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A Strict Haircut Regime by Snipped Sam
It was slightly strange seeing Mr Symonds who had been my headmaster from my junior school in a social situation, he was related to the groom and my family were friends of the bride at a wedding. We had first acknowledged one another early on but now had engaged in a conversation. I was quite wary of conversation with him but he soon put me at ease talking about my interests and what my best subjects at school were.
"So let me see…you are now fourteen Peter"
"That’s right Sir"
"Indeed…doesn’t seem that long ago since you were at the Alderman Winters"
"No, it doesn’t Sir"
"Do you remember me coming into the classroom with the ruler to check the length of you boys hair"
"Yes, I certainly do Sir"
"Great pity I don’t have it with me today"
Mr Symonds was very strict on school uniforms and the length that a boy could have his hair, it had to be no more than half an inch above his eyebrows, and cut well above his collar. Boys bordering on breaking this rule were given a note to take home drawing the parents attention to the fact a haircut needed to be arranged. I was given a note once as Mr Symonds deemed that my hair was dangerously close to the limits allowed. Needless to say, it was quickly rectified to Mr Symonds satisfaction. Before the conversation could continue, it was interrupted by the cutting of the cake, the reception then continued with Mr Symonds engaging in conversation with someone his wife was talking to.
The next day a number of people including myself had volunteered to go back to the hall to clear up after the reception, it didn’t take long but just before we had finished Mr Symonds arrived to collect a board and easel that he had loaned them for the seating plan. I helped him carry it to his car, he said that he was glad that I was there because he thought we needed to have a chat. I knew all too well what he was going to talk about.
"I am sure you know why I want to speak to you Peter"
"My hair Sir"
"I expect you think it looks the business, but it really doesn’t Peter.
The truth was I really liked short hair, but it was 1973 and everyone it seemed was growing their hair longer and I had followed them. I knew that a big part of me was secretly hoping that Mr Symonds would find a way of making me have my haircut.
"Everyone is having their longer Sir"
"Not everyone is Peter but admittedly a lot are especially your age, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow them like a sheep"
"It makes it easier to fit in Sir"
"I do understand where you are coming from on that but I don’t accept it, now tell me honestly, what does your headmaster say?"
"He would prefer it if we had our hair short"
"And your parents?"
"Short too Sir…I know they thought you had a very good system"
"I think we can safely say it worked; don’t you agree?"
"I think so Sir, I remember when I came home with a note about my hair…it was a warning that my hair was dangerously close to not being the required length…I was near enough scalped Sir"
"What did you think about that Peter?"
"I wasn’t happy about it; Mr Burgess was such a strict barber and I didn’t usually go to him…but because of the note that’s where I had to go"
"Not that happy with me either I dare say Peter?"
"A bit put out Sir…but I did understand why you gave me the note"
"Pity I can’t give you a note now…but I cannot undermine your present headmaster by sending you home with a note about your hair"
"What would the note say Sir?"
"What do you think it would say Peter?"
"Well Sir, I suppose it might say…Regrettably I must draw your attention to the length of Peter’s hair which is unacceptable and needs to be addressed without delay"
"Seems reasonable although the addressed is a little woolly, would I not be clearer?"
"Perhaps then; regrettably I have to draw your attention the unacceptable length of Peter’s hair, it should be cut without delay"
"That’s better but I think needs to be cut rather than should be cut"
"But as I say Peter, I cannot undermine Mr Connolly by writing a note to your parents"
"I don’t think they would mind Sir"
"No Peter, that is not going to happen…. however, although it’s the school holidays I shall be at the school in the morning, perhaps you would like to come and see me after your visit to Mr Burgess"
"Mr Burgess tomorrow Sir?"
"Tomorrow morning Peter, go and see Mr Burgess for a nice respectable haircut"
"You are an intelligent enough lad… work it out"
The next morning, I knew what I was going to do, after breakfast I wasted no time in getting ready and set off to Mr Burgess’s shop. When I got there, he was sitting in the barber’s chair reading a newspaper, he was just as stern looking as I had remembered him. He looked me up and down and said "come for a haircut?" Why else I am here? I thought as I said "that’s right". Folding the newspaper up he then stepped off the barber’s chair, put the paper on the table then took a cape from the hook on the wall.
"On you get"
I sat down in the barber’s chair, he pumped it up with his foot to raise me to the required height he then fitted the white nylon cape.
"So, what’s to be done?"
"I’ve been told that I need to have a respectable haircut"
"Well, it’s not respectable at the moment but I can take care of that"
He began to comb my hair and lifted the hair that covered my ears,
"And respectable to me means that we see your ears by the end of your haircut"
"I thought that might happen"
He started to cut my hair at the back of my head
"Did you decide to come to me today or were you sent here?"
"I was sent to you…but this is not the first time you have cut my hair"
"I don’t remember you…not recently I take it?"
"No, about four or five years ago, you cut my hair really really short"
"Is that why you are back here again? to have it cut very short"
"I was told to have a respectable haircut, last time my father brought me and got you to cut my hair short"
"And he sent you this time as well?"
As I said no, his hand firmly pressed my head down and his scissors snipped away at the hair that had grown over my collar, he was clearing it away. With his hand still firmly resting on my head, he stood to my right and started to snip off the hair that had been covering my ear. It was soon gone, I wondered why I was rather enjoying this, Mr Burgess would not have been my first choice of barber. But I was rather pleased that Mr Symonds had made the decision for me, fairly soon after the hair that covered my left ear was also falling away. Having brushed away the hairs, he decided to continue the conversation.
"Not your father"
"No, my headmaster"
"That’s sounds serious…are you going to get the cane?"
"I hope not"
"But you could be, but I hope not for your sake"
He was now using thinning scissors on my hair on the top of my head, I replied that I was seeing the headmaster after my haircut. He said that we would have to make sure that I passed inspection, to which I said that would be a good idea. Having really thinned my hair down and cut my fringe short and brushed me down and then adjusted the cape at the back of my collar, then smoothed the cape on my shoulders.
"The next part of your haircut is the part I rather like doing, not as popular as it was some years ago, which I think is a shame"
He selected the clippers from a bank of four that were hanging from hooks, "Down you go" he said placing his hand on my head and bending it right down.
"You need to keep your head really still for me and not look up and try and look in the mirror, that way I can shave the back of your head to perfection"
I did momentarily think that this is so drastic, but soon Mr Burgess was at work clipping the back of my head, he pressed them fairly hard into my head taking them up high. I could feel the hair dropping from my head.
"You know when I said shave, that does mean leaving really short hairs behind just in case you thought bare skin"
"Thanks" was my reply not being able to really talk with my head down, having completed his mission on the back of my head, Mr Burgess turned his attention to the sides of my head which were to receive an equal amount of clipper shaving. On completion he brushed my head down, before selecting a second set of clippers and working on the lower part of the back of my head, remarking "just right". Taking a tradional flat razor and sharpening it on the razor strop almost in front of the chair, he shaved my neck and also visited each side of my head with it. When my head was finally lifted back up, I could see how short the sides had been done with my hair being very fair it looked so short.
"It really does suit you son"
"Thanks Mr Burgess"
"Now I think if you are off to see the headmaster for inspection you will be needing a nice Brylcreem finish on your hair"
"Might be a good idea Sir"
Mr Burgess seemed to like me calling him Sir, although he was stern looking, his haircuts were very short and he had a firm no nonsense approach, I knew where I stood with him. I knew I wouldn’t have a problem going there again for a haircut, I watched Mr Burgess open the pot of Brylcreem and apply some to my hair on top. Then rubbing it in and then combing my hair precisely into place with a sharp side parting, then taking a soft brush and the powder blower he dusted the back of my head before loosening the cape at the back and powdering down the back of my shirt.
"Ready to see the back?"
He said with his hand on the mirror, I nodded and he held up the mirror for me to see, he had clipped me severely, I knew that Mr Symonds would really approve of it.
"Thank you, Sir"
"And thank you lad, there was a job which had to be done and you worked with me"
He removed the cape and I stepped from the chair, on the floor I noticed some longish pieces of hair which I knew had covered my ears, I bent down and picked up a piece.
"Can I keep this bit of my hair"
"Go on then, if you really want to"
"To remind me that I once had long hair"
I paid him for my haircut and left making my way to my old school, Mr Symonds was mightily impressed by my haircut and congratulated me for doing the right thing.
"How did you get on with Mr Burgess?"
"Better than I thought I would Sir, I think if you accept what he is going to do and do as he says, there isn’t any problem"
"Then Peter the challenge will be getting you to go to him on a regular basis"
At this point I wanted Mr Symonds to tighten the screw and seal things up.
"You could set the date now for my next haircut Sir"
"I could just do that Peter, four weeks between haircuts is usually quite acceptable but let’s say we make it three"
"Fair enough Sir"
"Three weeks today will be school day, so haircut after school and you can come and see me here the following day after school, I am always here until 4.30"
"I should be here before 4.15 Sir"
So began a strict haircut regime for me, after leaving school my hair did grow somewhat but then when very short hair returned to popularity later in the eighties,I became the master of my own very strict hair regime. In fact, I devised a rigid no-nonsense specification for my haircuts and eventually found an ex-army barber with a bark equal to his bite.