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A Traditional Haircut by Tate@mail.com

The sun rises on this July Saturday morning in Dixon, as father and son sit on the back porch drinking coffee.

"Dad, thanks for coming up for Bobby's birthday."

"Oh, I wouldn't miss his tenth. This is a big year!"

The grandfather closes his newspaper and takes another sip of his coffee.

"Son, I was thinking that while I am here, we could take Bobby to get a haircut. It's time for him to lose the little boy locks and get real haircut, like I got you when you were ten, and my dad got me when I was ten."

"You mean get him a flattop?"

"Yeah, don't you think it's time?"

"I think it's a great idea! Let me tell Lauren where we're going and what we're up to."

"Bobby, put on your shoes and come down. Grandpa and I are going to take you for a haircut, and then we'll get some ice cream."

"Ok, Dad. I'll be right down."


The three generations of men load into the bench seat of the grandfather’s old blue pickup truck. Bobby rides in the middle. On the way, Dad glances down at his young son and tousles his hair.

"Bobby, we're taking you to see Barber Sam to get a special 10-year-old haircut. Do you know what a flattop haircut is?"

"No, sir."

Grandfather pipes up.

"Well, just trust me that you are going to like it. It's a real big boy haircut, a man's haircut!"

The truck stops in front of the old barbershop on Main Street. As Robert opens the shop door for his father and son, a bell jingles and the old barber looks up from his chair."

"Good morning, Sam!"

"Hello, Robert. And if it isn't your ol' man. I haven't see you in a while."

"Good to see you, Sam. It has been a while. We're here for Bobby's ten-year-old haircut."

"Let me guess... a flattop!"

"You got it!"

"Bobby, happy birthday! Hop right up here in my chair and let's give you a big boy haircut.

The barber removes the folded cape from the arm of the red leather and white porcelain chair and uses it to whisk the seat. Bobby climbs up. A neck tissue is wrapped tightly around the boy's neck, and the white and red-penstripped cape is snugged over it. Barber Sam faces the chair to the mirror and eyes Bobby's reflection straight in the eyes.

"Now, Bobby, I'm going to need you to sit real still for me, and when I put your head in a certain position, you have to keep it there. You think you can do that?"

"Yes, sir. I can."

"That's my boy."

Sam spins the chair so Bobby is directly facing his granddad and pumps the lever on the side of the chair causing it to rise. He then reaches for the black antique-looking clippers labeled Model 10 hanging from his counter and turns them on. The clipper motor audibly accelerates up to speed. The barber eyes his selection of shiny steel clipper blades arrayed neatly on the counter in front of him and selects the one labeled 1-1/2. The blade is clicked into its place on the whirring clippers held tightly in the barber’s right hand, and he turns and places his left hand on the top of Bobby's head. He gives the boy's head a slight wiggle causing him to relax his tensed neck muscles.

"Ok, put your chin all the way down on your chest for me, like this. Now don't move until I tell you to."

The clippers begin their ascent from the center of Bobby's nape and climb until just over his crown, then continue from the bottom to the top again.

"I've never felt the clippers like this before."

"Hold still."

"Are you cutting all my hair off?"

"No, you'll still have hair. I gave your Dad this same haircut when he was your age. He kept it until just about when you were born, then he didn't have enough hair left on top to make it work. Sorry, Robert."

"That's ok, Sam. My father can take credit for my flattop and for my hair loss! But I'm glad we can pass along the tradition to Bobby."

Sam tilts Bobby's head to the left and peels the hair from above his right ear.

"Dad, does mom know I'm getting a flattop?"

"Yes, I told her. But she'll have to wait until we get home to see what it looks like."

"Until I finish cutting it, I won't know exactly what it's going to look like either."

The barber chuckles.

"But it's looking good. You're running out of hair, but it's looking good!"

The hair on the back and sides of Bobby's hair is now just a stubbly shadow and a large pile of hair has collected on the cape covering his lap. Sam has switched to his adjustable clippers and is deftly tapering the stubble at Bobby's nape.

"Bobby, handsome young men like you make all my haircuts look good."

"My grandson is looking more and more handsome by the second."

"Son, you're doing great."

The hair on top of Bobby's head has been rough cut into its flat shape, clipper over comb. With little flourish Bobby watches his bangs slide down the cape in front of him.

With a jet of air from a red rubber hose, Sam blows the freshly cut red hair off Bobby's shoulders and from his lap sending the mound cascading to the floor. He then takes his hand and covers the boy's eyes and thoroughly blows the air through the short hair that remains. He returns the hose to its hook and picks up a small tin from his counter.

"Bobby, this is the butch wax that I'm going to put on your hair, and you'll need to use every time after you wash your hair. I'll give you your first a can today, and your granddad can show you how to use it tomorrow."

The wax applied, one inch of hair now stands firmly erect from Bobby's forehead. The corners of the flattop are square and the level deck rounds smoothly over the back of Bobby's head and tapers from the 3/16" of hair left by the 1-1/2 blade down to white skin at the neck and ears.

The smiling father gets up from his seat and approaches his now older looking son in the barber chair.

"Ok, Bobby, are you ready to see the new you?"

"Yes, sir."

Barber Sam pushes down a lever unlocking the chair and spins it around. Looking intently at his reflection, Bobby squints and blinks a couple of times, and then a broad grin grows across his face.

"Wow, that's cool! Look, Dad, my hair is standing up!"

The boy instinctively reaches his hand from underneath the cape and brushes it back across the top of his head and then from the nape up to the crown, clearly delighting in the new sensation.

"The more you run your hand through it and brush it back, the better it will look. Bobby, what do you tell Mr. Sam?"

"Thank you!"

"You're welcome. Now, I want to see you back in ten days, so I can keep you looking cleancut. Will you promise me?"

"I promise, Mr. Sam. Thanks again for this cool haircut! Wait until Mom sees it!"

With an smile as large as Bobby’s, the grandfather rises slowly from his chair, reaches in his back pocket for his wallet, pays the barber in cash, giving him a generous tip, and accepts the tin of butch wax and a pocket comb.

"Thanks for carrying on the tradition for us, Sam. You haven’t lost your touch!

Ok, Bobby, let's go get some ice cream!"

Then barber turns to reach for his broom. The bell on the door jingles. Bobby skips back to the truck, his shorn head glistening in the mid-morning sun.

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