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Vincente by Snipped Sam

As long as I could remember I had always looked forward to and enjoyed having my haircut, but now in my late twenties after a number of years of visiting very modern establishments, I was really hankering to go back to a good old-fashioned traditional barber’s shop. More than that I wanted a no-nonsense type of barber, the sort who took charge, I didn’t want the fancy décor or the stylist who took care with cutting my hair. I was aware that there was a barber named Vincente known for his short tempered and offhand approach to his customers and a reputation for giving very short haircuts. When I say I hankered for when the barber was in charge, I mean the days when I stepped onto the chair to have my hair cut really short. A Saturday morning trip to the barbers with my father when he would ask for a short back and sides for me. I should add that I was born at the beginning of the 1960’s so my teenage years were in the 1970s a very controversial time when it came to the length of a young man’s hair.

With my father having married very late in life and being in his late sixties when I was a teenager, he kept the length of my hair very short. The reason of course was he did not approve of long hair and believed that all males should have very short hair. Whilst he was a loving and generous father this was non-negotiable, and I accepted his word was final on the subject. Some of you may ask where was my fighting spirit? Why did I not challenge his short hair policy? As I said previously, he was a loving and generous father but he was also from a generation that knew the importance and benefits of discipline in the home. So, I knew to challenge would result in me being told that I had to do as I was told, further challenging would certainly have led to chastisement for me. Despite being teased at school on how short my hair was, I still enjoyed my trips to the barbers then and still looked forward to having my haircut now.

The thought of going to Vincente’s to have my haircut was becoming more and more tempting, I had found his telephone number in the yellow pages and telephoned to enquire about his opening hours, and he was decidedly curt in his reply. A few days later I had called again pretending that I was in the army myself, but wanted to know if he could cut my younger brothers’ hair short for a wedding. Whilst abrupt in his reply he confirmed that I just needed to bring him along and he would take care of it.
The day finally dawned when I went to see him to have my haircut, it had been a bad day at work, I needed cheering up so on my way home from work I took the train and got off at the station near where his shop was. My heart was racing, I felt excited, I approached his shop with its familiar static red and white pole, hand on the door handle and I opened the door and stepped inside. The grumpy man sat down reading a magazine, he looked so stern, his hair was jet black with some sort of preparation on it to make it shine, he had a very neatly trimmed goatee beard and he wore black rimmed spectacles.

"Hang your jacket up Sir"

He said standing up, straight to business I thought, no hello then but at least a sir. I hung my jacket up and went to the barber’s chair which he stood beside with a rather impatient look on his face. It looked a very old chair, made of both wood and dark brown well-worn leather. I sat in the chair and boy it was so comfortable; the navy-blue cape was installed which by the way matched his barber’s jacket. Above the mirror in front of me was a shelf which displayed a collection of shaving mugs some were quite unusual I observed, as I looked up at them for a moment. This was brought to a sudden end by my head being repositioned to have my hair combed.

"It helps if you face the mirror Sir" he said starting to run his black plastic comb through my hair

"Oh sorry, I was looking at your collection of mugs"

"As I say it helps if you face the mirror and not look up"

"Will do"

"How would you like your hair cut?"

I thought about the reason I was there, what had brought me to this grumpy man’s establishment.

"I usually have my hair well-trimmed, but it strikes me that you are a very experienced gents’ hairdresser so I think I might leave it up to you"

There I had said it

"Yes, I can do that Sir, I know what will suit you"

"That’s what I thought"

"But what if you don’t like what I do?... say I cut it too short for you?"

"That’s a chance I am prepared to take"

"You have to pay for your haircut even if you don’t like it"

"Of course,"

"As long as we are clear on that"

He seemed a little hesitant at this point clearly wanting to make sure he was paid, with myself working in hospitality I was very aware of people not wanting to pay or refusing to pay if they weren’t satisfied. Maybe he had had problems himself with disgruntled customers, rather than being wary of why that might be, I wanted to empower him.

"I tell you what, in the top pocket of my jacket is a ten-pound note, why don’t you hold onto that"

I had seen from his displayed price list that the ten pounds would more than cover the cost of my haircut, although his prices did seem a little steep for what was an ordinary barber’s. But saying that perhaps his curtness came at a price, certainly one I was happy to pay. Taking me at my word he went over to where my jacket hung and removed the said ten pounds from my pocket. In the mirror I saw him place the ten pounds in the top pocket of his barber’s jacket.

"Do you work Sir?"

"Yes, I’m a chef"

"So, a shorter haircut would be good"

"Yes, I think that would be very good"

My heart was racing as the adrenalin pumped through my body, this was so bloody exciting. He placed his left hand on my left shoulder and his right hand on the top of my head, he slowly but firmly bent my head as far forward as it would go. I was aware that he was selecting clippers there was a loud switch and they began to buzz away. Having had many years of just scissor cuts in one way I felt that I was once again back at the barbers with my father sitting there supervising my haircut. The big difference was this time I had chosen the barber and instigated the short haircut. The cold metal touched my neck, and Vincente began to clip the back of my head, I was aware that he was using a bare blade without a guard on it.

"Just so you know Sir, it’s not possible now to change your mind, just in case you were having second thoughts"

The way he had positioned my head, it was hard to speak, but I managed to say "I know", truth was any second thoughts had long gone. A large clump of my fair hair fell from the back of my head onto the cape in front of me with the assistance of my barber.

I worked for a contract catering company at a Pharmaceutical Company in Greater London, and had been hoping for promotion to second chef but the head chef and area manager had decided to bring in someone else from outside the company. I had only heard that I didn’t get the job that morning so this haircut was meant to cheer me up or at least take my mind off my disappointment. The last time I had been clipped was when I was at catering college, my father said that I still should have my hair short as I would be working in the college training kitchens. I remembered how other students had their much longer hair sticking out from under their starched cloth chefs’ hats, for me it was a small amount of very short clipped hair at the back and very little to speak of at the sides on show. It occurred to me that with the way Vincente was clipping away, it would be the very same at work tomorrow when I put my chefs’ whites on along with my hat. Having completed the clipping at the back of my head he set to work above my ears. After a good deal of clipping which had certainly warmed up the blade quite a bit, he returned them to their home.

"You’ll find it much cooler in the kitchen now Chef"

He then took scissors and with my head remaining down started to cut my hair on top, he snipped very quickly and my hair fell into my lap with speed. After a lot of cutting he returned the scissors to the counter.

"You can lift your head up now"

I lifted my head up and saw myself with a very short cut, the sides had been so clipped and he had cut my hair on top very short.

"Looks better heh?"
"Much better" I replied

"You young men think you know what looks best but you don’t"

"I think you are probably right"

"Like your hair…too long at the back, too much on top"

"But not now Sir"

"No not now Sir…almost done but I need to clean up the back a little"

He then filled a shaving mug with some water and took a shaving brush and some shaving soap.
He applied shaving soap to the back of my head around where my hairline was and then used a flat razor to shave it, after wiping it with a towel he then applied a small amount above each ear and shaved it clean.

"That looks even better"

"Yes, it does"

"Are you a top chef, like a head chef in your job?"

"No, not there yet"

"Are you any good?"

"I am told that I am"

"That’s the main thing"

"But not quite good enough to be head chef or even second chef I’m afraid"

"Well some people need to be told what to do perhaps that’s you, doesn’t mean that you are not any good"

"I guess that’s me"

He applied some Brilliantine to my hair, and combed it precisely into place with a sharp parting, he took the mirror and showed me the back of my head, it looked so bare after all the clipping and shaving. I knew had my father be sitting there he would have been very happy with the results of this haircut. Whilst I was at school, he always had the final word on my finished haircut and there was no need to show me the back in the mirror. When I went to catering college, I started to go to the barbers on my own, when they showed me the back in the mirror, I used to think is that going to be short enough for him. Of course, he still chose which barbers that I went to and reminded me when I was due for a haircut. Once I was trained as a chef, I moved to London that’s when my hair began to grow a bit longer.

"That’s a great haircut Sir, thank you"

"You know where to come now to get your haircut"

"I do now Sir"

He removed the cape and after he had handed me some tissue to wipe my neck, I stepped off the chair. As I wiped my neck and felt the back of my head, he took the ten-pound note from his top pocket and put it in the till and handed me the change.

"Don’t leave it too long before your next haircut Sir"

"I won’t and thanks again for an excellent haircut"

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