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Buzzcut Buds by James Mann
Author’s Note: The character of Adam in this story is inspired by musician Adam Oh (@adamohmusic on Instagram)
"My hair is getting pretty long," Adam said, running his hands through it. It was getting pretty overgrown—he usually kept it buzzed to a 3 or a 4 on the sides, and about 2 inches or so on top, but from what I could guess he hadn’t had a haircut in 2, maybe 3 months. He had recently had it bleached, too, and his brown roots were starting to show.
"Well," I began, "What do you suppose we do about that?" This was during the beginning of the whole COVID-19 lockdown, and the two of us were stuck in our dorm. "None of the barbershops are open and it’ll probably be a while before any of them are."
"Yeah," he sighed, "You’re right." Adam’s appearance wasn’t something that was super important to him, he was definitely more of a personality kind of guy, but he still liked to stay groomed. That’s when I got an idea.
"I could give you a haircut." I’d bought some clippers a while back to trim up my beard with. I think they were really meant for hair, but they did their job nonetheless. "I’m not sure how on-board you’ll be, but just hear me out completely before you say anything." Adam had a great head of hair, thick, and full, but the truth is I’ve always wanted to see him with a buzzcut. He just strikes me as one of those guys who could pull it off effortlessly. I posed this, and he seemed a little hesitant.
"I don’t know man, a buzzcut? I don’t think I’ve ever had my hair that short before."
"Oh, come on," I countered, "What’s the worst that could happen? It’ll be much easier to maintain than the bleached look you’re rocking right now." I’d given this conversation some forethought, but I’d never expected to actually have it. "Just think about it. No more waking up with bed head. No more spending hours on end combing every single hair into place, just to mess it all up and start from scratch. Less shampoo usage, quicker shower times..." I was grasping at straws now, but as he ran his hand through his hair, I saw my opportunity. "And no more touching up your roots. Would you really rather drop $60 every month, alongside all the other maintenance, or would you rather just get a one and done buzzcut? Quick, easy, simple, and right from the comfort of your own home?" He considered it, before turning to me with a playful smirk.
"I’m listening, but I’m still not fully convinced." I rolled my eyes, and he snickered. "Are you really sure a buzzcut’s right for me?"
"Well," I began. I’d already come this far, might as well give that final push. "If you don’t like it, it’s not like we’re going to be seeing anyone any time soon. That’ll give it time to grow back out." I was so close to seeing him with a buzzcut, all I needed now was to hear those words.
"I’m down." Success.
He followed me into the bathroom to find the perfect at-home barber setup, if I do say so myself. A folding chair, propped up in front of the mirror, a makeshift cape lying neatly folded on the seat, and various hair cutting tools arranged meticulously on the counter. Brushes, combs, clippers with guards 1-8, and some scissors (I didn’t really plan on using the scissors, but they added to the atmosphere).
"Wow, dude, you’ve put some serious thought into this."
"I’m only having some fun. Most of this is just for show, anyways, all I really need are the clippers." Taking a seat, Adam eyed the guards on the counter.
"How much hair are you planning on leaving me with?" He joked. "Did I just take the bait for a Dwayne Johnson-esque fishing hook?"
"Relax, dude." I knew he wasn’t really nervous, but I played into it. "You have the final say over what guard I use, don’t stress about it." He picked up the #8 guard, studying it closely.
"This is an inch, right? 8 meaning 8/8 of an inch?"
"Yup." I was impressed. "And a 7 is 7/8 of an inch, a 6 6/8, 5/8, so on and so forth. The lower the number, the shorter the hair."
"And the bare clippers..." he prompted.
"Is barely anything, at that point," I joked. He laughed at that.
"So," he started to say. "How do I know you’re not going to just botch this and get away Scott-free?" S**t. Was he seriously doubting this now? Was he going to back out? "I don’t know if I’m comfortable with this, knowing there’s nothing on the line for you."
"Well," I began. "What did you have in mind?" There was that smirk again.
"Your hair is getting long too." He pushed, eyeing my forelock. It was nothing crazy, just reaching past my eyebrows, but I was getting a little shaggy. I think I saw where he was going with this. "You really think I’d let my roomie walk out of here, all shaggy and unkempt, while walk out with a right buzz?" He was right. I did need a haircut. But then again... "Alright, how about this? Whatever guard I decide on, I get to give you a buzzcut with the one right below it." I’d always wanted to try a buzzcut, and now I had the perfect excuse. "So, if I get a 6, you get a 5. I get a 5, you get a 4. Simple." This wouldn’t be too bad. "And if I pick a 1..." he prodded.
"You give me a zero." Oh. Looks like he’s got an ulterior motive. "I mean, yeah, but if I go short, you do too." He held his hands up.
"Alright, alright, just checking." He snickered. "I hear you loud and clear, my friend." Turning to the counter once again, his gaze fell upon the guards. "So, what do you think I should pick?" If I was being completely honest, I’d want to buzz him right down to the scalp. But I didn’t say that. Wouldn’t want to scare him away, or anything.
"Um," I walked over to the counter. "We could start with the 6, and see how that looks. We don’t want to go too short too soon, but we can always take off more if you want." I picked up the cape and fastened it around his neck. "I’ll start on the sides, and then we’ll reassess from there." He nodded in agreement. Picking up the clippers, I snapped on the guard. "Alright. Ready?"
"Go for it."
The first pass went pretty smoothly. Starting from the sideburn, the clippers cleared away the blond hair and left brown fuzz in their wake. I took a few more passes, widening the strip and cleaning up the area around his temple, before I turned the clippers off. "Well, how’s it look?" Adam reached a hand up, stroking the shorter hair.
"It’s nice, but..." he trailed off.
"But...what?" But...he didn’t like it? But...he thought this was all a bad idea? My pulse quickened, anticipating his response. He turned to me.
"You said that whatever length I get, you get one shorter, right?" Where was he going with this?
"Yeah, we made the deal like five minutes ago. I have a pretty good memory."
"Well," he started. Oh boy. "What would happen if, say, I decided to get down to a zero?" I hadn’t thought of this.
"Well," I relaxed a little. "I guess you’d give me a zero too? I mean, that’s the shortest length."
"The shortest length on the clippers, you mean." Well, what other options were there? He noticed my confusion. "You have a razor." He said, pointing to the drawer. I hadn’t even considered that.
"So, let me get this straight." I put the clippers down. "You’ll let me buzz you down to a zero, but I have to let you shave my head? Bald?"
"Bald. Totally smooth. Complete chromedome." I wanted to buzz him down that short, but was I willing to go bald for it? I guess my conflict showed on my face. "Relax man, it’s just hair. And, like you said, it’s not like anyone but me is going to see you. I’d be almost bald, too. I make fun of you, you make fun of me." He drove a hard bargain.
"Do you really want me to buzz you down that short? Or are you just willing to do that so you can shave me bald?"
"Who knows?" He quipped. "I mean, barbershops are closed. The shorter I go now, the longer it’ll take to grow back. But then again, who could pass up on a chance to get rid of all of this?" Reaching a hand up, he tousled my hair. "What do you say?" It was just hair. And, I really wanted to see him buzzed.
I picked up the clippers again. "You sure about this?" I asked, more for me than him. I took off the guard. "One swipe with this, and there’s no going back."
"True, but you’ll be getting the same. Shave my head, and I shave yours next." He was just taunting me at this point. "Well? Hurry up, before I do it myself!" I flicked on the clippers and let the hum fill the bathroom.
"Ready?" Pushing his hand through his hair one last time, he nodded.
I drove the clippers into his hairline, clearing a path down the middle of his head. The bleached hair peeled away, leaving nothing but brown stubble in its wake. Adam’s hair fell in clumps onto his shoulders. It looked unbelievably soft.
"Well, no going back now," I quipped, smoothing down the hair on either side of the buzzed patch. It ran straight down the top of his head, from forehead to crown. He reached up a hand and stroked it.
"It feels like sandpaper," he described. "The buzz with the number 6 guard felt like peach fuzz, but this one just feels like sandpaper." I reached out my hand to see for myself, but he caught my wrist. "Nope, you wait your turn. You’ll get to feel this all for yourself next, remember? And, you get to go one step further." I brandished the clippers, moving them closer to his face.
"Yup, taunt the guy holding the clippers. Be a shame if my hand were to slip and you, say, lose an eyebrow." He perked up at this.
"You shave my eyebrow, and I leave you with nothing on your head. No hair, no beard, no eyebrows, nothing." He was still playing, I was too, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I placed the clippers at the base of his neck and pushed them upwards. Hair rained down on the cape. Not as long as the top, but just as thick. The clippers reached his crown, and I went back over the path I had buzzed earlier.
"Dude, you gave me a reverse Mohawk?" Adam asked, a smile playing on his lips. "Well, I had to make sure you weren’t going to chicken out on me." He pulled a hand out from underneath the cape and grabbed a handful of hair from his shoulders. "Damn, this is a lot longer than I thought. Hair looks pretty when it’s cut."
"Yeah, well," I said, brushing the hair from his shoulders into his lap. "There’s about to be a lot more where that came from." I picked the clippers back up, going back to the sideburn I’d already buzzed. The clippers made short work of the stubble, barely meeting any resistance. Pass after pass, more hair joined the cape and soon enough, the left side of his head was nothing more than stubble.
"You know," Adam started, "Now that more of this hair is coming off, the more I’m warming up to this look."
"Oh yeah?" I asked. "Well, I just need to do the other side and then we’re done her—"
"Excuse me, but I believe there was another part to this deal." He turned to face me. "You are not leaving this bathroom with that hair on your head."
"Alright, alright, whatever. You get to shave my head next. Just let me finish up with you first, then we’ll figure the rest out." He turned back to the mirror, an exaggerated look of triumph on his face. It didn’t take too long to finish up Adam’s buzzcut. I was shocked at how much hair had come off of his head. His lap was completely covered, bleach blond with bits of brown poking out.
"Wow," he said, rubbing the top of his scalp. "That definitely makes a difference." I was right about the buzzcut suiting him. His face used to look soft and full, but the lack of hair on his head definitely pulled more attention to his jaw and cheeks. His eyebrows, too. The dark brown was a nice contrast to the white scalp, where hair had been just hours earlier. I unfastened the cape and watched the hair fall to the floor. Damn, he had quite the head of hair. Adam opened the closet.
"Alright. Before we get started on your haircut, I need to get a few things. You," he said, handing me a broom, "sweep my hair off to the side. We’ll compare the piles once we’re both shaved." I did as I was told, pushing his hair off to the side. I turned back around, finding Adam holding the shaving cream and razor. "This comes later. But first," he gestured to the seat, "part one." I sat down, flinching a little at the snap of the cape. "So, what are we looking to do today?" Now he’s just rubbing it in.
"You asshole," I chuckled. "Just get it over with."
"Alright dude. I was just giving you some more time with your hair."
"Just shave it." With that, Adam snapped on the clippers.
"So how are we doing this?" He walked over and placed a hand on my shoulder. "Do we want to try out some styles first? Flattop? Mullet? Mohawk?" I gave him the best side-eye I could without bursting into laughter. "Know what? I’ve got the perfect idea." He placed the clippers at the base of my neck. The metal was colder than I was expecting, and the vibrations tickled. Slowly, he started to push the clippers up the back of my head. I could feel the hair being cut. Well, I couldn’t feel the hair itself, but I felt the back of my head start to get lighter. Hair fell onto the back of the cape, and a pile started growing. Reaching the crown of my head, Adam brushed the hair into my lap. So much hair, and yet looking at my reflection, I couldn’t tell a difference. "Alright, ready for the big one?" He bright the clippers around and placed them at my forehead. "I’m starting you off the same way you did to me."
"Reverse Mohawk?" I asked.
"Reverse Mohawk." He confirmed. He pushed the clippers back, through my hairline. The chewed through my hair with ease, shearing off the locks at my scalp. Hair was falling into my lap, and it was much more noticeable now. He pulled the clippers back even further, completing the hawkmo. I stared at my reflection in disbelief. I wasn’t even expecting to get a trim today, much less shave my head!
"If you’re surprised now, just wait until I’m done. You’ll hardly recognize yourself!" The buzzing continued, widening the hairless strip on the top of my head. The clippers slices through my hair like a hot knife through butter, leaving nothing but barely noticeable stubble in its wake.
"You know, I’d been meaning to get a haircut for some time now." I tossed out.
"Oh yeah?" Adam responded. "Well then, I guess this works out! When I’m finished with your hair, you won’t need another haircut for quite some time."
"The shorter I go now, the longer it’ll take to grow back, I guess."
"Yup." He popped the ‘p’. "And your hair, if we can even call it that, honestly, is going to be shorter than mine!" With that, he got to work on my sideburns. Making sure not to catch my beard (thank god), he slid the blades of the clippers up the side of my head. More and more hair was accumulating on the cape. So much that I couldn’t even see the cape itself in some spots.
Before I knew it, my hair was gone. Reduced to nothing more than a shadow covering my head. Adam went kept going over the same spots, dragging the clippers over my barren scalp.
"Adam, buddy, you gotta leave me some skin up there!" I said, with a laugh.
"Chill, dude. I’m just making sure it’s as short as I can get it. Wouldn’t want the razor to get clogged." Right. That was happening. Flicking off and unplugging the clippers, he turned on the sink. "Now’s your chance to feel the stubble. In a few minutes, that’ll be gone too." I reached up a hand and felt around my head. It was tougher than I expected. Not exactly sandpaper, per se, but damn near close. I understood why Adam made that comparison. It felt rough, grainy almost, and it made a raspy sound as I dragged my hand along the curves of my head. Definitely a change from thick hair I was used to. "Alright," Adam said, making his way back over to me. "Now for part 2." He brushed some water on my head. "To soften the stubble." He explained. "I’m trying to shave your head, not massacre it." Taking the can of shaving cream from the counter, he uncapped it and shook it up. Spraying it into his hand, he looked over my head. "This is gonna be fun." He said, in a playfully deep voice. The shaving cream felt weird. As Adam spread it around my head, I could help but think of a really thick paint or something of a similar consistency. It was white in color, and surprisingly cool to the touch. Placing down the can, Adam picked up the razor. It was your standard cartridge razor—just a Gillette. Nothing too fancy, but nothing to scoff at either. "Alright. I’ve never shaved someone’s head before." Adam near shouted with excitement.
"Well I for one am just thrilled to be your test run." I was obviously joking, but with enough sarcasm to let Adam know not to mess things up.
"Calm down,I know what I’m doing." Adam, unlike me, shaved his face almost every day. "This won’t be too different than what I’m used to." With that, Adam placed the razor at my hairline (if you could even call it that), and pulled it back. The sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It was like some sort of scraping, but it was coming from inside my head.
"Adam. You have to try this next." He faced at me with a look of amusement.
"Oh, really? Was this," he ran his hand through his nonexistent hair, "not enough?"
"Oh, come on dude. You know you love it."
"Yeah," he admitted, "it is pretty nice. I never really saw myself as a buzzcut kind of dude before, but I’m glad I took the plunge." I looked over to him.
"Any chance I could convince you to join the cueball club too?"
"Don’t push it," he warned, pulling the razor back for another stroke. "One slip of the wrist and all of a sudden your eyebrow is gone too." Wow. Taunting me with the same ones I’d thrown at him earlier.
"No dude, I’m serious. This sounds so weird. The scraping continued, and I reached up a hand to feel the spot he’d shaved. It was completely smooth. I couldn’t even feel the stubble.
"Adam," I called. "Adam, hurry up and come finish this." I’d gotten a taste of what a bald head felt like; now I needed to feel the finished product. Adam continued shaving. My hairline, my sideburns, and the back of my head, removed from any trace of hair. After he’d finished going with the grain, he felt around my head. It was a completely new sensation.
"Not smooth enough," he decided. Covering my head in shaving cream for the second time, he started against the grain. It didn’t have the same sound as the original, but it didn’t matter. This was something I could get used to. The clippers were one thing, and the buzzcut was nice, but the shaved head was a thousand times better. Wiping the last traces of shaving cream from my head, I got to see the final result. There I was, sitting in front of the mirror, completely bald. Any traces of hair that had once been on my head long gone. I couldn’t even see the shadow of stubble that the clippers had left behind. Like Adam’s my eyebrows stood out nicely against my hairlessness. My beard only added to the image. Looking down at my lap, I could see the hair that had once sat on my head. Layers upon layers of thick, rich brown hair, shaved to the skin. It was quite the sight to behold. Adam unfastened the cape, and my hair tumbled to the floor. Clapping me on the back, and putting on an exaggerated deep voice, Adam said "Kid, ya look like a new man." Rubbing my now smooth head, I couldn’t help but feel the same. Sweeping up the pile of my hair, Adam and I compared it with his. Or, at least, we tried to. We kept getting distracted by our new—now nonexistent—hairstyles. Not that the winner really mattered, of course. Neither of us said a thing, but we didn’t need to. These two roommates would never again grow more hair than was on the floor right now.