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Talc cigarrettes and a wooden boost! by Carl
There were three things i thought about haircuts when i was a boy.
Firstly. The control. Not having a father and being brought up by mum and my aunt meant there was no controlling male in my young life. I was born to a 37 year old working class mum and often spoilt and haircuts meant that a male barber (often elderly in them days) had my fate in his hands. I hated the thought of it.
Secondly. As i grew to the age of 12 i like many youngsters had a self defined image of myself. My hair in 1978 was part of that. I hid behind my fringe, chewed on my side locks and felt warm as my hair fell down by nape and waved on my shoulders. To change this was a step too far and although it was always evident my mother thought it tidier to have shorter hair mine was staying on my head and not sitting on a grainy barbers floor.
Thirdly and finally the humiliation. A strong word for a twelve year but my brief experiences of barbers had brought me both the humiliation of before being taken to the shop an the humiliation of afterwards and even though at this point id never experienced being shorn friends still enjoyed taunting the new cuts. As stated i had never really been given a proper cut due to my protestations which were so horrible my mother avoided them and so a couple of tidy ups and trims had to suffice. Until!
It was September 1978 and school holidays were over. I was about to enter big school or as it was known secondary. A new uniform was purchased, coat and shoes and games kit. All ready for the coming world and one where i was not looking forward to. It was a week away and i lay on my bed thinking. it was cold and drizzly and i pondered knocking on for friends and playing footy on the fields. Savouring the last days of no school but realizing the horrid weather. Just after nine i heard the key go downstairs followed by the voice of mum and my aunt chatting in the hallway. my aunt was on her way out of the house to do some shopping but mum who worked part time was home early. i heard goodbyes but thought nothing of it as pans rattle in the kitchen and i can only assume tea was made. Mum was a smoker not a heavy one but she liked a cup of tea and a cigarette as the smell of the tobacco drifted through the house. i hate smoking to this day.
I heard the steps on the stairs and soon my mum stood in my bedroom doorway ready with my coat under her arm. Get dressed and put your coat on she said in a matter of fact manner. You are going the barber to get your hair cut! i protested loudly but to no avail. My coat was forced on and i was taken by the arm out into the street and into the drizzle. She gripped my hand tightly and i was marched up the street towards the bus stop. past a bewildered looking girl wondering what i was moaning to my mum about. To add insult to my injury the bus was at the terminal, the driver paid and sat down with mums grip never loosening.
The bus was the 44D and in our part of town its route had three barbershops on. The first was Quarry Green. Its reputation was not good amongst us boys and i had never been. It was frequented by men who liked a smoke, read the paper and a bookies close by. Occasionally a mum or dad would take their lad and an unfashionable look was often the result. The barbers names were Pat and Tommy both in their sixties and Pat often stood by the door smoking watching the world pass in quiet shop days The second barbers three bus stops later was at Park Brow and only Sonny the barber worked here. Sonny was also about sixty and i had once or twice been to this shop and had my mums stock tidy up haircut so as to save the tearful shouts and embarrassment for mum. Finally there was Broad lane. This was one of the early unisex salons. it was staffed by women and one man and was a bit ill at ease in our town. You got a feather cut here and some men got hair washed. i didnt want any of them!
i was nasty verbally to mum on the way to my haircut and in later life since mum has passed i regret the way i could be sometimes. Spoilt and never wanted for anything the woman worked two menial jobs to give me what i wanted even in our poor northern English town. Despite mums grip on my coat was tight and i would soon be on a barbers chair. We didnt make it to the second or third shops. Mum must have seen the light in Quarry greens windows and decided the sooner its done the better and quickly led me by the arm off the bus again into the rain 30yards from the door. The shop had mesh on its windows so although you could see the light you could not see inside or who was inside. We walked across the road towards it or rather i was pulled by my coatsleeve towards my shearing.
Maggie a voice called yards from the door. Mum and me turned to find Anne Bosworth a small forty year old woman from our road. Anne was a busybody with three kids of her own but mum liked her. They chatted. Mum holding my arm tight slightly agitated but as i said liked Anne. Where you off Maggie? taking him for a haircut. oh said Anne and continued. Im off the post office and the chemist. Shall i find you when im done and we could walk down together. Yes thats ok Anne ive no idea how long we will be in there but yes why not! Ok said Anne see you you soon and the ruffled my head. For luck eh Maggie and walked away to do her messages.
My luck had ran out the shop door was open and i was pushed in My coat being taken off for good measure. We were there.
The shop was bare. Cuttings of a previous customers hair on the black an white lino floor showed there had been a previous person in here. The two elderly barbers sat in their chairs and i was quickly pushed down by my mum in to one of the waiting chairs at the side. There were five waiting chairs and two large old leather chairs where the victims were barbered. The walls were laced with a few pictures of mens haircuts and a price list stipulating that a boys haircut was 70p and also
no children on Wednesdays or Saturdays. It was a Friday bad luck again.. The two barbers barely glanced up as i wailed to mum about firstly hating her and secondly about not wanting my hair cutting. it smelled of smoke and talc and suddenly putting his cigarette out stood and placed piece of wood between the arms of the chair. He spoke to mum but not me instructing her to sit him on here love. Mum gladly obeyed and i was pushed over and up on the chair. Blinking as i looked small directly into a large mirror with a Roger Hunt sticker in the corner as mum stepped back and Pat the smoking barber quickly bound me with a large white cape so that all i could see was my hands knees down and the intended head. I looked at my reflection and mum waiting now sitting job done.
Suddenly i felt a hand push my head sharply and a comb pull its way through my long sraggley locks. Preparation for Pats scissors laying next to the clippers on the ledge below the mirror. The hand tightened. Whats he having love? the barber stated not to me but my mother who responded not with the only haircut id ever had tidy up but with the response boyscut please! Thats a short back and sides then love. Do you want it tight at the back and sides and the fringe. Mums response was born out of years of frustration and clear at what was happening. As short as you can back and sides but i want the fringe taken short as well. There was no change in her looking at me but she fidgetted with her purse in the her bag as she watched. Ok love and he reached for the clippers and took the guard off although my face was red with tears i finally succumbed to my first shearing.
I had never had clippers before and the barbers sudden tight grip coupled with the jolt of electricity to the shears startled me. My head was forced into a forward position with my chin into my chest and i glimpsed my mother as for my first time the clippers readied to take my locks. The passes on the back started quickly taking the locks and throwing them down onto me and a growing pile on the floor. The buzzing persisted and the barbers hand tightened whenever i attempted to look at the scene. i couldn't see it but the cold air replaced the hair and a feeling of loss permeated in the shop. for five minutes i sat as my the back of my head was reduced to stubble and yet i couldn't remotely imagine the damage. He stopped and i was able to look and thought has nothings happened despite a growing mass of my hair on the floor. My mum sat and watched sort of sadly but content with the finality of it. The noise started again and this time it was plain as my cherished side locks fell to the clippers and the blades sheared the sides and for the first time ever i saw my full ears without my hair pushed behind them. Funny thing is with the ever balding of my head i aw its shape and i didnt like it.
The shearing stopped and the barber Pat put the clippers down and combed top of the remaining hair forward with my fringe covering my eyes by a good inch. His hand gripped my chin and speaking to my mother again Fringe as well love. Yes short answered mum before the grip colluded with his scissors cutting a straight line an inch above my brows and locks falling down into my eyes and onto the mass of hair on the floor. Still not satisfied the top was reduced to one inch away from my skull. Suddenly a waft of air broke into the shop and the rain outside quickly tried to enter. To no avail it was Ann. Shopping put on the floor she sat in the waiting chair next to mum. Thought id missed you she utter to mum who said yes shouldn't be too long now was mums response as to my horror the clippers started again and the grip again tightened. This time i was made bare tight to the skin around the ears and again at the back. When he was satisfied a small brush brushed the hair from my shoulders and a cut throat razor used to define my new look. The razor scared me but i was not given a choice in the matter. Fifteen to twenty minutes im in his chair when after putting a hand mirror behind my back and talc placed and rubbed into my head the smok is removed and hair is shook out to join its mass already on the floor. i climb down defeated determined not to look as mum pays him and says thanks for that its a lot better. He has never spoken to me throughout but no problem see you soon love suggests another visit. i try not to look as we step out into the rain but the cold reminds me that im nearly bare and annes refrain to mother that its a lot better maggie doesnt look like a girl now does not help.
The door shuts and we walk home. if you ever had a short back and sides as a kid it was not a good luck it resembled a box that was trying to depart from your head and hair was escaping to the clouds. It was bare and cold except for your crown which did not feel glorious. My day was done goodbye Mum.