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Flattop February by CleanCut
Based off this Classic Video: Flattop February on youtube
Hi my name’s Pete Mitchell and this was my encounter with the Hanscom Air Force base. They’re a pretty cool group of guys, and they have some peculiar traditions but I like hanging out with them. Pilots are just cool. But I’ll tell you how a 17-year-old got to hang out with rough high-flying soldiers.
So, a little introduction, like I said my name’s Pete and I live with my Dad, my Pops and my little sister in Bedford Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. We live on the dairy farm my Dad inherited from his father. We’re way out there in the middle of nowhere. I’m from my dad’s first marriage and then together they decided to adopt sister. My dad runs the family farm and my pops is an analyst from home. I end up helping out a lot on the farm, waking up early to milk cows. The manual labor has given me a pretty sturdy build as a teenager. I mean I play sports for school too but nothing builds muscle like shoveling hay. I’m only five foot seven, but between these arms and my golden hair, my otherwise plain features don’t have to work too hard to attract suitors. Even though I don’t have much to talk to them about. I’m not very smooth. Besides school, sports, video games, and the oddly large amount of cow facts I know; the only other thing I was obsessed with was planes.
Ever since I saw them fly over the baseball stadium at a Red Sox game when I was little, I’ve loved planes. Just watching them fly in formation or even just a commercial plane leaving a streak in the sky. My dad would take me to air shows to watch them do trick rolls and stunts. And every time we ever got to fly somewhere, for a rare vacation or visiting family in Canada, I would always sneak around looking at everything at the airport, pilots, landing strips, planes, control towers. Big, small, commercial, military, new, or classic; I knew all the different models. I also collected model planes, I would put them together and then suspend them from my ceiling on wires in fighting aerial poses. At this point I had 40 models hanging in my room, and that was the limit. And finally, just as I was entering my junior year of high school, I met someone who liked flying just as much as me.
I was in the checkout line of hobby lobby with my pops, holding my latest model. A Grumman F14 Tomcat, 1974. It was going to look awesome next to my F16 Fighting Falcon and F15 Eagle. And as I was deep in thought mulling over which model I could possibly part with to put this one up, there was a strong cheery voice over my shoulder. I looked up from thought to see a man in full military get up. He was a large, well-built studly looking man probably in his mid-thirties. He had bright sky-blue eyes like polished marbles in his skull, and jet-black hair that was cropped short in a crisp high and tight that accentuated his strong chin. Everything about this man was done with purpose, the nape on his haircut, his blue-white teeth, and the obvious attention detail to his uniform, showed he did everything big or small to perfection. But I could tell by the way he clutched the model with both hands, he was just as obsessed about model planes as I was.
"F14, that’s a rare find" He said flashing a grin, "You usually can’t find em because they’re snatched up by Top Gun fans."
"Thanks, I like your Stearman too!" I said turning around to face the camouflaged giant, complimenting the vintage Bi-plane he had in his hands. "Umm What’s Top Gun?"
As the words come out of my mouth my Pops turns to our little convo does a double take and looks at me with his mouth agape. "Did your Dad really never show you Top Gun? It’s one of the best pilot movies of all time. Tom Cruise! Val Kilmer! I never brought it up because I thought with how much you loved planes, he would’ve showed you it before we got together. What an idiot, I’m gonna beat his ass when I get home."
The army guy smirked at the outrage a little bit but otherwise held his expression. "Yeah if you like planes you gotta check it out. That’s the type of plane Maverick flies in the movie. I even got to fly one too before they retired em." He said that last line with swagger.
In my world though, he just about told me that he walked on the moon. Pilots were the coolest, they got to fly whenever they wanted. And that was my biggest dream. But it was then my turn to check out. I paid for my plane and the army guy paid for his. We talked some more on our way out of the store, I told him my name was Pete, he laughed and told me that was the main characters name in Top Gun. He introduced himself as Captain Buckingham, but I could call him Cpt. Buck. And that he was a flight instructor at Hanscom Air Force Base nearby!! He gave me his card, Captain Elijah Jay Buckingham, Hanscom Aero Club- Flight school. My pops said that they’d have to talk it over but Cpt. Buck said I was welcome anytime if only to observe. We didn’t even get to talk about model planes before Pops said we had to go home, but he said we’d stop by the library and rent Top Gun so I wasn’t too sad. Plus, I was holding the Captains business card like a will Wonka golden ticket.
My Pops gave my dad an earful about neglecting his children, and he did admit it was a huge oversight but the movie is like 30 years old so I didn’t blame him. Better late than never, and it just made me want to fly even more. Maverick was so cool and Goose was the best copilot/ wingman I could imagine. I also secretly wanted frosted tips like Iceman, him rocking those aviators and blonde flattop. All of them looking fresh as hell in their white airman’s uniforms or green flight suits, made my itch to get in the cockpit fresh again. I had found my new favorite movie, and no it wasn’t just because his name was Pete Mitchell just like mine, well maybe a little. He was also the best pilot, and that’s what I was going to be.
My Dads talked it over and basically agreed there was no talking me out of it so they might as well give in. Plus, as I was seventeen and I had just got my driver’s license and could drive myself to the Air Force Base for lessons, it wouldn’t be a burden for them. From then on, every Tuesday and Saturday I would drive my dad’s old silver pick up to the air force base and learn flying from Cpt. Buck and the guys. The guys being the other officers.
There was First Lieutenant Shift, who was a stocky guy with thick brown hair. His hair was kind of longish for military people but always kept neat and never much longer than three inches on top. He was a prankster always getting on the Second Lieutenants nerves.
Second Lieutenant Dunst was a cool man with a toned build in his late twenties. He never laughed out loud only a breather out of his nose when he thought something was funny. He didn’t talk much but you knew exactly what he meant and he seemed like he always had plans later. Dunst’s uniform always fit snug and his sandy blonde hair was cut immaculately into a burr with a one on top and the sides shaved. The shadow of hair on top never seemed to grow as did the smooth sides of his head never sprout hair. I don’t know if he cut and shaved it every day but it was always looking fresh.
And finally, the Colonel, I didn’t learn his name for the first two months because people usually just called him Colonel. But Colonel Brian was the man! He over saw the flight school and was just a badass old man. Well-built old military vet, who always had a pair of Aviator sunglasses on his head or hanging from his collar. He was the same height as me, which was nice because the three other officers were all 5 or 6 inches taller than my five foot seven inches. So he took to me quickly, solidarity in height. Always making a joke in my direction or playfully making fun of something I did. He’d always make fun of my hair, that I kept in a longish schoolboy cut. I didn’t think much about it, it was just the style to have bangs that swooshed over your eyes. My blonde hair looked good longer so I didn’t mess with it, iwas interested in planes not looks. But compared to the Colonel’s it was pretty long. Colonel Brian’s Stocky little frame was accented by two things; the cool scar below his right eye he got on a fishing trip in the arctic circle, and his silver fox flattop. The tan skin on his head led up to a perfectly cut silver, high and tight shaved horseshoe flattop that you could level a shelf with.
He had this trick that he would go re-tie his boot laces, which never needed retying by the way, and he would flash the light from his bald landing strip right into my eyes. Then laugh a big hearty grandpa laugh at my cries of blindness, saying "take that hippy" or "My whole body is a weapon". He was the epitome of manliness and all of the airman looked up to him. He worked with me on weather and wind patterns mostly. The lieutenants helped me with bookwork and also basic military exercises. The most fun was when I got to actually sit in the cockpit with Cpt. Buck, hundreds of feet in the air. The military base had become my second home and soon I was there like four times a week, sometimes just to hangout and observe. `And with that my school year passed quickly into the winter.
By Christmas I had finished my ground training and my flight training, and after winter break, I would be able to make my first solo Flight! I couldn’t wait! School didn’t start until the first week in February, so neither did flight school and I couldn’t stand being away from the guys. Though I was distracted enough, for Christmas I got a green flight suit just like the one in top gun, with all the patches and everything! It fit me perfectly, especially around the waist. I felt like a real Top Gun. I couldn’t wait for Halloween. Then my dad suggested I wear it for my first solo flight. I laughed at that, Cpt. Buck would surely get a laugh out of it, he had been calling me Top Gun ever since Hobby Lobby. I had been hoping for Maverick as a nickname but Top Gun was even better. I could just see the Colonel making some smartass comment about it now.
And sure enough, he did. I heard a gruff voice as I came out of my truck in the flight suit and my black combat boots.
"Finally, you looking like you belong around here Space Cadet! Trying to put these old guys to shame, but you need more swagger to pull off a flight suit". His nickname for me I didn’t like as much, but I did miss his familiar verbal jabs. The colonel straightened the collar on my suit and pushed up my sleeves. "There now you look tough, well tough enough with this girly hair. I guess no one gave you the memo". He said messing up my Bieber hair-do, looking at the confused look on my face saying "Memo, what Memo?". I knew about everything at the base I thought. My hair had gotten quite long over Christmas break. I hadn’t cut it since before thanksgiving and it now reached my nose at the longest point. Certainly not up to AFB code, but the flight school didn’t force anyone to comply with military grooming. But as I entered the flight school it seemed like a private joke had been played on me because everyone else was in tip top shape, and by shape I mean Square. And I mean everyone. The desk guy, the crewman walking around, every airman in sight had a flattop. Long ones, crisp ones, short ones, landing strips, beveled, waxed, gelled, horseshoe flattops that barely even stood up so much as they were shaved designs. I could’ve sworn the Colonel’s hair looked shorter and flatter to stand against these haircut tourists.
"Isn’t it just beautiful?" The colonel said coming up behind me putting a heavy hand on my shoulder. "This is my favorite time of year because everyone finally looks as good as me! Flattop February, it may seem like we all just have mini air-strips on our noggins for no reason but it’s in honor of those that served before us. Airmen have been cutting their hair flat in February in solidarity dating back to the Korean war era, celebrating the original 25th squadron’s legacy of Fighter Pilots. Airmen stick together. I wear mine with pride all year round but the others come around to my way of thinking once a year. Nothing manlier and more intimidating on a fighter pilot than a Flattop. And there’s a saying about flattops, sometimes they don’t grow back out."
With that he chuckled and patted me heartily on the back, almost knocking my athletic body over. I looked around to try and find the guys amid the see of square soldiers. I have to say even the nicer guys looked manly and intimidating. This was the base at its best in my mind. It seemed that the haircut was all about short sides and being perfectly flat on top but there still seemed to be so many different kinds. Just as many as the different types of planes.
Cpt. Buck came up to greet me wearing a skunk stripe of a landing strip on his normal high and tight. His deck perfectly leveled and beveled into a tight landing strip, and the shaved sides looking crisp as ever. Ltn. Dunst behind him his burr having a stripe shaved down the middle to make a shadow of a horseshoe. The biggest change was actually First Ltn. Who now sported a nice full flattop on top, rivaling that of vanilla ice. It was perfectly boxy but was the longest one I had seen around here at only an inch and a half tall. I have to say I like the atmosphere. I don’t know if it was the holidays or the haircuts or what, but everyone was just in really good moods. It just seemed so streamlined and like everyone was working at one hundred percent.
"Alright Top Gun, I see you’re dressed for the part." Cpt. Buck said as he turned to me in his own flight suit. "We’re just going to go over to the annex and complete some last paperwork and get your Airman I.D and we’ll be set to go to the hanger." We walked over to the Annex with the Colonel, who had a meeting there. We walked catching up about the holidays and the latest in the plane world. The last six months with these guys had been a blast. I finally had someone to talk all about planes with and even get to fly a few. Today I was going to finally fly on my own! I also found myself liking the military lifestyle of routine and orderliness. You always knew where you stood with these guys. Also the guys were just a lot of fun and had done a lot for my self-confidence. I felt better making jokes and talking to adults and authority heads. I understood sarcasm thoroughly now. And not to toot my own horn but in terms of flying I was the best in class. And as we were walking to the annex, we would wave and pass flattop after flattop. And as we passed the base barbershop, I guess I was kind of feeling left out of the increased comraderies and solidarity of February’s festivities.
"Hey uh wait a second" I said, slowing down as we approached the base barbershop. "I don’t think I’m quite ready yet." The two Officers slowed down and looked back at me confused. I looked at the Colonel with a cheeky grin. "I didn’t get the memo; I don’t quite look the part yet." And with that I gave a nod over in the direction of the barbershop. The Colonel and Cpt. Buck laughed.
"About damn time! You’ve been on a military base for six months cadet, you’re a skilled airman and yet you still look like a civilian." Said the Colonel, now drifting into his drill sergeant voice. "This is an order from your commanding officer. March your ass into that shop and tell them the Colonel sent you for a Flattop February Special, Extra Flat. You will report for inspection in the I.D quarters in half an hour. Do not disappoint." And with that I gave him a perfect military salute, and a "Sir, Yes Sir." Then turned about face on my heel, and headed for the shop. While the Colonel moved ahead with his duties, Cpt. Buck followed me into the shop.
I could feel the adrenaline kicking in already, I was excited but not nervous. I couldn’t really turn back; I had been given orders. If six months around the military men had taught me one thing, you do not go against the chain of command. I had my marching orders, and at the very least I was going to be in good company for a month. They all looked really cool, and I wanted to be the coolest pilot there was. I stood in the doorway of the barbershop taking it in. It was a three-chair shop, with everything in its exact place all up to base code. There was one barber on duty this morning, an older gentleman in a white barber’s smock and a bald head that shone like a bowling ball. Picture Mr. Clean’s Dad with bigger arms. This guy had certainly done over thousands of flattops, high and tights and induction cuts in his career. Probably hadn’t cut hair as long as mine in a decade. I was about to state my name and introduce myself, when my tongue got caught in my throat and I just kind of gulped. Luckily the Cpt. Was there.
"Morning Ted, I’ve brought our brightest Cadet to you this morning to get him up to code. He’s going to take his first Solo flight today but we can’t have him looking like this in his airman photos. The Colonel personally sent him for a Flattop February Special, extra Flat." Said Cpt. Buckingham standing at attention next to me. I quickly stood stiffly to attention, chest up, head up, feet shoulders width apart, eyes forward.
Ted raised one eyebrow "Airman photos huh? Well good thing the Colonel caught him before he disgraced us looking like Justin Bieber on a military id. I’ll have him up to the Colonel’s standards in no time flat." He laughed at his own joke. "We got to give you a haircut to match the rest of your uniform, now get your ass in the chair cadet." Ted yelled that last part, and I was beginning to feel like a real recruit. I gave him another "Sir, Yes Sir." and got my ass in the chair. Ted wrapped a white paper strip around my neck tightly below the nape and then with a big flourish draped a heavy air force blue barbers cape around the chair. I looked like a floating head. Without the airman suit showing, I didn’t look like I belonged here at all.
"Don’t worry Cadet, the Colonel’s not gonna have any complaints after I’m done with you. You’re getting the special just as requested." Ted said as he oiled up a pair of balding clippers. My fate was sealed.
I don’t know if Cpt. Buck already knew what was going to happen, didn’t care or was just interested in the model plane magazine in the waiting room because he barely looked up at my transformation. I guess on the airbase you see a lot of haircuts, especially this month. But for me, for once I wasn’t interested in model planes. I was becoming a Pilot with a capital P.
And with that the haircut began, and Ted wasn’t starting off subtle. I was facing the mirror watching the transformation step by step. He started combing it out and untangling it. He was pretty rough, pulling out a few hairs. Then again, he didn’t get much practice doing it. He puts the comb away in a bottle of blue liquid and picks up the freshly oiled balding clippers.
"Cadet keep your head still during this haircut or I’ll scalp ya. If I want your head to move, I’ll move it." And with that he plants one of his big hands right on my face to keep it still. Palming my temples like a basketball. I couldn’t see anything with his hand in my eyes and his body blocking the mirror. I did however feel the clippers touch down on the middle of my head about two inches back from my hairline and Ted run them in one smooth pass right down the back. My fair skinned face turned as red as a tomato. Six-inch-long pieces of blonde hair fell to the floor and all over the cape. I suddenly felt the air conditioner on my bare scalp and I shivered at the cold air. Luckily Ted didn’t scold me for moving and just chuckled at my reaction. He then left me with the bald spot on top and moved around to the sides. This was now well out of my control. Very slowly he pushed the clippers right above my sideburns over my ears and made a bald ring around my head marking how high the sides would be shaved. So there I was just a floating head with a shaved strip down the middle and a shaved ring around the ears. The contrast between the scalp that the balding clippers paved and the still seven-inch-long bangs was quite comical. Or at least the Cpt. thought so looking up for a chuckle.
Luckily it didn’t stay that way for long because once Ted had the ring shaved, he wasted no time in getting rid of everything below it. Running the balding clippers swiftly up the sides, decimating any hair left. I could definitely feel the breeze now. Looking at myself was so bizarre, I had never had my hair this short in my life. I had seen it every day on base but never on myself. There really was no hair on my sides, and with my blonde hair you couldn’t even see a shadow of stubble. So now I knew I was getting a horseshoe, that was the shape of the hair left on my head. Definitely a Colonel Special. Ted then grabs another pair of clippers and puts a guard over it. He then runs that all over the top of my head mowing everything down to an inch. I smiled a toothy grin in the mirror. I really looked like I belong on base now. My inch-tall horseshoe beaming from my reflection. But we weren’t close to inspection ready yet. Ted returns with a comb and a small set of clippers and very slowly moves across my head blending the hairs into the bald strip down the middle. He flattens out everything until they’re all perfectly flat and only three quarters of an inch tall at the front. This part took the longest, about 10 minutes of him making the smallest snips I’d ever seen. I didn’t move my head a millimeter, lest I get scalped. Ted stood up straight, wiped his brow. Put away the clippers and then grabbed my head with both his hands, jerking it this way and that, making sure from all angels the landing strip was flat enough to land a plane on. He must’ve been pleased because he said "Now you’re a cadet your country can be proud of!’ and then surprised me by covering my whole face with a hot towel almost suffocating me.
He left it there for a few minutes and I could feel the pores on the sides and top of my head open up. The ones on my chin too. The barber then unwrapped the towel and set it in the sink. He goes to the hot lather machine and puts a good amount in a bowl. He then grabs a wood handled lather brush and lathers up my face, the sides and back of my head, and then very carefully I feel him put a stripe of lather right on the top my head, like two inches from the hairline. He then takes a straight razor and very carefully starts peeling away the lather. I can feel that very last bit of stubble being cut off. He shaves very carefully around my jawline and then makes quick work of my mustache. He moves along the sides, working his around from right to left. And finally he leans in real close and says "Don’t move or you’ll bleed" and in three long steady strokes, that I can feel on my skull, shaves the horseshoe clean. He takes a towel and wipes off the lather and then he puts on another coating of lather just around the sides and on the top strip. This time he goes from left to right, shaving in the opposite direction, so he really gets the closest shave possible. Another warning, and the landing strip is shaved clean.
He then grabs a cold wash cloth and wipes the lather from sides and from my face. And I can feel the cold wash cloth making the pores close right back up. I can’t help but thinking that the Colonel gets his haircut like this every week. I could get used to that. I tense up as I feel a stinging tingling sensation on my scalp as Ted rubs a witch hazel after shave over the freshly denuded skin. He says it helps moisturize, balance skin tone and smooths pores. He then opens up a small tin that reads "Cru Butch Wax" on it. He rubs some of it onto his finger tips and then rubs that into the short fringe I have left. He then takes this round brush that fits in the palm of his hand and runs it over my head making all of the hairs stand to attention. The wax kind of darkened my blonde hair a little bit at the bases, they looked more like plastic than hair. They didn’t move at all, just like Colonel’s didn’t. And finally, Ted washed his hands free of the wax but then brought out one last bottle. He pours a little bit of baby oil into his palm and then rubs it on my landing strip and sides. He washes his hands again and grabs a thin red towel in both hands. He then rubs it quickly all over the bald parts to buff it until shiny. He put down the towel and crossed his arms staring at his masterpiece.
"There you have it, a Colonel’s Flattop February Special, Extra Flat. With that landing strip, you are cleared for take-off haha. You’re putting some of these commissioned officers to shame now kid. And you look like a right stud! That’s really a good look for you. I’ll see you in here every week till February is over at least, you hear boy."
"Sir, Yes Sir." I said as Ted undid the cape and pulled off the paper strip, revealing a fully fledged airman, complete with his own landing strip. I leaned into the mirror and couldn’t help but grin. I couldn’t stop feeling the shaved sides and patting my landing strip. The way the light glinted off of my shiny scalp and contrasted with the perfectly flat fringe. It was a lot more intense than I had expected, only the colonel and a few other officers had hair this intense. But I was Top Gun so why not have a little swagger. I was one cool airman, and I could already feel a difference in the way I carried myself. It commanded attention, I see why the Colonel liked it. Plus since we were both short, people would get blinded now just by looking down at us. Serves em right.
"You thought you were Maverick but turns out with that blonde hair and flattop, you look like a little badass Iceman instead." Said Cpt. Buck with a smile. "Flattop February is in full affect. You look ready for inspection there cadet! Now let’s go find the Colonel, Ice."
I chuckled loudly, and followed behind him with a spring in my combat boots. He was right even though my name was Pete Mitchel, I looked a lot more like Tom Kazanksy, the infamous Iceman. Stone cold jawline, blonde hair, flattop, and now I was kind of feeling his confidence and swagger too. I was top dog and Top Gun.
"Cadet Mitchell, ready for inspection, Sir." I said standing straight as I was taught. Everything perfectly in shape. My hair not moving a breath. The Colonel looking me up and down, hiding his smile behind his drill sergeant gaze. "That’s one mighty fine haircut you got there Space Cadet. Our Forefathers would be proud! Now you know you got to keep it until February is over in solidarity with other airman right. And who knows maybe if you have enough swagger, it won’t grow back. I now Clear you to soar the fair skies." He chuckled again. "Cadet, you’ve done a lot of hard work in the last six months, and we know you’ll do great today. You’re almost up to code but you’re missing one thing."
I had no idea what he was talking about, I had the boots, the flight suit, the muscles, and now I had a flattop to rival marines around the world. What could I possibly be missing? He reached up to his collar and pulled off his Aviators and handed them to me. I smiled and accepted the gift graciously. I put them on and my transformation into Iceman was complete. I got my airman I.D and I looked like a completely different person in it. A high flying, smooth talking, gun flexing, showboating trick aerialist, that’s who. My solo flight went smooth as could be and it was honestly amazing. A dream come true. To be up in the clouds all by myself, nothing around me but birds, this was true freedom. The guys congratulated me on my solo fly and on my haircut. Saying I was a true top gun Fan now. With it came a slew of new Nicknames; Iceman, Val Kilmer, and Colonel Jr. were most popular. Since we were the same height and now had identical horseshoes, I was commonly mistaken for the colonel’s grandson or nephew. Which wasn’t a bad thing, Colonel Brian was The Man! Later that day I got him with his own shoe tie trick, the light reflecting off of my shiny head right into his eye. He cried in surprise and then uncharacteristically gave me a noogie and calling me an upstart. I knew he loved having a protégé. I went back to Ted every week to get trimmed, shaved and buffed. And I always passed inspection. I even got my own Hanscom Base Flight suit to wear regularly, and really match the guys. My parents were surprised by how short it was, but they were smart and figured it was only a matter of time till the base guys influenced my hair. And the Colonel ended up being right my old hair didn’t grow back, I loved the flattop. I went back to ted every two weeks for the next year or so. After February I grew it out into a real Iceman flattop a few inches long, one week I got frosted tips. I looked so hot with my frosted tipped flattop, Shirtless playing beach volleyball. Building up a tan on my fair skin to really look like I was related to the Colonel. And with that new confidence I couldn’t keep the ladies or guys off me. Though the Colonel didn’t like the frosted tips and I was sentenced to a horse-shoe again for a few months. Orders are orders. I was Iceman for Halloween of course. But next February it was back to the intense horseshoe in solidarity with the Colonel. Cpt Buck, even was sporting the horseshoe more and Lieutenant Shift had kept his boxy flattop too year round. Ltn. Shift was too cool to care, but he gave me a thumbs up every time I had a new look. Which was whoops and hollers in his book. After high school I enlisted as an officer and attended the air force academy in Colorado, with some really nice recommendations. And I’ve been a Flat-topped, swaggering Pilot ever since. I'm the Flat-Top-Gun!