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No room for negotiation by Snipped Sam
My interest in barbers’ shops and anything to do with male haircuts had really taken off, I was now all the more curious and thrilled by having my haircut. I lived in a town where there were eight barber’s shops and I had previously visited the other seven, it just left Vic’s Barbers. It was a damp and misty afternoon in late October when I joined three older gentlemen and a boy about a couple of years younger than me in a queue for the lone barber. He was a jolly chap and greeted me with a friendly and warm hello when I went in. After about forty minutes the queue had gone down and it was just the boy and me waiting and no one else had come in. An older woman then entered the shop to enquire about having her grandson’s hair cut there tomorrow.
"Early morning is a good time mam; I can get busy in the afternoon"
"I’ll see he gets here an early as possible, I hope cutting it short is not a problem"
"No mam, not at all, see the two lads waiting their turn, I shall be doing them both short"
The woman seemed happy with his response and left, he looked at me a winked, the long wait continued, part of me was feeling very anxious. I had taken into account that there would be a possibility of a short back and sides, not that my hair was that long for a fourteen-year-old in 1973. The time progressed and soon I would be next in the chair, whilst I seriously questioned if this had been a good idea, but maybe just too much time had been invested in waiting, for me to leave now. The boy came off the chair all clipped and neatly barbered, wiping his neck with the tissue
"Right young man, now it’s your turn"
I stood up and walked towards the barber’s chair feeling a bit apprehensive about what might be going to be done and also a little sick with excitement too. It was the new found excitement of having a new barber cut my hair which had begun a few months ago. The worn leather seat was warm from having been occupied all afternoon, the chair was so comfortable…something felt so right. The white nylon cape was fitted without delay even before the boy had paid for his haircut, a nice tight fit too. As the boy left having paid, he was running the comb through my hair
"First time here I think"
"Yes, I have been trying different places for the last few haircuts"
"Why is that young man? haven’t found a barber you like or perhaps you just haven’t found the right barber"
"I think perhaps its yes to both"
"So, you thought you’d see what I was like then"
"I hope you didn’t mind me telling that lady I was going to cut your hair short"
"I suppose I was a bit surprised"
"Yes, you did go a bit red…but she got the answer she was wanting and that’s what matters"
"I guess so"
"Young Robin always has his hair cut very short anyway"
I had actually found this barber listed in the Kelly’s Directory at the library as I was aware at that time not all barbers had a telephone at their premises and would be listed in yellow pages. He was probably the oldest of the eight barbers, but then probably mid-fifties at most. I had a vague idea where he was situated when I set off that afternoon for my haircut. Set in an area just outside the centre of town with a few streets of terraced houses, and here I was and the moment of truth. I had watched four gentlemen step from the chair with short haircuts and the boy had been clipped sides and back…had he already decided?
"I suppose you don’t often see hair cut that short anymore"
"No not so much, I don’t expect your last haircut was nearly as short as that or the one before that"
"That’s right, I usually go to have my haircut when it’s this length and it gets a good trim"
My hair was still just above touching my collar, not covering my ears, sideboards and when combed forward my hair was just over half an inch above my eyebrows.
"You’ve had a fair old wait for your haircut this afternoon, and I know it’s not much fun waiting so long"
"Oh, it wasn’t so bad"
He reached over and lifted some black Bakelite clippers from a hook, he moved around to stand behind me, as I looked in the mirror, I saw him placing his left hand on my head. Our eyes met in the mirror, and he gave me a kind smile, before the light pressure of his hand moved my head into the forward position. It all was done very smoothly, a flick of the switch and the clippers were not only purring, but journeying up the back of my head. His left hand rested lightly on my head still, as the clippers made their second ascent, I could feel my hair fall as they stripped away the hair. He hummed a little tune as he continued to clip away, adjusting my head as he went in order to clip above and around my ears. The clippers eventually went back on their hook but my head remained down whilst he brushed away all the loose hairs. He then selected some different clippers which had a duller sound and used them to edge close to my hairline at the back and around my ears, they felt less smooth than the previous clippers but they had a job to do.
"You can lift your head up now son"
I lifted up my head moving my head to the right to see the side of my head, those clippers he had used had cut my hair so short, the sides of my head looked practically bare and I knew that the back of my head would be just the same.
"Perhaps this is not going to be the haircut you thought you’d get"
"No, I didn’t think it would be this short, I can’t believe how quickly it just happened"
"As you had told me that you were trying different barbers, I thought I would give you something more than what was it you said…a good trim, so no point in standing on ceremony or prolonging the agony"
"Best way I think Sir"
He had taken scissors and began cutting the remaining hair on the top of my head, I remembered that the last time my hair was this short. We were having a summer holiday by the sea and it had been really hot, I was nine at the time and been a bit grumpy and difficult. I had been warned about not going swimming if I didn’t change my mood, but I didn’t heed advice. Instead of swimming I was taken to the barbers and an elderly barber gave me a severe clipper cut, after that I was not grumpy but very subdued. Sitting there with him snipping away at my hair with the scissors, it occurred to me that perhaps sometimes a really short haircut was good for me. Just like the clipper cut at nine had worked wonders perhaps at fourteen I was at an age when I needed the discipline of a very short haircut.
"Have you many more barbers to try?"
"No, I don’t think so, we have just eight barbers in the whole town, and I’ve been to all of them now"
"Gosh, I didn’t realise we had eight, so what will you do now, visit all eight again?"
"No, I think I’d like to go to the same barber"
"Makes sense Son"
He carried on snipping, then applied a dab of hair crème to my hair and combed it into place with a sharp parting. Next came the shaving of my neck and then a good dusting of powder having loosened the cape at the back a little.
"Would you like me to show you the back in the mirror or would you prefer not to see?"
"I would like to see it please"
He took hold of the mirror with both hands and showed me the back, moving it up so I could see the crown of my head, then down and to the left and then the right so I could see the sides.
"It does look smart Sir"
"You could always opt for me as your barber, we seem to get on pretty well, my haircuts are a reasonable price and best of all you get a good short haircut, that’s if you can get used to having your hair this short"
"So, the clipping would always be part of the haircut…no room for negotiation Sir"
"That’s right lad, no room for negotiation"
I was released from the chair and paid him for my haircut
"Hope to see you again young man"
"I think you just might Sir"