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"You could do with a haircut" by Snipped Sam

Funny that when most lads my age hated the idea of going to a traditional barber’s I was just a little bit fascinated by the experience; I was fourteen when I discovered Mr Curzon’s barber shop. It began when our fairly elderly next-door neighbour had been unwell and I had run a couple of errands for him and his wife, a bit of shopping, collecting shoes from the cobblers and then a special hair preparation that only Mr Curzon sold.

When I went, he was cutting the hair of an older gentleman just like Mr Matlock my next-door neighbour. He seemed a nice chap, although I was a bit wary of a traditional, shall I say old fashioned barber’s shop. Mr Curzon’s was certainly that and it felt more like it belonged in 1944 than 1974 and to me Mr Curzon seemed quite old himself although I’d imagine early sixties. I explained that I was there to collect Mr Matlock’s hair tonic.

"Oh yes of course, I hear he’s not been well"

"That’s right"

"You don’t mind if I just serve the young man do you Sir?"

Mr Curzon asked the gentleman whose hair he was cutting, before getting the tonic for Mr Matlock’s hair and placing it in a brown paper bag, I handed over a pound note, as he handed me the change, he remarked

"You could do with a haircut"

I was a bit taken aback by this, but just made a mmm sound thanked him and left, Mr Matlock really appreciated me running the errands and asked how Mr Curzon was. The following week he wanted some safety razor blades again from Mr Curzon. This time Mr Curzon was standing outside his shop

"Hello young man"

"Hello, I have come to get some of Mr Matlock’s razor blades"

"I know the ones you mean"

"Yes, he said you would"

"If you’d like to follow me"

I followed him through the door, a lady passing by looked at me and smiled and I realised she must have thought that Mr Curzon was taking me through to cut my hair. He had an impressive looking cabinet with all his merchandise in it and once again placed the purchase in a brown paper bag.

"Anything else for Mr Matlock or perhaps for you today young man"

"Oh, I don’t shave yet"

"I didn’t think you did shave young man…but I think you know what I meant "

He said winking as he handed me the change.

"I know what you meant…but it’s alright Sir"

A couple of weeks later the school summer holidays were drawing to a close, gradually Mr Matlock had been getting better. Mrs Matlock was talking to me and explained that Mr Matlock badly wanted to get his haircut but was still a bit unsteady on his feet and would I be kind enough to go with him as support. She said she would but as Mr Curzon’s was a man’s place it might be better if I went with him.
The next morning Mrs Matlock dropped us both off at Mr Curzon’s, there was just one gentleman in the chair so we sat down to wait. I got a newspaper for Mr Matlock to read, and when it was his turn helped him off with his jacket. Mr Matlock was always so very well turned out and I knew that it had bothered him not being able to get to his barber for a while. But soon his white hair was all neatly cut again…after Mr Curzon had brushed his shoulders and he had completed wiping his neck I held his jacket for him. He was a little unsteady on his feet, but I thought how distinguished he looked, I had to admit Mr Curzon had done a very good job.

"You don’t mind if we sit here and wait for my wife to pick me up do you?"

"Of course not, what time did you tell her?"

"Just after 11.00 a.m. I wasn’t sure how long a wait it would be"

"No problem…you make yourself comfortable"

"Oh, I say that’s quite a while away" Mr Matlock remarked looking at the clock on the wall.

"More than enough time for me to cut a boys hair ready for the start of school"

Mr Matlock turned and looked at me

"I think Mr Curzon means you Mathew"

"Oh, but I am here to look after you Sir"

Of course, I was there to support Mr Matlock, this was the third time that Mr Curzon had mentioned my hair and I was well aware that I would have to have it cut by the end of the week. But Mr Curzon was an old school short back and sides barber, the strange thing was I really was beginning to like the idea of him cutting my hair.

"Oh, you have looked after me very well but Mrs Matlock won’t be here for nearly half an hour, I’ll pay for your haircut how about that"

I really liked Mr Matlock and didn’t want to offend him nor should I be disrespectful to his barber either. I could on the other hand politely say thank you but I would be going to my usual hairdressers by the end of the week. It also occurred to me that Mr Matlock was a very careful man when it came to money, with him paying for my haircut and Mr Curzon doing the cutting, it was pretty much a done deal that I would lose most of my hair. At this point it was clear that Mr Matlock wanted to sit down so I helped him back to the chair he had sat in to wait to have his haircut. I saw my reflection in the mirror behind the chair Mr Matlock sat in, yes, my hair had got rather long over the holidays. The place I usually went to got very busy… there would be a long queue…I wasn’t going anywhere for the next half an hour.

"Would you like a newspaper or magazine Mr Matlock?"

"That gardening one there please Mathew"

I handed him the gardening magazine and then turned around, I saw that Mr Curzon was holding the white nylon cape in readiness, the way he was holding it made me think of a matador.

"It’s alright Mathew he doesn’t bite"

"I know…it’s got to be done"

I walked towards Mr Curzon and sat in the barber’s chair, he soon had the cape in position and snugly tucked in, with a thin white cotton towel tucked into the back of my collar. After pumping up the chair to raise me to the right height, Mr Curzon took a comb from the top pocket of his grey barber’s jacket and combed my hair.

Well young Mathew, at this time of year I usually recommend a boy has a good short back and sides to go back to school for the new year"

I thought to myself I bet at any time of year it’s a short back and sides and I should really try to avoid it…a part of me was warming to the idea…the other taking into account the jokes about my hair I would endure on my return to school.

"Oh, but I don’t have my hair cut that short anymore Mr Curzon"

"Why’s that young man?"

"Because I have it a bit longer like the other boys at school"

"And if the other boys at school started chopping off one of their hands off would you do that too?"

"That’s a bit different Sir"

"Of course, we could take a vote on it and if it goes in your favour Mathew, I will happily give your hair a trim or whatever else you want"

I felt certain that Mr Matlock would vote with Mr Curzon but on the other hand I had looked after him…golly this is a bit exciting I thought.

"Yes, let’s all vote on it"

"I’m afraid I would have to abstain as my loyalties are divided, perhaps if you can’t both agree you should forget the haircut"

"Do you want to forget the haircut Mathew? I can take you off the chair no hard feelings"

"I’ve still got to have my haircut Sir"

"Well, we could toss a coin I suppose"

"Seems fair to me Sir"

Mr Curzon put his hand in his pocket and took out a ten pence piece and showed me both sides

"Heads or Tails Mathew?"

He said as he tossed the coin and it landed on the back of his hand


"And do you want this one too be the decider or the best of three?"

"Best of three I think Mr Curzon"

"Are you sure Mathew?"

"Yes Sir, best of three"

He lifted his hand which was covering the coins and it was tails"

"You should have stuck to just one flip off the coin Mathew…. what’s it to be this time?"

"Tails again"

He had already tossed the coin and it was heads

"Level pegging and one flip left Mathew"

"I know"

"So Mathew, is it to be heads or tails?"

"I’ll go for heads this time"

He tossed the coin and left his hand on it

"So, if its heads you get to choose your haircut or even walk away with no haircut if its tails you get a short back and sides"

"Agreed Sir"

He lifted his hand to reveal the coin, it was heads, Mr Curzon looked over at Mr Matlock and told him that it was heads. It was great to win best out of three but this was not really the outcome I had perhaps been hoping for, there was something a bit special about this barber’s shop, it was where you went to have a short back and sides.

"So, I get to choose my haircut Mr Curzon"

"Yes, you get to choose Mathew"

"I think perhaps we should have voted on it rather left it to the flip of a coin"

Came the voice of Mr Matlock, clearly wishing that the result had been different

"Or given me the casting vote in the event of a tie" chuckled Mr Curzon

"But if Mr Matlock does vote there won’t be a tie"

"Well he is paying for the haircut…and you did agree to a vote didn’t you Mathew"

"Yes, I agreed to the vote and I haven’t changed my mind about a vote"

"We could vote still"

To which Mr Matlock and we all agreed, Mr Curzon told me that I could turn around for voting, so I moved so I could see Mr Matlock

"Those is favour of giving Mathew a good short back and sides please raise their right hand"

Mr Curzon said raising his hand, Mr Matlock paused a second or two before raising his hand

"Sorry Mathew but I do agree with Mr Curzon"

"Those in favour of letting Mathew decide his haircut"

I decided that I would not put my hand up for this option, after a brief pause with Mr Curzon and Mr Matlock looking a little surprised, Mr Curzon asked if anyone was voting before moving on to those abstaining for which I voted.

"Turn around Mathew and face the mirror please"

Said Mr Curzon as he picked up a pair of long steel scissors, he was soon snipping the hair that fell over the collar of my shirt, the cold metal of the scissors reminded me that I had lost the vote. Ever since that first day I came to get the hair tonic for Mr Matlock, my barber had been wanting this opportunity. Now if I was completely honest there had been many times that I had thought of what this would be like. Mr Curzon was a nice gentleman but he was an old school barber, he believed that giving boys short haircuts was absolutely the right thing to do, it was a public service. The gentleman like Mr Matlock who came here thought exactly the same, I wondered how many times had bring back national service been said in this shop.

It wasn’t long before he snipped away the hair that had started to cover my ears, I knew that my dad would be pleased about that. He hadn’t been happy how my hair had got this long and he had told me that I would have to get a decent haircut before the start of school. In a way, it surprised me that I never been taken to Mr Curzon’s to have my haircut when I was younger. But of course, the chap my dad had taken me went to school with him, that’s where dad still went but I went to a more modern place…well that is had been going to a more modern place. Dad had always encouraged Mike to cut my hair short and at the start of the summer holidays he once had my hair buzzed right off when I was about ten. I knew that dad would really approve of what was happening now with the amount of that was now resting on the cape. After a great deal of cutting, Mr Curzon produced thinning scissors and stripped my hair down even further…these were unrelenting. Mr Curzon combed my fringe forward and re-snipped it much shorter before a very vigorous and thorough brush down with the soft nylon brush.

"Now doesn’t that look so much smarter Mathew?"

"Yes Mr Curzon, much better"

"Your dad won’t believe it Mathew"

Mr Matlock remarked

"He’s going to be really pleased Sir"

"Your dad likes short hair then Mathew?"

"Yes, Mr Curzon he does"

"Just how short does he like your hair to be?"

"He likes it short Sir"

"We had better really impress him then Mathew hadn’t we?"

"Trust me Sir, He will be very impressed with the just how it is now"

"Trust me Mathew, I have been a barber for nearly forty years, nearly all fathers like their sons to have the back and sides done short with the clippers"
"Isn’t that just a bit too short Sir?….I am fourteen Sir"

But Mr Curzon was already taking some clippers and plugging them in to the socket, he turned around

"Fourteen heh Mathew….my word that’s really old"

He placed his hand on the top of my head and guided my head forward

"No such thing as a bit too short here young man…. especially when you are fourteen"

I heard the purr of the clippers; they touched the back of my head and he began to smoothly take them up the back of my head. It was only about two years since I had last had this happen to me but it was a big deal. I would really be a big joke at school, my friends would laugh their heads off…. but this would not matter to Mr Curzon. From day one he had wanted to cut my hair and this was the perfect result, me sitting in his barber’s chair my head bent forward and my hair falling as he moved his clippers up my head. As much as Mr Matlock really appreciated all the help, I had given him, I knew that he would be watching Mr Curzon really approving of what he was doing. I knew that twenty years ago this would have been the norm but how many fourteen-year olds were having this done at about 10.50 a.m. on this morning in early September 1974.

The door opened and someone came in, I heard voices and Mr Curzon and Mr Matlock speak to what sounded like the voice of an older man. I heard Mr Matlock tell the man that he wouldn’t have to wait long as he had already had his haircut.

"So, is that your grandson you’ve brought along for his haircut?"

"Oh, Mathew is the son of my next-door neighbour, it’s his first time with Mr Curzon"

"Getting the full treatment by the looks of it"

"You could say that"

By now Mr Curzon had moved on to work on the sides of my head having tilted first to the left and now to the right, the metal blade had warmed up a bit now, after completion of the clipping and a good brushing down Mr Curzon told me to keep my head down while he shaved my neck and just finished around my ears. Once I was allowed to lift my head up, he took a jar of white hair cream and applied a generous amount to my hair before combing it into a sharp parting on the left-hand side. Mr Curzon then after slightly loosening the cape, set about dusting me with powder pulling my shirt collar back and sending what seemed clouds down my back. He removed the cape and I stepped of the chair wiping my neck with the tissue and feeling the slightly. He then took the clothes brush and brushed my shoulders before giving me a light tap on my bottom with it, to remind me of my place in the scheme of things I suppose. Mr Matlock paid for my haircut and soon after we heard the toot of the horn of the Matlock’s car outside.That evening when dad came home from work, he was very pleased to see my short haircut

"Great haircut son, I knew you were going to go with Mr Matlock to Curzon’s but I didn’t think for one moment you’d get your haircut there"

"It sort of made sense…there was time to spare and you said I had to get it cut"

"He’s done an excellent job around your ears and the backs been done really well"

"I knew you’d be pleased dad"

"Oh I am very pleased Matt, you’ve had your I want to grow my hair to see what it looks like phase, but now we need to keep it short again, either Curzon’s or you can start going back to Mike’s again…we don’t have to decide now"

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