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Father takes control by Snipped Sam
A fresh start in a new town, that’s what my new stepfather promised when he married my mother and we moved shortly after to another part of the country. I had always got on well with him, he was twenty years older than my father would have been. In the three years I had known him he had gone from Mr Wilton, to Uncle Ernest to now Father as we agreed I would call him. He was generous and my new bedroom was nicely decorated and furnished with my input included which I appreciated.
With Father being sixty-four this meant that he was exactly fifty years older than myself being born in 1920 and his perception of the 1970s was one he viewed with reservation. Having been my stepfather just a couple of weeks or so he made it clear that he would be seeking to guide me on the right path of life. He added that a male role model had not been in my life for many years with my own father having died when I was so young.
One morning during breakfast the subject of my hair came up, which was at the time a neat 1970s boy’s style, over my ears and just touching my collar with a middle parting. Father told me that not only would he like to choose my barber now that we had moved somewhere new, he would like a say in how my hair was cut. He said I would be starting at my new school in just under two weeks so it was an ideal time to make some changes. My friends had warned me that with him being older he would be likely to be strict and to expect changes. Nothing more was said on the subject that day and I just carried on as if nothing had happened.
The next day Father told me that we would be walking into the town that morning as we both needed the barbers and that he had spoken to one of the neighbours about a few possibilities. As we left the house, he produced a list and a small map, father was wearing a shirt and tie, with grey flannel trousers with his cream linen jacket along with his summer sandals with socks underneath. When I had mentioned to my mother about Father getting involved with decisions about my hair, she was supportive of Father. I was reminded that I lived in a house which Father was the head, and all matters concerning discipline would be Father’s responsibility.
We came to the first shop which seemed very modern, much more like the one I had gone to before we had moved, Father did not seem impressed. The second looked more traditional with two guys in their mid-thirties cutting hair, Father said it was better than the previous place but we would look at the last on the list. The last place was a very traditional barber’s, Father didn’t hesitate putting his hand on my shoulder and saying "in you go Tom". We went in and there was one barber sitting reading a newspaper.
He stood up immediately and after ascertaining that we were both having our haircut he ushered Father into his barber’s chair. I was told where to sit, it had been years since I had been in a shop like this and I think that had only been once. He made a great fuss of Father and they seemed to be getting on very well chatting away and clearly agreeing about most things. Father’s hair always looked short but it looked as if he was having it cut even shorter than usual, I noticed the large clock on the wall with its loud ticking, counting down to my turn. The barber looked over at me and said
"Soon be your turn"
I nodded nervously
"Don’t just nod your head Tom, if the barber speaks to you, answer him clearly please"
Father said in a firm but not angry tone, to which I spoke up and answered a yes to the barber, it was soon after that I was making my way to sit on the same barber’s chair. The well-worn leather pad of the seat felt warm from where father had sat, and the barber pumped the seat up to raise me higher. Soon I too was wearing the white cape which Father had covering him earlier, my hair was dampened with water and then combed. Father was standing by the chair, part of me was dreading what he was going to say to the barber and another part of me felt happy that I had a stepfather to spend time with.
"What would you like done with his hair today?"
"Tom starts at his new school in just under two weeks and I am taking him for an interview with his new headmaster on Thursday morning, so something short but not severe"
"Certainly Sir, a nice neat short haircut, should make a good impression on his new headmaster and gives him time to get used to it before he starts school"
"That sounds just the job but as I say not too severe"
The barber picked up a pair of long steel scissors
"These have only just been sharpened young Tom, the scissor sharpener came first thing this morning, so you need to sit nice and still as you don’t want to lose an ear, do you?"
I replied feeling very unsettled, especially as Father had not sat down.
"Speaking of ears, I’d like it done very short here"
Said Father as he pointed to just above my ears, so it was clear that he had a definite idea how he wanted my hair to be cut. I was used to going to have my haircut on my own and being asked what I would like done, my new barber had not even considered asking me. He was very smart with his light blue barber’s tunic; he was tall and slim probably early fifties. His ginger hair was thinning on top but his hair was cut very short and I noticed that his arms had a lot of freckles.
"We know what we have to do, don’t we Tom?"
"I know what I have to do and you have to be a good lad and keep your head still and do as I ask, so we keep the boss happy"
He lifted my hair and did the first snip, Father went and sat down and picked up a newspaper,
"I take it Tom is short for Thomas"
"Yes, but I’m always called Tom"
"Same here, apart from my sister who has always called me Tommy"
"But don’t you call me Tom, it’s Mr Newman to you"
"Yes Mr Newman"
Was my reply remembering how I’d always been on familiar terms with the guys who had cut my hair before and never called them Mr. I noticed he was cutting large pieces of hair off, about two inches or more, but I supposed there was no use worrying, it was coming off anyway. Father looked up from his newspaper and enquired as to how I was doing or his words were how is he doing? which was in the sense cooperating.
"Oh, Toms doing pretty well, he’s opened his eyes a bit wide a few times when he’s seen a big piece of his hair drop, but he’s putting on a brave face"
"Well next time it won’t be those big pieces of hair coming off"
"You didn’t think to cut his hair shorter before Sir?"
"I am actually Tom’s new stepfather, just a short time but rather than rock the boat before the wedding I’ve waited to tackle his hair"
"No resistance in other quarters"
"Your wife Sir"
"Fortunately, no, we are both of the opinion that discipline which we include the length of a boy’s hair is a father’s job"
"I totally agree Sir"
"But don’t get me wrong I am not planning to be the wicked stepfather just some basic rules for Tom to follow which includes his appearance and behaviour"
"That’s totally understandable Sir"
Whilst this conversation was taking place my hair had been sprayed with water and the barber was using a flat razor to thin my hair. It tugged a bit but ensured my once thick fair hair was now much thinner and shorter.
"I have put his hair in a side parting now, I would recommend that it stays like that, a combed forward or parted in the middle is not a good idea"
"I much prefer the side parting so I shall insist on it"
"A dab of something will help as well to keep it smart"
"I will bear that in mind"
He had now put the razor down and given me a little brush down
"I just have to do the finishing touches to Tom’s hair now, I was thinking a neat taper at the back slightly above his hairline, shaped above his ears and I was going to shape some neat little sideboards"
"Sounds good…but the emphasis on neat and little for the sideboards…nothing fancy"
"Very good Sir, of course I am happy to zzzz the sides and back for a very traditional short back and sides"
"Not on this occasion, but it’s reassuring to know that’s a possibility, which I will no doubt take you up on in due course"
Mr Newman selected clippers and a different comb and said he was just going to bend my head down, as he moved my head into position. I felt him lift my hair at the back with the comb and run the clippers over it, after this was completed, he tilted my head and shaped above my ears. He then took a small battery-operated clipper which had a very loud hum and trimmed my sideboards right down. After a brush down he told me to sit up straight and eyes front ready for inspection, true it was said in a light hearted way, but it was a clear instruction, as Father stood up to look at my haircut.
"Very good indeed, first rate I have to say"
"Thank you very much Sir, anything on his hair?"
"Perhaps a little of that Brylcreem I see on the shelf there"
After the application of the Brylcreem by Mr Newman, I was released from the chair without being shown my hair at the back with the mirror. Father continued to take me regularly to Mr Newman and it was a Saturday morning on a cold November day, I had once again followed Father to the barber’s chair. I sat there all prepared with Mr Newman combing my hair, I thought it was a little unusual that Mr Newman didn’t ask Father what was to be done before starting cutting my hair. After a few minutes of snipping and a quick brush down, Mr Newman selected a pair of clippers that he didn’t usually use on my hair. With his hand on the back of my head he soon had it pushed down into position and with the clippers switched on and humming loudly they began to journey up the back of my head. This was the zzzz he had referred to before, but why now? Clearly, he and Father had agreed this would be done in advance. I could actually feel the hair falling away as the now warm blade feasted on my hair, once the back had been done next came above my ears.
"What do you think Sir?"
"You were right, it really suits him"
"The time had come Sir"
As Mr Newman stripped away my hair, I was so angry that Father had agreed to this and I felt certain that this would not be a one off.