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The Preferred Length by Snipped Sam
Mr Hall’s barber shop seemed unchanged, it had been at least nine years since I had last set foot in there, Mr Hall did perhaps seem older than I remembered him. But his same quiet unhurried manner hadn’t changed, as I sat on the long wooden bench to wait my turn it was if I had never been away. The haircut of the man who was in front of me was completed, but I sat there patiently as he was attended to, then Mr Hall looked over at me
"Ready for you now young Sir"
I stood up and walked to the chair, and sat down and removed my spectacles
"Shall I take them for you sir?"
I remembered how he had always taken my spectacles and put them on the rubber pad to the right of the chair, he did just that.
The door to the shop is open and I can hear the multi coloured plastic strip blind blowing in the breeze, the smell of hair cream and dusting powder reminds me of my previous visits here. Mr Hall installs the cape, taking care to place the tissue over the collar of my shirt at the back…I am wearing a shirt and tie. Once the cape is all in place, he places his hands on my shoulders and moves me right back into the chair.
"Not sure if I have cut your hair before sir"
"You used to cut my hair when I was a boy Mr Hall"
"Then you stopped coming"
"Oh, I moved away…that was the only reason"
"Oh, that’s nice to hear…you say you moved away"
"That’s right and I’ve just moved back here after about nine years"
"So how would you like your hair today?"
"I have a new job and a new boss who told me I need a haircut"
"Did he now…I would have thought a young man like yourself might have gone to that Michael Angelo down the road"
"I know where you mean but I decided to get you to take care of it"
After wetting his comb, Mr Hall was combing my hair
How much are you wanting to impress your new boss?"
"Well I’m on trial, so I need to make a good impression with him"
"Sounds like you need to keep him happy?"
"I have to, I really need this job and he has his hair very short, and I am talking very short"
"Don’t worry young sir, I will as you said take care of it"
Soon there was the distinctive sound of Mr Hall’s steel scissors, cutting my hair, my blond hair had a slight wave and had fallen just on my collar and just covered my ears. Mr Hall was standing behind me having started with cutting the hair on the back of my head. I had grown my hair to this length when I was fifteen and it had not changed in style or length for the last four years
"So, will you be watching the big wedding next week on the telly?"
"I expect so, great that we getting a day off for the occasion"
I replied conscious of keeping my head still as I was having the nape of my neck really snipped, of course Mr Hall was referring to a certain Royal wedding which happened at the end of July in 1981. Soon after that the hair that covered my right ear had been lifted and snipped off.
"The upside to this young sir is you will feel a lot cooler"
"Yes, I can feel a nice breeze on my neck from the fan"
"The fans keeping you cool heh young sir?"
"Oh yes its great"
I said referring to the freestanding electric fan which was not far from where I was sitting
"Jolly good, some are not so keen on it, but I’m sure a young chap like yourself likes to feel cool, helps me too because the hairs aren’t sticking to you…in fact
I’ll just turn it up a bit"
With that he paused my haircut for a moment and turned the speed of the fan higher.
"So young sir, how would you like the back done?"
"Not sure exactly…but I don’t think how the chap before me had his"
The man I had followed to the chair had the back blocked to a severe square finish, but he was a very thick set man.
"No, I don’t think that style would suit you, works on him though…but certainly not for you young sir…if you really want your boss to think you’ve listened to him, you could have a nice short clip on the back and sides"
"You gave me just that the last time you cut my hair Mr Hall"
"And the time before that I dare say"
"And the time before that…and I need to keep him happy"
"I think you’ve made a good choice"
"I have a bit of a tan I suppose that means there will be a lot of noticeable white skin"
"Not much I can do about that young man"
He said as he removed the clippers from the hook to the right of the barber’s chair,
"Take your head down as far as it will go if you please"
I lowered my head, bending it forward
"I am sure we can do a little bit better than that sir"
"Sorry" I replied moving my head further down
"That’s the ticket, now is there any chance of a touch further?"
I pushed my head down to the limit, and Mr Hall rested his left hand on the front of my head to keep it steady, and then began to clip the back of my head. I could hear he clippers plough through my hair, what a fantastic sound it made I thought. He held my head firmly as he clipped away, I kept thinking if he goes any higher they’ll be over the top of my head, having successfully dealt with the back of my head he moved my head to the side and repeated above and around each of my ears. After my head was lifted up, he used a soft brush and a lot of talcum powder to dust away the loose hairs.
"The fan helped to stop all the short little hairs sticking to you"
"I expect it did"
"A little scrape with the razor"
He said opening the safety sheath of the flat razor before cleaning any loose hairs from my neck, and some work on my hairline at the back, then turning his attention to just above my ears.
"Do you need to put your glasses on before I show you the back"
"Yes, I’ll be able to see a lot clearer"
He handed me my spectacles and I put them on…golly I thought the sides have been done so short as I turned slightly to see, he held the mirror. He had as I already
knew taken the clippers very high, it was severe and he had shaved away any evidence of hair a good inch and a half above my hairline at the back.
"That’s great thank you for taking care of it"
"Are you back at work this afternoon sir?"
"Yes, this is my lunch hour but I’ve skipped lunch to get a haircut"
"Is your boss there this afternoon?"
"Oh yes he’s there"
"If you hand me your glasses again sir"
I handed him my spectacles and he returned them to the rubber pad
"As you are going straight back to the office, best have a touch of dressing"
He said picking up a bottle of hair oil
"When you asked for my specs, I thought for a minute you were going to cut some more hair off?"
"Oh, I think this is as short as you should go young sir"
He said as allowed the drops of oil fall on the top of my head, before being combed in.
"I’ll be guided by you sir"
He removed the cape and I stood up from the chair, put on my spectacles then wiped my neck with the tissue he had handed me, finally feeling the results of my clipping, how rough it felt where he had shaved above my hairline. Then after putting the tissue in the bin and straightening my tie I paid Mr Hall for my haircut. It was just as I remembered my summer haircuts as I pulled back the plastic strip blind on Mr Hall’s door which provided privacy when the door was open, I stepped onto the pavement all clipped and neatly barbered.
That afternoon Mr Morris my boss called me into his office to advise me that he was extending my one month’s probationary period due at the end of the following week for an additional three months.
"It’s nothing personal Daniels, but it will help to avoid you getting complacent and will help you to work that bit harder if you have a goal to work to, it’s a tough world out there at the moment"
"That will be all Daniels"
"Excuse me sir"
"I’ve had my haircut sir like you said"
"I noticed Daniels…but I shouldn’t have needed to mention it in the first place Daniels, so I saw no need to comment…if you are expecting me to praise you then I’m afraid you will be disappointed"
"Very good Sir"
I started to leave his office
"That is the preferred length for a male member of staff, particularly a very junior member"
"But remember Daniels, if I have to mention your hair or appearance again, you will be receiving a written warning,"
"It won’t happen again sir"
Mr Morris belonged to an era that was fast disappearing, ruling by fear and intimidation he got the results that he wanted. He was everything that I would never be in a manager, but for a young man discovering his short haircut fetish, my very regular visits to Mr Hall meant I had no complaints about Mr Morris in that area.