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Great hair at any length by Manny

Casually chatting with my barber Dan while he snipped at my hair, the conversation turned to the first concert we'd gone to as young people.

"Queen," I replied. "What about you?"

Dan was a bit taken aback by my answer. "Queen?! But how old are you?"

My response left him flummoxed. "I can't believe you're that age. You look, what, uh, ten, fifteen years younger...." Dan stammered.

I smiled, drinking in the praise. Of course, my chestnut-colored hair was still thick and in its full glory with a lustrous sheen despite having been on planet earth for decades. And the natural fiery highlights...well, they never failed to impress! Certainly, my hair fueled a tad of vanity each morning as I brushed the plush executive style into place.

By contrast, Dan's hair was definitely thinning, coarse and wiry.

I felt Dan's hand gently brush against my lustrous mane. "Not one strand of gray, he murmured...."

"What about you?" I asked. "First concert?"

"The Police. I guess I'm about six years younger than you," he confessed. "Your hair, though, is still so thick! I'm going to need to use the thinning shears, if that's okay."

"Of course, you're the professional. When there's a certain amount of length, it gets quite bulky," I noted.

Dan began reducing the sides and back with some vigorous thinning action. My plush executive coif was getting back into tip-top shape.

"Why don't you use the clippers?" I asked, suddenly veering the situation towards a particular fantasy I'd had since childhood. "It's been quite a while since I've had it tapered short around the ears and up the back."

"Oh, no. Nice hair like this should not be cut so short," Dan replied tersely. The barber paused and surveyed his progress.

"The thinning shears did the trick," he announced, obviously satisfied with this work. Then he added, "Maybe just a bit more thinning of the forelock."

He combed my massive prime lock straight down so that it hung in front of my eyes and then gave it a few whacks with the notched scissors. Chop and comb, chop and comb. Chop and comb. More came off than I expected.

Dan quickly followed up the thinning session with regular barber shears. Snip, snip, snip. My bangs were cut short! To mid-forehead. I was startled by the change...and excited under the cape. Usually, my bangs were trimmed to the eyebrow.

Dan brushed my hair carefully to the side and deliver a few final whacks with the thinning shears. All the bulk was gone. The forelock lay quite flat to the side. Then, he smoothed my hair down into place every so carefully and tenderly with his hands. I could tell he was lingering, dragging out my session under his cape quite unnecessarily. The thinned out and shortened forelock gave me a bit of a different look, quite a tidy look. Perhaps even a bit more youthful.

Dan showed me the back with a hand mirror. "What do you think?" he asked, fishing for a compliment.

"Nice work," I said, reaching out from under the white cape and fondling the plush hair that came to the top of my collar.

I paused and felt my heart race a bit. I was determined to push the envelope a bit. "But, next time, I want it tapered. Short, up the back, with the clippers there." I pointed to the big set of Oster's that hung from the counter.

Dan remained silent, so I explained my situation. "I've been noticing all the younger fellows at the office wear their hair very short. I think it's time I get a good shearing, Dan, with the clippers!" I explained. "Why, there's a new engineer who sports a flattop! When I was growing up, only very strict conservative fathers like my own sported flattops. He was a style dinosaur!"

As I paid and prepared to leave, the other barber quipped, "Tell you what. Next visit, you take a seat in my chair. You'll walk out of here looking as young and eager as that new engineer! I cut a very mean, very short flattop! Landing strip, the works!"

I could hardly contain myself as I turned to scurry out the door. Steve, the shop owner, had just suggested that I let him give me a military-length flattop -- my ultimate fantasy!

I took a peek at the chart above the cash register and noted the day of the week that only Steve was on duty. If I ever worked up the courage, Thursday would be the day I'd come in. But....that was a huge "if"!

My mind raced as I drove away from the barber shop. A flattop! I thought back to my childhood. The sudden infliction of one on my oldest brother had rocked our home back in the mid-1970s. I was only a bystander in the epic battle between my father and my brother Brian who was six years my senior. Long hair was the norm on boys of all ages by then, but my father carried on the mission to have his three sons "look decent". The red lines in our home were "off the eyebrows, off the ears and off the collar." Somehow, my oldest brother had managed to maintain this restrictive standard at home while letting his curly hair grow into an enormous afro-type style which was usually on display outside the house (not church, of course). At home, he'd keep the curls tame and looking modest, but once on the school bus he'd pick them out with an afro-comb and arrive at the high school rocking a big bushy mop that had the girls swooning and the boys envious.

A few days after school ended, and my brother had made the mistake of leaving his new yearbook in the living room. I heard a shriek from the recliner where my father unwound after work.

"Brian!!!! Come here immediately!" he bellowed.

We all ran into the living room as a crisis was definitely brewing. My father, known for sudden fits of rage, was pointing furiously at Brian's senior portrait with his afro in its full splendor.

"But it doesn't touch my eyebrows, ears or collar, Dad," Brian whined.

"All I want is for my sons to look DECENT! Not like some hoodlum! You will not be going off to college at my expense looking like a weed-smoking hippie," my father shrieked.

Within minutes, the two were driving away in the family station wagon.

Less than an hour later, they were back. Brian's hair had been shorn into a flattop! "Perhaps that will teach him a lesson!" my father pontificated as he led cringing, shorn Brian into the house.

Brian flew upstairs to his room and slammed the door. That night, I heard him sobbing quietly in bed.

The next morning, Brian waited till my father left for work. He came to breakfast after dropping a packed suitcase by the front door. My poor Mom tried to console him. "It'll grow back. I still think you're handsome..."

I was fascinated by his flattop and secretly thought it looked way better than the afro. But, I knew better than to open my mouth.

Brian left our house that day. "I'm 18, Mom. Time to take charge of my own life." Ironically, he went straight to the US Marine Corps recruiting station. Even the flattop would be peeled away at boot camp.

I felt the strain that fight placed on both of my parents for years to come. As a consequence, I always wore my hair very short and geeky. I was teased for the dorky look by my friends, but did not want to provoke my father.

When I was in college, my father had a massive heart attack and died less than a month later. He and my brother -- then a captain in the Marine Corps -- finally reconciled on his deathbed.

After my father's death, I felt free to grow my hair long. And, I did! Past my shoulders! I had gorgeous hair which attracted a lot of attention.

Even my mom admired it, although she would occasionally comment, "Your father would roll over in his grave if he saw your hair like that...."

I pampered my long locks and enjoyed them immensely. I became a salon junkie. Even had a chemical body wave, once.

Finally, I had my hair cut short when I left graduate school and started the job search. I became an engineer for one of the Big-3 auto makers. Back then, the "professional look" reigned in the office with the fellows sporting a businessman's cut or a slightly longer executive style. Tidy hair, along with suits and ties, were de rigeur.

So much for my trip down memory lane. When I got back from the barber shop, I raced straight to the bathroom to inspect just how short Dan had cut my bangs. What had gotten into him? I tugged at the whisps....

During the following days, my thoughts kept coming back to haircuts and hair. Each morning, after I showered, I would marvel at how short my forelock had been snipped. Strangely, it made me want my hair cut shorter all over. I would recall myself playfully telling Dan I wanted an aggressive taper up the back. Then I would think about Steve, the shop owner, inviting me to let him give me a flattop. The idea of him carving a landing strip down the top of my head sent shivers down my spine! Perhaps, one day....I told myself.

It had been just over two weeks since my last haircut. Normally, I waited 5-6 weeks between visits. A bit of length looked very good on me.

After I finished drying off from my morning shower, I combed my bangs straight down. They were still about half an inch above the top of my eyebrows. Shorter than I normally wore them.

Suddenly, I had an idea. I felt excitement stir under the towel wrapped around my waist. I would snip my own bangs very short myself!

I quickly dug through the various things under my bathroom counter looking for the small pair of barber shears I kept. I surged with excitement when I found them. I brandished them at my image in the mirror. "No more ostentatious forelock for you!" I warned.

My hand trembled. I put the blade under the wet strands. How short did I dare snip them? I brought the shears all the way up to the top. Two inches threatened with the guillotine. One quick move of the hand and the remains of my treasured forelock would be in the sink. My hand trembled.

But how would I look? How would I explain it? And then, I chickened out. I just couldn't do that....

Instead, I would return to the barber shop, way ahead of schedule and insist on the clippers -- tapered short around the ears and up the back! That was a much better plan to satisfy the nagging urge I felt to have my hair cut extremely short.

It was a Saturday when both barbers were on duty. As I drove, I upped the ante. Today, I would take the barber who first came free instead of waiting for my regular guy, Dan. If I ended up in Scott's chair....well, I just might emerge from it with the flattop, a haircut I had long-dreaded, but strangely desired.

And, if I ended up in Dan's chair, I would insist on a very short taper.

Either way, I was determined that the clippers would be peeling off a lot of my lovely chestnut-colored hair.

When I pulled into the small parking lot of the barber shop, I felt nervous. I pulled around to the back, near the dumpster. My hair was still quite short! I had never returned so soon for a haircut. I took one last glance at myself in the mirror. The forelock was still very short and manageable. But those awesome fiery auburn highlights remained on full display!

As I neared the front door, my fate was sealed. Scott was busy with a client and Dan was milling around the otherwise empty shop.

I pushed the glass door open. "Morning fellows!" I said cheerfully. "What's going on here? I always imagined this place would be hopping on a Saturday morning."

"Usually, it is," Dan commented. "But why are you here? Did you leave your sunglasses or something?"

I headed straight for his chair. "Nope, I'm here for the haircut I told you I wanted...."

"Flattop?" Scott piped up.

"I hope not!" Dan said nervously.

"No, not today. But, I do want a very short taper -- tight up the back and the top cut down, just long enough so that it can lay down to the side."

Dan reluctantly cast open the cape and pulled it around my neck. "You're the boss, sir. I think this length suits you fine, but...."

"But you will...." I interjected.

"Yes, I will give you a very, very short taper. Down to zero in back, with whitewalls?" Dan suggested in a steely voice.

Holy s**t! That sounded way shorter than I imagined! Suddenly, I was on the defensive. Oh, my! He was going to scalp me.

My throat was dry and my lips were almost sealed shut. My heart beat wildly.

"Sounds good to me," I finally said with an air of calmness.

Dan dawdled swapping out the blade on his clippers. Perhaps he was allowing me some time to back out of the insane idea. I clutched the arms of the chair under the cape to steady myself for what was to come.

The clippers roared to life and my head was forced low, almost touching my chest!

A jolt shot through my entire body as Dan applied the metal teeth of the Oster's to my neck and plowed them tightly up the back of my head. Mid-way up the back he eased off a bit and the clippers emerged through the crown. Then, I watched him flick a huge clump of my hair to the side.

As Dan buzzed away, stripping off the padding of soft, shiny hair, he began to chatter again about bands and back when he was a teen.

"Did you ever imagine the day would come when you'd be getting a military length haircut voluntarily?" he asked.

The first clump of my hair hit the cape, driving the point home.

"Never," I replied. "I mean in grad school, my hair hung half-way between my shoulders and my shoulder blades."

"A shag with layers?" Dan asked.

"Yep, parted in the middle and feathered on the sides," I replied.

"Cool! And you have such amazing hair," Dan said, as he moved to strip away all the growth from my left side. I watched in horror and a swath of virgin white skin appeared.

My heart beat wildly. Higher and higher he took the clippers before easing into a super aggressive taper.

"Is this going to be short enough?" Dan asked. He fondled the copious hair that still retained its length on top. "Actually, with this density, I was thinking you would look quite good with a brush cut."

"A brush cut?" I asked, astonished.

"Yes, instead of laying down on top, a nice thick erect pelt -- just under an inch high. Clipped nice, and rounded to the shape of your head. It would make a good transition to a flattop on your next visit," Dan suggested.

"I thought you liked my hair longer," I stammered.

"I do. Such amazing hair. Nice highlights too. But now that you've come this far, I'm seeing more options," Dan said, this time his finger slightly caressing my virgin scalp in back. "The young fellows at the office will see a new you, and approve. That's my guess. A guy is super fortunate when he looks great with both long hair and short hair."

"And with a flattop too," Steve chortled from the side.

"I will trust your professional judgment. I'm ready for the brush," I replied, closing my eyes, savoring the feel of the clippers.

Dan must has sensed that I was sort of wanting a "big reveal" because the swiveled the chair to face away from the mirror.

Then, he went to work clearing off all the length.

OMG! What had I unleashed? I watch mounds of cut hair fall into my lap. It was as if Dan was making sure ever cut lock, every glistening severed strand, ended up on my lap.

The clipping and cutting went on and on.

"Is anything going to be left?" I asked in a worried tone.

"Not much when I have you in my chair next time," Steve chimed in.

"It's looking good. Hot, even!" Dan said. He paused to stroked the pelt on top he'd created. The way he fondled my hair gave me some vibes that were not at all unwelcomed.

Finally, the machine was snapped off.

"I'm going to warn you," Dan said in a tentative tone. "The scalp that's been exposed is quite...uh, um....white. But it should get some color quickly and not look too much like a half-dyed Easter egg."

He swiveled the chair around for the big reveal.

I almost swooned at what I saw. The white cape was a lovely chestnut color. And my head did look like a half-dyed Easter egg. I was speechless.

Dan held up the mirror. The back was even more shocking.

"Well?" Dan asked hopefully.

I lied through my teeth. "I like it," I said, albeit rather unconvincingly.

He must have sensed things weren't exactly fine. "You'll get used to it," he said softly as he unfastened the cape.

"No, Dan, you did a great job," I insisted.

I couldn't resist. I felt the pelt and smiled broadly.

"Feels better than it looks?" Dan asked, obviously disheartened about my reaction.

I tried to pay him, but Dan resisted. "Only if you're really satisfied," he insisted.

"I am so satisfied with this length, that I promise you here and now that on my next visit, Steve is going to give me a flattop! Landing strip and all!" I blurted out.

Steve's chair was free. He pointed to it. "Why wait? Let's take you down right now!"

My knees wobbled. Obviously, I had a look of terror in my eyes.

"He'll get one when he's ready," Dan snapped defensively. Then he put his arm around me and walked me out of the shop, all the way to my car.

We stood there awkwardly.

"I miss your beautiful hair," Dan confessed. "It was a pleasure to trim and cut regularly. I mean, running my fingers through it made me feel....awesome. Now you'll be Steve's steady. He'll take it down shorter and shorter each time....until the shoe gives way to a chromedome."

I pulled Dan close to me. The tension between us was too much. Our lips locked together. The passion was intense.

Finally, we broke apart. "Come over to my place after work. Bring your barber kit. You, Dan, will give me my first flattop," I said firmly.

"But, I don't have Steve's skill. What if I botch it?" he asked.

I wrote out my address on a business card and slipped it in Dan's pocket.

"Then, we'll both end up with chromedomes," I said running my fingers through his coarse, thinning, wiry hair.

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