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The New Head of Department by Snipped Sam
Looking back to when I was growing up, I had always been indulged especially when it came to my hair, my parent’s friend had a smart hairdressing shop and I had always gone there. A couple of the male stylists always cut my hair so it was never cut short and always cut with great care. Some boys would come to school having been given a short back and sides and refer to having been butchered but it was something that I never had. I remember going to see the film Midnight Express, this was back in 1978 and seeing the horror on the main character’s face when the prison barber took the clippers and gave him the severest haircut ever.
Later I thought about this haircut all the time, but did nothing about it, two years later at eighteen I left home and went to work in an accounts department of a large company. I was happy enough there but a few weeks later we had a new head of department, he was new to the company. He soon had a reputation for his exacting standards and was very abrupt, funnily enough his name was Newman. But I called him Sir and he called me Wilson after all I was a trainee, the most junior anyone could be.
One thing I noticed about Mr Newman was the shortness and regularity of his haircuts, he was a tall man perhaps in his late forties, he had lost his hair on top but kept the sides and back very short. As I now effectively chose where I had my haircut, I began to have it cut a bit shorter than before but still a million miles away from as short as I perhaps dreamed of getting. One day I had to take some papers to Mr Newman’s office, this was the next following a haircut, he looked me up and down.
"Your hair is an improvement Wilson"
"Thank you, Sir"
"Not perfect by any means but certainly better than it was when I arrived"
My heart missed a beat, I had secretly always wanted someone to tell me about my hair, tell me to get it cut short.
"You think I should have my hair shorter than this Sir?"
"I certainly do Wilson"
Before I had a chance to answer someone else came to his office and I needed to leave, I really wished that we had been given the opportunity to continue the conversation. A couple of weeks later there was a lot of work on and I had to stay later than my normal hours then my immediate boss told me that I had to go in on the Saturday Morning as well. Mr Newman and five other staff were there too, we all finished about midday, the other staff left and it was just me and Mr Newman.
"Your willingness to give up your Saturday morning did not go unnoticed Wilson"
"It wasn’t a problem Sir"
"By the way Wilson, when we spoke the other day, it seemed to me that you were interested in my opinion with regard to the length of your hair"
"Yes Sir, I was"
"Always happy to give an opinion Wilson or perhaps you are looking for direction Wilson?"
"Direction I think Sir"
Mr Newman had a very deep voice and he spoke with authority.
"Direction heh? but is that just direction?.... or perhaps instruction"
"To start with Young Wilson, a man needs a good barber, a man who knows his trade, who is not afraid to follow orders…none of this are you sure you want it that short"
"I understand what you are saying Sir"
"I happen to go to a very good chap…it’s a very traditional establishment…I am happy to give you the address if you are interested"
"Yes, I am interested Sir, I would appreciate it Sir"
"Andrews is a good barber you shouldn’t have any regrets"
"Very good Sir"
"I could bring my next haircut forward a bit and we could go there now, then I can introduce you to him"
I didn’t hesitate to give an affirmative answer to Mr Newman and we left the office shortly after for the barbers. We drove in Mr Newman’s very swish sports car, once parked we walked the short distance to the barbers. It was exactly as Mr Newman said a very traditional establishment, there was a waiting area and a separate small room with a frosted glass door where the cutting took place. There were two men in front of us, Mr Newman read a newspaper and I glanced at a magazine. Each time someone stepped out the door the barber would call out next please, it sounded like an older voice. You could hear chatting and snipping and clipping going on inside, when it was just the two of us left, Mr Newman said that he would go first. Several minutes later after Mr Newman had been taken care of the door once again opened and I heard a next please but Mr Newman hadn’t stepped out. I had already taken off my jacket and was carrying it as I went in there, was a very old-fashioned barber’s chair and a rather distinguished man who was the barber standing there holding the white cape.
"This is Mr Andrews who is going to be your barber Wilson"
The barber gestured me to sit in the chair, which I did after hanging my jacket on a peg, he closed the door so it appeared much to my delight that Mr Newman was remaining.
"How are you today young Sir"
"He’s a trainee office junior you don’t need to call him Sir"
"But maybe he could be a managing director of tomorrow Sir"
"But not at this time, if you need to call him something call him Wilson, or what is your first name Wilson?"
"It’s Michael Sir"
"Call him Michael"
"Michael it is"
The barber replied as he fitted the white nylon cape, Mr Newman made a scoffing sound, I had noticed that on the walls there were a number of photographs of men and boys modelling various haircuts practically all short. Some of the photographs certainly looked as if they came from the fifties, Mr Newman was looking at them.
"I notice that these photographs are pinned, is it alright for me to take any of them off the wall to show Wilson, I’ll be very careful"
"Of Course, Sir"
Mr Newman proceeded to take down a photograph and showed it to me saying this was the sort of haircut I should have. It was of a young man with a very severe short haircut, the sides were extremely clipped, the hair was cut extremely short on top with a severe side parting. The barber then took down another photo saying this was the back of the head from the same model, showing Mr Newman first and then me. This was the severe haircut that I had always dreamed of having but I never dared to, I felt sick with excitement.
"The boss is right Michael it is a very smart haircut for a young man"
"If that is Mr Newman’s choice that is the haircut for me Mr Andrews"
"Happy with that Wilson?"
"Yes, thank you Sir"
Was my reply to Mr Newman, as the barber opened the steriliser cabinet and changed the blade on the clippers.
"When you do the back Andrews…perhaps we could have the clippers taken almost to the crown"
"Very good Sir"
Mr Newman traced the just below the middle of the back of my head with his finger.
"With bare skin just here"
"As you wish Sir"
Moving to the side Mr Newman then pointed to the hair just above my ears
"And I want to see a good gap here too Andrews"
"I will shape to your exact requirements Sir"
"Jolly good Andrews, let’s give Wilson a haircut he won’t forget"
I felt Mr Andrews warm hand on the top of my head and he firmly bent my head right down, it was very clear that Mr Newman was going to stay to watch and oversee the haircut to its conclusion. I had considered that he might leave having given his instructions but I was thrilled he was remaining, the electric clippers sprang to life. For the first time in my life my head was experiencing a clipping, I was finding out what it felt like and I was loving it. Mr Andrews did exactly as Mr Newman told him and clipped right up the back of my head, I could feel the hair just fall away. I imagined the mechanism of the clippers working away so the blades could strip me of my hair, as I heard the buzzing sound they made. It wasn’t long before Mr Andrews has tilted my head to the left and was clipping the right side of my head, then walking round and doing the same with the left side of my head.
When my head had been restored to its upright position and the loose hairs all brushed away, Mr Newman who had been standing out of the way stepped forward to look at the sides of my head.
"I would imagine that’s it’s been a very long time since you had a haircut as short as this Wilson"
Remarked Mr Newman as the barber worked with his scissors on the remaining hair on the top of my head, I could only give a "yes Sir" as my answer not really wanting to admit that my inexperience. It didn’t take him long to make my hair really short on top, cut close to my head.
"Short enough Sir?"
"Yes thanks" I replied
"I think you’ll find he is talking to me Wilson"
"Sorry Sir, I forgot for a moment"
"Forgot what Wilson?"
"That you are in charge of my haircut, Sir"
"Then don’t bloody forget it"
At this point the barber was soaping up a shaving brush using shaving soap and a shaving mug, before applying the soap to the back of my head. Taking a traditional cut throat razor he shaved away any remaining hair where Mr Newman had first indicated that there should be just skin. It was really exciting to have the hair taken well above my hairline, I had only seen this haircut on older gentlemen. Once Mr Andrews had done the back and wiped my neck with a towel, he turned his attention to the sides of my head. With a little less shaving soap applied, he shaved around and above my ears giving the required gap that Mr Newman had demanded. Having wiped above my ears with the towel, Mr Andrews dressed my hair with some Vaseline hair tonic, then proudly held the mirror up for me to see the back. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it, I was shocked but really loved it too.
"Good choice Wilson?"
"An excellent choice Sir"
I felt a tinge of melancholy when it was time to step off the barber’s chair, having paid for haircut and thanked Mr Andrews for my haircut and Mr Newman for his input it was time to leave. As Mr Newman and I walked from the barber’s he asked me if I knew what a tonsure was. I had never heard of a tonsure and politely told him that I didn’t know what it was.
"It’s a medieval monk’s haircut where the crown is shaved"
"I didn’t see one of those on Mr Andrews wall Sir"
"Just as well Wilson, it’s a haircut I have always admired"
"I see Sir"
"Not too preposterous then Wilson?"
"I suppose not Sir"