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Country Barber by Shorterthebetter


Country Barber

I was 14 in the early 70's and in an effort to attract the attentions of a girl I decided to get my dark floppy 4 inch long hair cropped as I knew she liked the 'skinhead ' look and music. It was the first week of the school summer holidays and I was visiting my uncle for a few days in a small country village about 30 miles outside the Scottish city where I lived. I had mentioned to my mother before I left that I would be getting a haircut when I was there and she had raised her eyebrows as she doubted the local barber would be able to give me my usual 'cut and blow dry'.

I arrived on the Saturday and decided to get it done straight away my uncle telling me that it was 'about time that mop was tamed' . My heart was beating fast as I approached the shop on the main street and then it sank as the door was locked and a hand written note was pinned to the front reading " Family wedding closed today, open again Tuesday 9am" As I read the note a man approached the shop, his hair cut in a severe short back and sides the top shining in the sunlight due to a generous ammount of brylcreme , he spoke quickly.
" I was the same , didn't know Thomas was closing early today but if you're quick old Stan is still open he's in the back room of his daughter's shop" I looked at him and asked " Sorry I'm not from here where is this other barbers? I thought this was the only one" The man looked me up and down then said.
"Well it's on station road , you know where that is ? " I nodded my understanding, " It's a shop called 'Cut and Set' a ladies hairdresser, but when you go in, go through the door on the left and down the hall old Stan's holding court in the end room. But I'll tell you he won't do any fancy style, if that's what your after you better wait till Tuesday. I only wanted a light trim and he gave me this " and he pointed to his freshly shorn scalp. I gave a slightly nervous laugh and ran my fingers through my hair and answered " thanks , I'm wanting it cut short anyway"black

I quickly made my way towards the shop , the signage gave no hint of any barber services and as I approached two elderly ladies were leaving each with tightly curled hair which looked like it had been glued to their scalps, I gingerly opened the door to the shop then turned left and followed the sound of male voices coming from a room at the end of the hallway. I took a deep breath and entered the room, the barber wore a grey nylon tunic and was snipping the hair of an elderly gentleman while carrying out a four-way conversation about the weather with another two men who were sitting on a wooden bench , the barber acknowledged my presence with a nod via the mirror and said "Take a seat , I won't be long here"

The two men shuffled along the bench to make room for me and their conversation carried on as if I wasn't there, the barber who looked to me to be very old , spoke in a loud voice as he continued to snip away at his customers hair. I looked to the corner where a great pile of hair clippings had been swept , it was obvious the barber had been busy and again my heartbeat increased as I knew my locks would soon be joining them.
After going round his customers head with his clippers the barber held a wooden framed mirror to show him the back which had been shaved clean a good inch above his collar, the man nodded his approval , got brushed down and rose from the chair taking a handful of coins from his pocket to pay the barber. As the man exchanged goodbyes to the two men to my left the barber fixed his eyes on me stating " Right young un, let's be having you" I looked to the two men on the bench who waved a hand in my direction indicating their approval that I was to go ahead. I swallowed hard and took the few steps to the waiting barbers chair.

I was barely seated as the dark red nylon cape was draped over me with a flourish and secured tightly at my neck, the barber took a comb from a jar of pale blue liquid sitting on a wooden shelf below the wall mirror and ran it through my hair stating " looks like it's been a while, a good tidy up is it ? " and he took a pair of long pointed scissors from the breast pocket of his tunic.
I gave a little cough, my heart was thumping , I took a deep breath , thought of the girl I was trying to impress and said.
" E'hm , can you do e'hm , can I get a Skinhead please? " a huge sense of relief came over me and I swallowed hard , I had done it ! I had just instructed a barber to basically remove all the hair from my head. The old man stopped combing my hair and fixed eye contact with me through the mirror , he gathered a clump of my four inch locks in his left hand and stated
"Skinhead? You mean like a crewcut?"
I wasn't expecting this and started to panic as I replied "E'm I'm not sure ... I mean I don't know what that is, you know if that's what I want"
The barber let out an exasperated sigh, he moved his hands through my hair and his loud voice boomed, " A crewcut? Well I clipper you short on the back and sides and take the top down until it stands up straight , you'll be losing most of this mop, is that what you want ? "

I knew it wasn't a proper skinhead but I was just about to give him the go ahead and was plucking up the courage to tell him to make it quite short but before I could answer one of the waiting men piped up "Stan , what the laddie wants is what you gave my grandson Billy last week, I thought he'd been in the jail but he told me he'd just got a skinner here"
Stan Stopped combing my hair and called out " Grace ! " a moment later a woman in her forties appeared in the doorway from the ladies shop next door , he fixed eyes on her through the mirror " When I was away last week did you give young Billy Smith a haircut ? "
Grace looked at the man on the bench " I did , why ? What's wrong with it? "
The man laughed " Nothing Gracie ! What could go wrong with it ? It's not as if he could mess it up now is it? It's just that this laddie wants the same ! And your Dad's not sure what to give him"
Grace walked up behind me and ruffled my hair "Tell her what you want" instructed the barber.
I could feel my face reddening as I stammered "E'm I was wanting a skin..., a skinhead please"
The woman gave a little laugh " Just give him a baldy Dad, Billy's hair is straight but with the curls in his hair it'll need to be right down to the wood ! Give me five minutes and I'll do it if you want"

Now Stan the barber gave a chuckle " so now it's the old ones who want me to leave as much on as possible and the youngsters who want to lose it all , but if that's what he wants then I'm not going to argue. One "Skinned head" coming up , right son headown ,chin to your chest" and he unhooked a giant set of black clippers.
As Grace made her way back to the ladies side she looked back and said " Dad it's called a 'skinhead' all one word not a ' skinned head '
Stan have a little grunt as he firmly pushed my head down and as he switched the clippers on producing a 'whirring ' noise rather than the 'buzz' I was expecting he declared " Right son , skinned, right down to the wood, ok? " I was now plucking up the courage to say that the crewcut sounded ok as ' down to the wood' was giving me palpitations , but no words would come out and I nodded my acceptance as I felt the machine touch my neck.

The whirring noise changed to a rasp as the teeth connected with my hair , I was staring at my knees as Stan held my head firmly down and I felt the warm air from the motor of the clippers on my neck , I raised my eyes to the mirror and saw the machine for a moment just above my head , I noticed that I could see the metal blades at the head of the machine then again it vibrated on my neck. Time and time again I felt the motor against my scalp the noise changing from the rasping as it sheared off the long hair back to the whirring as I imagined it gliding over the bristles it had created. At last Stan released his grip on my head and I straightened up to look in the mirror , there was no change to my reflection but I glanced down to my left and saw a great clump of hair identical to the top of my head lying on the barbers floor.

My attention was drawn to the two waiting men one of whom said " You're getting your money's worth there son ! " I gave a little smile as Stan reached over and aimed the clippers at the middle of my forehead. WHIRRR, RAAAASSSP. The machine was pushed from my forehead to my crown, I raised my eyebrows to try and watch it's path, a smile spread across my face , I was doing it ! I was getting a skinhead! As he lifted the machine from my head my gaze switched to the mirror and the smile was swept from my face , looking back at me was two great clumps of wavy hair flopping down towards each ear , but in the middle there was nothing, nothing ! No seriously short, cropped bristles of hair which I had fantasied that the girl of my dreams would caress, what I had was scalp, skin ! This barber and his machine wasn't cutting my hair it was shaving it ! I watched aghast as he positioned it to the left of centre , WHOOSH, front to back in less than 3 seconds and a great wave of four inch long locks were harvested , bouncing off my shoulder, and landing on the linoleum floor , what was left behind was a map of the follicles from where they had sprouted.

As Stan continued to scalp the top of my head I now resembled a clown , bushy sides below a bald top. I fought back a tear as the carnage continued Stan now attacking the right side of my head , up in front of my ear straight up my temple until it met the bald top, another three inch wide bald strip left in their wake. Panic now began to run through my brain, nobody my age had a shaved head, would it even grow into a Skinhead by the end of the holidays ? What would my mum say ? My chances with the girl would be less than zero, what had I done ? The only hair now remaining was on the left side of my head ,but not for long ,Stan glanced at what was left then gave a little grin as he sheared off the last segments of my once flowing locks and I saw them tumble to the floor.

Stan stood behind me and rubbed his palm over my essently bald skull then , I thought needlessly ran the clippers once more all over my scalp, finally he switched off the clippers and hung them up , he placed his hands on my shoulders and with a smirk declared "one 'SKINNED HEAD' short enough for you son?" I could feel my face reddening as I forced a smile and answered " Yes , it's eh'm fine, eh good thanks" . He loosened the cape slightly then said " I 'll just tidy up your neck and then you're done" He took a can of shaving foam from the shelf and squirted a blog into his hand then with his right thumb smeared the white foam across my neck, behind each ear and the mearest smear in front of each ear , as he wiped his hands on a towel he directed " relax and keep still you're probably not a regular shaver are you ? " I heard the stifled laughter from the bench as I mumbled " No, not really"
He bent my head slightly forward and I heard and felt a slight rasping as he shaved my neckline with an open razor, he then bent each ear forward and deftly cleaned a straight line up to the top of each ear, then he straightened my head , smeared the foam in front of my ears up into my hairline then shaved a clean straight line level with the very tip of my ear.A quick rub with the towel and he then removed the cape and held a mirror behind me.

What I saw was a dark shadow covering the back of my head stopping in a straight line a good inch above my collar, below was a broad strip of white skin before my tanned neck. I reached up and touched my scalp it felt like fine emery paper, with two broad white lines at each ear above my tanned jawline.
Stan declared " There we go , Happy ? " I couldn't describe how I felt at this time but it certainly wasn't 'Happy' as I gathered my thoughts to reply Grace came back in saying " Dad can I borrow your... OH MY GOD ! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? I mean, you've totally shaved him ! " Her outburst brought home to me what I already knew, anyone looking at me would describe my hair as shaved, not cut short, not a crew cut not even a Skinhead it was brutal and I could do nothing about it. She stood behind me and gently touched my scalp "You didn't use those did you?" And she pointed to the black clippers . Stan pulled his shoulders back " Listen the laddie wanted his head skinned, you said it yourself ' to the wood ' and those clippers are the closest you can get, anything shorter would need the razor and he's too young for that, now I know it might seem a wee bit drastic but it's what the laddie wanted, isn't son? "

I nodded my approval and started to get out of the chair, and looked down at the mountain of dark wavy locks, my locks, littering the floor around the chair , I thought - ten minutes ago that was part of me - I ran my hand across the rough surface of my scalp turned and faced them both " I came in for a Skinhead and well , I don't think anyone would think that I didn't get what I asked for"
Stan started to brush up my shorn locks, Grace shrugged and made her way back to the ladies side, Billy's grandad stated " Stan certainly got you there son" I paid and left.

Walking back to my Uncle 's I stopped and looked in every shop window I passed constantly rubbing my scalp, I stopped and bought some chocolate the shopkeeper eying me suspiciously then, as he gave me my change he pointed at my head "What happened ? What did you ask for? " I decided that attack was the best form of defence , I stroked my scalp " I wanted this, you should try it go to Stan's and ask for a 'SKINNED head"stopping

The reaction from my uncle was initially shock then laughter, he then offered to show me how to shave it clean, which I declined, he did think the razor shaved sides were over the top. When I returned home a week later my Mother went ballistic , I shrugged it off and She calmed down after I promised not to get it ' that short' again. I took some ribbing from my mates and one of them who up to that point had the "shortest proper skinhead" you could get went to the barbers and had his closely clippered which just about made it as short as mine then was,but not what it had been. As for the girl , She was on holiday when I got back so I had three weeks growth when I asked her out and She accepted , we stayed together for about 3 months during which time I got a ' normal skinhead' every three weeks, much to her delight and my Mother 's disgust !









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