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A Highland Shearing by Shortbacker
A Highland Shearing
The third story in the series
A few years later, Susan and I were back in the UK. We had married and had two children, twin girls. I had been promoted at work to a middle management position. This had required us to leave the USA and for me to take a more senior role in the Aberdeen office. We moved to a small village over towards the Cairngorms which was where Susan's mother lived. We were still in touch with Nancy and Chuck but only by email and the occasional card at Christmas. Their Facebook and Instagram posts showed that nothing much had changed in their haircut regime. The two boys were fifteen and twelve now, growing up quickly but still sporting ultra short flattop haircuts. Their father, Chuck Sr. had succumbed to total baldness and was completely shaved. Susan often remarked on how handsome he looked with no hair. Likewise, she often reminisced about when I had very short hair. That was mainly when we lived in the USA and Susan, with Nancy’s help, had several times successfully tricked me into various no nonsense barbershops. Once we were back in the UK and away from the influence of Nancy, I let my hair grow and accepted the ongoing nagging from Susan and her mother. I did occasionally promise that if I ever started to lose my hair like Chuck, I would shave it completely bald. However. so far there was no sign of hairlines receding anywhere.
After the children were born, Susan kept her hair short on her mother’s advice. She often visited an old fashioned hairdresser in our village with her mother and returned set and lacquered with tight curls and a shaved nape. I loved the style and Susan’s mother often sarcastically suggested that I should go with them as my hair was long enough to perm.
I suffered these barbs in silence but secretly fantasised about being forced to to submit to a strict old lady in a woman’s hairdressers. However, I continued as normal and when the pressure from Susan became too much, I submitted to a light trim in a modern unisex place near the office. This usually resulted in Susan remarking incredulously that she could not see the difference and that I had wasted my money. Fortunately, there was no barbershop in the village.
We enjoyed life to the full, sailing and hill walking in the Summer and skiing in the Winter. I got to to travel extensively with work and, when in the USA, I often looked for traditional barbershops, not as a customer, but as an outside observer. I liked to recall the strange sexual urges that I got whenever I had been forced to bend my head to be clipper shaved in a traditional barbershop.
We got news in May that Chuck and Nancy were going to be visiting Europe with the two boys in July. They intended to spend a week in Scotland looking for Chuck’s ancestors and we invited them to spend the week with us. The house was easily big enough and Susan immediately engaged an army of local tradesmen to decorate and refurbish. I was away in Africa for much of June and, on my return, I hardly recognised the place. Susan’s mother appeared to have taken up residence in the old gamekeepers cottage in our grounds. Needless to say, I had not had time to get my hair cut while away and it was now several inches long. Susan and her ever present mother were quick to attack.
" I do hope you will be sorting your hair out before Nancy and Chuck arrive next week," she moaned. "You will be setting a bad example to their boys who are always so that well groomed."
"We’ll have to take you with us to Mrs Munro’s on Saturday for a nice perm," her mother chuckled, never tiring of the well-worn joke.
" That reminds me," Susan said. "Could you pick us up from the hairdressers at 1pm on Saturday. We need to drive into town for provisions." This was not unusual. My Saturday morning routine often involved looking after the twins while Susan went out with her mother. The following Saturday, I arrived early at the hairdressers and went inside to wait. Susan was still sitting in a frilly cape while Mrs Munro removed small rollers from her hair. I could see from the clumps of hair on the floor that she had gone shorter than usual. Mrs Munro greeted me civilly but her gaze rested disapprovingly on my over the collar length hair. Susan’s mother, who was also waiting for her daughter, said, " Do you have time for another shampoo and set Moira? Peter here could do with one." They all laughed and I shuffled awkwardly.
"No, I don’t do men," sniffed Mrs Munro,"but if you are heading to the West Coast next week you could do a lot worse than visit my sister, Morag. She has a barber shop in a little village near Fort William. I’m sure she could sort him out."
"That sounds wonderful," cooed Susan. "You must give me the address."
My stomach fluttered a little, but I calmed myself with the thought that we had no idea where Chuck’s ancestors came from, and it was unlikely that their journey would take them anywhere near Fort William.
Chuck and Nancy arrived on Tuesday and we spent a couple of days catching up and sightseeing in the area. Susan and Nancy fussed over the twins and gossiped endlessly. Susan’s mother readily joined in with her encyclopaedic local knowledge. Once or twice, Chuck and I took ourselves off to the local golf club where we sampled several brands of Highland whiskies while the boys enjoyed playing the course.
Over dinner one night, Susan commented on how much she liked Chuck Senior’s new clean shaved look. He replied that he hardly had much choice in the end. It just kept falling out. Then Nancy asked Susan where the local barbershop was. The boys had missed their regular haircuts in the rush to get ready to leave for Europe and were apparently getting very shaggy. They looked fine to me, but they both grinned widely when Susan explained that there was no barbershop in the village and the nearest one was several miles away.
Nancy looked at me and said, "That explains a lot."
She had not commented on my hair length but she obviously disapproved. Susan looked embarrassed but she continued to tell Nancy that although we would not have time to visit a barbershop before we departed for the West Coast in the morning, we did have the address of someone near Fort William, should we end up heading that way,
Chuck suddenly perked up and he told us that his ancestral research had indicated that his clan, the Brodys, had originally been from Glencorran, a town near to Fort William and that he intended to head there on Saturday. Susan smiled and said "Excellent!"
The next morning, we left the twins with Susan’s mother and the six of us set off in the people carrier. We headed north towards Elgin and then turned south west down to Aviemore. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was fine. The conversation flowed as we made our way to the West Highlands. We stopped several times to explore and arrived in Fort William in the late afternoon. Over dinner in the hotel we discussed the plans for the next day. Chuck was taking a taxi to Glencorran in the morning where he was meeting some people with the same surname as him in the hope that they were related. Nancy was going with him so we said we would entertain Chuck Jr. and Bart. Nancy thanked us and told the two boys to be on their best behaviour while she was gone. Susan said it was no problem and that she intended to take them to find Mrs Munro’s sisters barbershop first of all. Nancy was delighted. Chuck and Bart grimaced. I was very nervous.,That night in bed, Susan whispered, "someone has an appointment with Morag and her clippers tomorrow. Bzzzzz." I coughed nervously but vowed to use whatever means to limit the damage. At the same time, I became strangely aroused and sought Susan’s body. She turned her back to me saying," Not until you get your hair cut."
Chuck and Nancy set off the following day after breakfast. We were on the road soon after with Susan navigating a route out of the town and around the loch. A storm had blown in overnight and the clouds were low and oppressive. It matched the mood in the car. We arrived at a small village and Susan proclaimed that this was the place. I parked and we got out. It was a very small place and looked to have no shops at all. However, we walked down the Main Street when Susan suddenly pointed and said, "That must be it." In a terrace of stone houses stood a scruffy looking shop with a red and white pole sticking out above the door. There was a small window which was positioned too high for anyone to see in. The door was in need of a coat of paint but the sign above it said, ‘ Miss Morag Brodie - Gents Hairdresser’. I observed that it looked closed, but Susan marched purposefully forwards and pushed the door open. A bell rang and we all stepped down into a small room that could have been someone’s front parlour. We were immediately assaulted by the smells of an old-fashioned barbershop: shaving soap, Brylcream and hair tonic mixed with stale tobacco smoke. A stern looking woman clad in a long tweed skirt and grey barbers smock looked up from where she was cutting a young boys hair and said, " Good morning. Can I help you?"
Susan explained that she had been recommended as a good barber by her sister Moira.
"Aye, I can see you’ve been to see Moira. She always did leave too much hair over the ears. Never mind, take a seat and I will be with you shortly."
Susan quickly explained that it was not her that wanted a haircut but her husband and the two boys. Moran looked us over critically. " Oh well, you had all better take a seat while I finish young Donald here."
We sat on a cramped wooden bench and I looked around at the plain surroundings. There was little natural light in the room and the single bare light bulb in the middle of the ceiling was barely sufficient to lighten the gloom. There was a heavy wooden dresser against the back wall on which were arranged pots of hair creams and lotions. A doorway next to the dresser led to a dark passageway and some stairs. The barber chair was a big wooden armchair with a leather razor strop hanging from the back. It was positioned in front of a battered mirror below which was a single shelf and a small set of drawers. In one corner was a small sink under an old wall-mounted boiler. The floor was covered with scuffed brown linoleum and scattered with multicolored clumps of hair. The walls were bare and had originally been painted cream although they had yellowed with age. Beneath the small window was a small counter that supported the till and hanging behind the counter was a price list. It was as minimalist as the shop itself: Haircut £7.00; Boys £5.00; Shaving £4.00.
Miss Brodie’s polished brogue shoes made a loud clacking noise on the floor as she took a straight razor from the shelf and walked around the back of the chair. She passed it over the strop a couple of times and then, roughly holding the boy’s head down on his chest, she used the razor to clean high up his bare neck. This was repeated high above each ear before she took a handful of hair cream from an open tub and rubbed it through his remains hair. After combing it into position with a sharp side parting she whipped away the cape and the boy clambered down. I watched as the old barber took the money and swept the hair on the floor into a pile in the corner. She then turned to my wife and said, "Right. Who’s next?."
Susan tapped Chuck, the eldest boy, on the shoulder and pointed him towards the chair where the fearsome Miss Brodie waited with the cape. She impatiently tapped her foot and said, "Come along, Laddie. We don’t have all day." She fixed the cape tightly around Chuck’s neck and looked at Susan. "What will we be doing here?", she asked. Chuck was currently sporting a grown out flattop that was about an inch long at the sides and perhaps half an inch longer on top.
Susan said confidently, "Crewcut please." Morag Brodie nodded curtly and turned to pick up a large set of hand clippers from the shelf. I thought it slightly odd that she had not asked Susan what grade of clipper to use on the sides and top but said nothing. It was odd too that she did not appear to have electric clippers. She clacked her way behind the chair and placed her hand firmly on the top of Chuck’s head before pushing it down. She was standing directly in front of me and my view was obscured but I heard a constant and rapid click, clack, click, clack as the clippers mowed up the back of Chuck’s head. In the mirror I could see him squirm as they tugged and pulled at his hair which brought a sharp admonishment. "Keep still, Laddie.!" a surprisingly large amount of hair began to accumulate on the floor and when Mrs Brodie moved around to attack the sides, it was clear that she had left very little behind on Chuck’s head. The clippers continued to click with a hypnotic rhythm, occasionally interrupted by the clacking of heels on the floor. I suddenly jolted out of my trance as I saw Mrs Brodie place the clippers at the front of Chuck’s head and push relentlessly back leaving a strip of stubble down the middle of his head. When this was repeated, I realised that she was cutting his hair to the same brutally short length all over. I foolishly interrupted with a slight cough and said, "Er excuse me, but isn’t a crew cut supposed to be longer on top than the back and sides?" Mrs Brodie rounded on me and scowled darkly, "Not in my barbershop, Lassie, not in this shop", before returning to her hapless victim. Susan barely suppressed a giggle. She was clearly enjoying this and appeared quite unperturbed at the obvious misunderstanding of the term ‘crewcut’.
Having sheared Chuck’s hair to less than one eight of an inch all over, Mrs Brodie sharpened the razor again and cleaned his hairline high around his ears and up his neck. she brushed him down and released the cape, before smiling at Susan and saying menacingly, " Is that short enough for you?"
"That’s perfect," Susan replied as she pointed Bart towards the chair.
"Same again then? Crewcut." She looked directly at me with a smug smile as Susan replied, " Yes please."
Bart was subjected to exactly the same treatment and after ten minutes and several shouts of, " Keep still, Laddie." he climbed down and rubbed his sandpaper-like head. My trousers began to swell.
"Which of you two Lassies is next?" I stayed in my seat as Mrs Brodie stared malevolently at me.
"Peter!" Susan said sharply. " Stop showing me up and get in that chair." It was clear that Susan meant business, so I reluctantly walked towards the old wooden chair. "Come on Lassie. Be quick or your hair will grow another inch." Scowled Mrs Brodie. She caped me tightly and picked up a comb. My hair was thick and long so she tugged hard to get the comb through it, while giving loud tuts of disapproval. "When was the last time you had your haircut?"
" I can’t remember," I replied truthfully.
"Well let’s make sure you don’t forget this one," she said sternly and turning to my wife she said, " Crewcut?"
"Yes please," replied Susan, " Nice and short." My fate was sealed.
"Well he soon won’t need to bother," Mrs. Brodie said sarcastically, "Looks like it’s falling out on its own."
I froze, as Susan got up from the bench and said, "Show me." I could not see but Susan looked surprised and then raked at the mirror as the barber combed my crown back and sideways to reveal just a hint of a bald spot in the centre of my head.
"With so much hair, it’s difficult to spot but you’ll see it better when I cut it short," explained Mrs Brodie.
"Well we can’t have that, can we Peter? I think it’s time you were shaved bald." I was speechless, but I knew there was no argument. Susan sat down and purred with delight, " Just like you always said you would,"
Miss Brodie wasted no time. She picked up the old chrome hand clippers and ran them up the side of my head sending piles of hair to the floor. She pushed my head firmly down to my chest and clamped it there while she sheared up the back of my head and over the crown. I winced as the cold blades tugged and pulled at as the top of my head. I was sharply rebuked "Don’t be such a baby," she chided and in minutes all my hair was on the floor except for a thin covering of stubble. Susan said,"I can really see the bald spot now. Lucky you noticed it Morag."
The old woman was busy mixing a bowl of shaving soap when she replied, " I’ll soon have him cleaned up."
She quickly spread the hot soap onto my scalp. I stared at the apparition in the mirror. I grimaced as the straight razor was unfurled before my eyes and stroked rapidly over the leather strop. After what seemed an age I felt the blade on my forehead and heard the rasping noise as the blade was slowly scrapped across my head. As Morag Brodie stopped to wipe the shaving soap off the blade, I could see flecks of dark stubble in it. Susan was grinning broadly and I could only stare at the white stripe across my head. The ordeal continued until my head was totally bald. An astringent lotion was rubbed in and I was released. I ran my head over my head in total disbelief that there was nothing there. Miss Brodie said to Susan, "OK lassie. You’re next."
My wife protested that she was not here for a haircut as she had it done less than a week ago. Miss Brodie was unrepentant. " I cannot have you leave with that sloppy finishing that my sister has done. I will tidy you up". My erection strained at my trousers as Susan too submitted to the hand clippers which sheared her high above her ears and up her neck.
Nancy was delighted with the two boys’ haircuts saying they would be perfect for their next stop in Italy. She was also effusive about Susan’s shaved nape and as she ran her hands over my bald pare she commented that I was now smoother than her husband. Chuck had not had much luck. It was soon obvious that the Brody’s that he met could not be related to him. However, he had discovered that a few members of the neighboring Brodie clan had moved from the area to America in the eighteenth century. It was just possible that they changed the spelling of their surname over the years. He and Nancy were off to meet a Miss Morag Brodie that afternoon. I could see some more shaving coming on.