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Same Shop, Barber's Haircut by Joseph Murray
(This is part two to my other story ‘Same Shop, Different Barber’. If you have not read it already, I’d greatly appreciate it if you took the time to read, just so you can get an idea of who some of the characters are at play. If not, no worries or pressure, you will still be able to read this story without having read the first and not be confused, as some might call it a "stand-alone". As for subsequent sequels I have planned, you will probably need to read the first one in order to understand those future stories.)
My name is Peter Franklin, but just call me Pete. I have been working at Towne Barber Shop for nearly 35 years, having been a few places before that when I started out my career until ending up here. I came to work at Towne Barber two years after getting married when my wife and I moved into town, Springstown, to start our new life with our soon to be born first child, a daughter.
Back then, it was only men working at this barber shop. You could also say I was a part of the second graduating class of barbers, based on the age of some of the fellas I worked, all of us being close in age but not "originals" from the start. Over the years, we started employing a few females, but that didn’t change dynamics or anything. There was nearly fourteen chairs in the whole shop and everyone was good at their craft. Of course, like in any office or company or place of work, there was that behind the scenes drama or even cliques one might say. Because I had started here in my late twenties, I worked with a lot of the original barbers who were of age with me or older up to their mid forties. As time went on, and more barbers were employed, we all grew older and some of the guys who I started with were starting to retire or had moved away. There weren’t too many "Second Class" -ers left
Flash forward to the present day, not many of the guys I started with were still here. In fact, I was probably only one of three still hanging in. I wasn’t ready to retire just yet, neither were my cohorts Tony and George. I was a few years older than those two guys, so it always seemed like I would be next to go. But I wasn’t looking to leave just yet. I still had a good list of clients, guys who even grew up going to me or their fathers did and now they took their sons to me. It was that sort of a town. Especially if you were a townie, and you went to Towne Barber Shop, it was likely you went to myself, Tony, or George.
There were a few other barbers that were pretty nice and I tolerated or even got along with. But of course, there were those that I obviously didn’t. But I kept it to myself, because back in the day if you had a problem with one of the other guys, you’d be wise to just shut up and stick to your station and do what you came here to do. It was definitely the later generations of barbers that brought the drama upon this place. Trying to steal other co-workers client’s, that always got to me. Or just bringing up the drama by talking behind others’ backs, trying to egg someone else on about their haircut work or their own haircut.. Who needed this drama? My original boss here, Vito, would never have stood for that.
One particular scenario was one summer day in July, I was working on one of my regular clients, John, when one of my client’s son, Kyle, entered the shop. He was with his mother’s boyfriend (NOT his father) and that S.O.B.’s son. I could tell the fear in that kid’s eyes that he did not like his father one bit, so how could my Kyle? I knew where this was going, this guy brought the two boys here to have their haircuts. And I knew Kyle wasn’t gonna end up in my chair, oh no. He was going to someone else. One of the barbers from directly behind my station: Mike.
I seriously don’t mind Mike, or at least when he started here. He’s actually only been here since his early forties, so he’s been here eh maybe ten years tops? He’s got a good list of clients, because I commend him for his craft, the guy can really cut. But I know of quite a few people over the years who have either switched chairs or left the shop completely, because of their bad experiences with Mike. Your probably confused, since I already mentioned he gives a good haircut. Its not that, it’s the attitude he will bring to the chair. Unless of course you can match that smugness. That’s why the S.O.B. over there got along so well with him, I’d overhear their conversations. Not to say it’s a problem to "shoot the s**t" with your barber when your close with him, but I didn’t like how these two men conversed. And that was not the only case in Mike’s chair.
Anyways, Kyle said hi to me, sweet kid really. I asked him if he was having his haircut with me, knowing that I didn’t see his name on the list. I already knew the answer, but in the slightest hopes thought I could change circumstances. Unfortunately I couldn’t and knew what was coming for Kyle after the other kid got in the chair and was shorn. I knew that that S.O.B. had put his own son up to it, probably threatening a beating or no video games if he didn’t go through with it. I also knew that Kyle would most likely be receiving the same treatment, without having been given a threatening before.
I had finished with John by the time Kyle had been called up to Mike’s chair, rudely of course. Then Mike and that S.O.B. conversed about what was to be done with Kyle as if he was like a pet or something. They had agreed upon a buzzcut, a number two on the top with a number one on the sides and back, just like the other kid Andrew. All I can remember after this, what sticks out in my head still to today, was hearing that S.O.B. say:
"Okay? Okay then, Mike, buzz him good,"
I could tell Mike was ready to pounce on his new prey, inducting a brutally short haircut on a kid who had never received a buzzcut in his fourteen years. And, mostly, he was getting to cut Someone else’ client. He brought the clippers with the #2 attached to Kyle’s forehead, ready to make his mark in those precious dirty golden wisps and waves of hair that I had taken care of all these years. As he did so, and only I could make it out by looking at his mirror and reading his lips, I saw Mike utter under his breath to poor Kyle, "There’s no turning back now."
Poor, poor Kyle. I couldn’t help but stare back. I couldn’t even look at his face through the mirror, I was blinded by the huge strip on the top of his head, showing some light blonde hair. I don’t know if the kid could see I was watching, I just couldn’t look him in the eyes. I was in complete shock. I watched until Mike finished up with the #2, and then I couldn’t handle it any longer. I turned around, pulled out my book, and started to attempt to read a bit more of it in my downtime. Not wanting to know any longer what was going on behind me.
Finally, I heard Mike say loud and clear. "There you go boy, a new you," purposefully, as he wanted to make sure everyone else heard it, especially me. No one really paid mind to him except that S.O.B. as most of us, Mike’s coworkers, were used to him being a bit too dramatic. I didn’t turn around at all, not wanting to see Kyle’s new look. Even as he sat there with the other kid, Andrew. It wasn’t until the three of them were leaving that I caught, in my mirror, Kyle looking back at me, probably hoping I’d turn back. But I couldn’t. I was able to see his new haircut. It looked good on him, but there’s a difference between a boy asking for a haircut and a boy having to get one. I’d learned that over the years.
The rest of the day went by, and I’d had my share of clients, regulars and some walk-ins, a couple of them actually were new faces. Tony was up at the desk a couple of times, having his clients pay for their cuts, and was kind enough to direct some of those new faces to me. I was glad of this, always glad to have new clients and serve them with a friendly face and demeanor. I was working on one of the new guys when another guy came in, and when our lovely receptionist, Deb, asked if he wanted to wait for me or for Mike, this young man looked from one to the other, not knowing who was who, and said, "As long as you don’t put me with that geezer over there". Loud enough that I could hear from my station four chairs down. The young man (another John actually) I had in my chair, of age with this newcomer, said to me "I don’t think you’re an old geezer, sir" with some sincerity and a twinkle in his eyes. Nice kid, I thought, nice to know they were still out there.
But I know why that newcomer made that comment. I did look old, with my gray hair, long and thick, but not long onto my shoulders. Oh no, but it was respectable, longish looking and slicked back but not in a greasy sense. And my moustache definitely gave me an older vibe, but not a creepy one I hoped.
Towards the end of the day, I was sitting in my chair, catching up on some reading. Mike was sweeping away at some of the hair still on the floor, while a few others were still working. Some of the guys and girls had already headed home for the day, the rest of us were sticking around and didn’t mind it. "Good day for you today, Pete?" Mike started to say, I wasn’t gonna answer, "You had quite a few new clients today I noticed. So did I,: he continued to egg me on. I was not going to engage, what would Vito have said of me if I started to fight?
"You know, my one new client said," I feared he was going to speak of poor Kyle, but I knew Kyle barely uttered a word during his sheering, "something about your haircut, Pete. Said it made you look old."
I refused to still engage, I shrugged and let out a fake laugh, trying to put off Mike. "I say to him, ‘Well young man, he is old!’ and he then say to me, ‘No, but he looks really, really old’." Mike laughed at that crack.
"I’m not that much older than you though, Mike, am I? I am only ten or so years older, correct?" I finally retorted back. "Trust me, your time will be upon you before you know it, young man, that facial scruff of yours will begin to grey and you’ll be just like me, Tony, and George." George was cutting one of his clients and laughed at that.
"I guess so," Mike said, sounding with a sense of defeat, could it be? "Hey!" he said, popping his head back up from some more sweeping, "Why don’t I help ya out, Petey? I do believe I have never given ya a haircut before, right?"
This was totally accurate, Mike never actually had in the years he had been here. Not that maintaining my hair needed too much work, I always good about having someone trim me up every two weeks or so. "No, Mike, I do not believe you have. My haircut is pretty simple though, not like some of the work you do."
"Oh I know that," he replied. "But I wouldn’t be giving you your regular trim. Oh no, in my chair, you’d get what I give to my clients. A real haircut. Don’t suppose you’ve had one of those in ages. How about you take a gamble on me man?"
"No thank you, Mike, maybe another time."
"What? You don’t trust me?"
"He said leave it, Michael," George fought back. Not a yell, but a stern response that would definitely scare a child into thinking something bad would come next.
But I knew this wouldn’t solve it. I knew Mike would keep fighting back, until I left the shop for the day, and then maybe into next week. He was all fired up. I started into my reflection. I could definitely use one of Mike’s shorter haircuts right now in the summer, but I can’t remember the last time I had gone short with any part of my head, had to be over fifteen years! I knew Mike wouldn’t stop, and no matter how many other guys were on my side, it wouldn’t matter. So I regretfully decided, why not, prove something about Mike to the rest of the gang. Solidify his ranking.
"Alright," I exclaimed, slapping my book on my lap, so it caught everyone’s attention. Gently gliding the book onto my station, and standing up like a soldier ready for their sergeant. "Alright, Mike, you want a go at my head? Fine, I’ll let you have it this one time. But only because its summer, and I know your wise-ass mouth won’t stop cracking open about this until we all go home to be with our families. Got it?"
Mike stood across from me and simply nodded, before flashing a grin, and throwing the broom to the side. He instantly grabbed the cape off his chair and whipped it out in the air, welcoming me to the other side, to his side, to his chair. Not knowing what I was about to get myself into. I sat down, as everyone else looked at me, in total shock of what I was about to indulge into. He caped me up, wrapped the tissue around my neck, and I was his prisoner for about the next thirty minutes. As I knew this would be a short haircut, and not based on time.
"Alright Mike, what do you have planned for me?"
"Well isn’t it obvious," he said while gathering his stuff at his station, taking off the attachment from one of the sets of his clippers, flicking it on, and turning back to me, flashing that grin again as he said, "Barber’s choice, of course." Then he inched closer to me, as I noticed the clippers had no attachment to them. This was gonna be short, I only feared he was heading for my forehead. "Oh don’t worry, Petey, we ain’t gonna shave you bald. That would definitely make you look old. No, we’re gonna freshen you up real nice for you so you can take that wife of yours out for dinner tonight and show off your new look." But then he all of a sudden flicked off the clippers. "Come to think of it though, your hair really is thick and dense, Pete," he said as he pawed at it. "I can’t let my baby’s get hurt running through that forest. No, I think I’ll have to thin your hairs out first." He put his clippers down, and opened his cabinet for a pair of scissors, probably not caring if they were meant for cutting, thinning, or simple shearing and techniques.
He instantly was back at my right side, hacking away at my hair. Literally, hacking! Hacking it off in clumps, reducing the flow of my hair down to looking untidy and messy. But he was certainly taking me down, not as far as we would soon go, but my hair was flying off, this way and that, as he continued around to the back of my head, and then eventually the left side. Eyeing me up, measuring me up, as I stared back in the mirror. I didn’t say a word, I was taking this haircut, I was a strong man. When this part of his job seemed done, he put the pair of scissors down, deciding to not cut the top of my hair, interesting I thought. Where was this haircut going? As soon as I began to think of the possibilities, Mike had the clippers back in his hand, was at my right side once again, and began to buzz my sides down to what I could only imagine was a zero. Leaving a faint bit of stubble behind, but not like the five o’clock shadow I’d sometimes rock with my moustache during the winter months. He breathed, "Better," not knowing whether he meant better after thinning my hair out, or that my hair was looking better to him. I got that answer, after he continued the rest of my right side and turned my head to the side towards the mirror so I could get a look at what was still there, before he headed to the back of my head. Holy crap, that was short! I knew it was going to be, but the sight of seeing my hair like this was nuts. I now could firmly say I did not remember the last time I’d had my hair cut that short.
Mike continued onto the back of my head, clipping all the way up to the crown pretty much. He was leaving nothing behind, loosing every last, long bit of my silver-grey hair. Then he finally moved onto the left. And once that was done, he had to go to his station to get a few attachments, that way he could begin to blend out the extremely short sides with what remained on the top. As he continued to cut, neither of us spoke a word, and it seemed like the rest of the shop had gone into silence too. Only the hint of the background music playing on the radio.
Then when Mike seemed done and had nodded his head and looked around enough times, he returned to his station. My hair on top had not been touched yet. I was now eagerly awaiting what their fate would be, perhaps in honor of Kyle, Mike would buzz me down to a #2. But then he came back with a spray bottle and a comb, starting to wet my hair, and coming it up right as much as he could. Even though I had thick hair, it was still fairly able to stand erect on the top of my head. But there certainly was a lot there, so it was weird looking at it, as if I was looking at myself if I was hanging upside down.
I was tempted to ask Mike what he was doing next, but didn’t want to give him the satisfaction I was at his mercy. Then, he grabbed it and I knew where we were going next: a flattop comb. Then be brushed it with lots of force through the top of my head, had his pair of clippers, flicked them on, and started to cut straight across. I could feel the vibration of the clippers to the comb to my head. This was going to be very, very short. From what I could tell, based off looking at myself in the mirror, Mike was only going to be leaving me with one inch of hair on top. No wonder he had taken it down so much on the sides and back. I thought of this as my hair cascaded down in front of me and behind, landing all over the cape, whilst Mike was grinning at his masterpiece.
He removed the comb, after the bulk of my hair was removed, took a look around, and shook his head in the negative. You know what was coming next, as did I, that flattop comb was inserted back through my head again, and Mike reduced half an inch off of my top, leaving me with quite a short flattop now. This was an extremely jarring look for me. I can’t tell you enough how long it had been since my hair had been cut short. Thankfully, he seemed pleased with this length, and he then tossed some of that thick blue barbecide into my hair. I didn’t use this product on any of my clients unless they asked, but Mike did on me because he said, "For the old guys."
He stood up the rest of my hair and perfected it with a comb. Now I was waiting to see what he would do with my moustache. I had also not shaved in a couple days so some of my own scruff was coming through. It didn’t look bad, because it wasn’t that much in all honesty. Not as much as I’d let grow during the wintertime. But my moustache was very thick and pronounced. Finally, Mike said, "I like your moustache, Petey," a sense of relief flushed inside and outside of me. "But, it does need a good trim," and with that, he took his clippers to my prided moustache, and reduced it down in what felt like only a matter of thirty seconds. You could still tell that it was a moustache of course, but it had been reduced down to a buzzed look, I suppose matching better with what I had shamefully not been shaving the last couple of days.
And finally, he brushed me off, slapping the powder and duster around me real good, before removing the neckstrip and the cape, saying, "There you go man, a new you," similar to what he had said to Kyle earlier that day.
I just stared back at myself, not really acknowledging that it was me. The haircut looked absolutely fantastic I had to say and could not deny, but it was not me. This was not how I would choose to make myself look. I was in utter shock. I stepped up from the chair and said, "Well thanks Mike, maybe next time you’ll have to let me give you a barbers choice haircut, say?" and his face flushed a red no one had ever seen before as the whole shop erupted into laughter. No one had ever brought something like this up to Mike ever before I bet, no one had the guts but me I suppose. Because Mike had been "blessed" with male pattern baldness and even wore hats to hide it.
I was closing up, Tony and George were here too, cleaning up things as well, and two of the newer barbers, both females. I kept looking at myself in the mirrors as I swept by one. This was definitely going to take some getting used to. No one was going to blame me for not keeping it. But it did look really good, but it just wasn’t me. But I took my punishment like a champion because the respect and good-nature of this shop was not going to die out while I still worked here.