of tea for him, he then goes back and returns with one for himself. They stand there chatting for a couple of minutes drinking their tea.
"I won’t be long young man, what is your name by the way?"
"It’s the first time here for young Andy, we had a bit of a discussion about a trim to begin with but we ended up with a bit more than a trim haven’t we Andy?"
"Yes, Mr Baker a lot more than a trim"
"I remember my trips to the barbers when I was a boy Andy, coming away with it all gone, but you’re in good hands here"
"I think so"
"Anyway, I better not hold you up Boss"
Henry says his goodbyes and leaves with his box, the barber adjusts the cape at the back making it a bit tighter, he then dusts my neck and head with a little dusting powder. He then selects the black Bakelite clippers from the hook to the right of the barber’s chair.
"Nearly done Andy…. Head right down for me there’s a good lad"
I bend my head down for him.
"You can do better than that Andy …. That’s a bit more like it…now just a touch more for me…that’s just right, now you need to keep your head still for me"
He switches the clippers on and they started their journey up the back of my head, he is taking them a good way up too
"I know this wasn’t what you had in mind Andy, but your hair looks so much better cut very short"
He then tilts my head to the side and he works above my ears too, when he has finished he tells me to lift my head up, and after returning the clippers to their hook, he gives me a good brush down. He then takes a piece of cotton wool and wets it and applies it to my neck, then taking a straight razor he uses it on my neck and on my hairline. Once this is completed, he uses the cotton wool around and above my ears and using the razor really arches above my ears and although my faint sideboards have remained after the clipping, he revisits them with the razor, giving me bare skin to just above the top of my ear.
"Do you usually have something on your hair Andy?"
"Some spray sometimes"
"How would you like me to wash your hair, then a good towel dry, then I will Brylcreem it for you"
"I am not sure if I have enough money"
"Don’t worry too much about that Andy"
Before I know it, I have a towel wrapped around my shoulders, and I am sitting forward with my head over the wash basin, having my hair washed, he then sits me back into chair, rubbing my head with the towel vigorously until it is completely dry. He then applies a dab on Brylcreem to the palms of his hands and starts rubbing it into my hair then he combs my hair precisely into place with a severe parting on my left side. After rinsing his hands, he proudly shows me the back in the mirror, it is very short indeed, he removes the cape, and hands me a tissue to wipe my neck. My hand explores the back of my head, it is very rough where he has shaved with the razor, a bit further up is exceedingly short, bristly hair. He only charges me for the haircut and not for washing it saying it was on the house as it was my first visit to him. The reality of my haircut starts to dawn on me, people will comment on how short it is, they will laugh at my haircut next week at school. But I like the new look Andy, especially as I can smell the Brylcreem on my hair, I feel warm and happy as I leave the barbers shop touching the back of my head. Not exactly as I had originally planned, but I have a few weeks to find another barber because whilst Pierre is staying with family in England for the new year he is going to need a haircut