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Dave's Hairiest Challenge by Deke Cutter
David had a YouTube channel on which he showed videos of his various extreme physical challenges. He had run marathons, tried various work out routines used by well-known athletes, done extreme bicycle races, even tried some of the military branches fitness tests with veterans who had been instructors in the various service branches. But it still wasn’t enough for him or his followers.
"Come on David, you have done enough of these challenges," his with Veronica said in a voice that showed both love and a little frustration. "You are in incredible physical condition, your videos get enough views to keep us in extra cash, but we are both also successful in our ‘real jobs’ and we promised each other social media wouldn’t get in the way."
David had spritzed his favorite Sea Salt Spray into his hair and was now gently blow-drying it, before adding just a bit of clay to make sure his brown wavy hair that covered his ears and just brushed his collar looked exactly right. "Ronnie, sweetheart, this one is kind of special and I’m just floating the idea, really. I doubt it will even be possible, but it could be great content, maybe even two full weeks."
"Two full weeks of content that will be filmed while we were supposed to be on vacation and that means you’ll be filming videos to fill in for those two weeks before hand, so, I will hardly see you for a month! And I lose out on a vacation with the love of my life!"
"Babe, I promise, if this works out, I will go ahead with our plan to wind down this channel and focus on us and starting our family. Any future video projects will include both of us from start to finish! And you can have some spa time with your girlfriends and get in some time with your mom and sister. You know your dad loves to have his ‘little girl’ come to visit."
"I can tell you are already ‘bound and determined’ to try to make this work. Have you decided who you are going to ask and even if they will allow such a thing? We’ve watched the videos of people doing two or three days with police academy classes or with some specialist foreign military groups, but I don’t think the US military or national guard would allow a civilian to train with them for two weeks and video it. I just don’t believe they would have a bunch of soldiers and you, sticking out like a well coifed thumb."
"It has proved to be more difficult than I thought. Our local National Guard units are all pretty specialized and don’t spend too much time on Physical Training during their summer deployments. Plus, their commands are a bit ‘snake-bit’ after that Pentagon IG report on the DC Guard and January 6th and some of the unfair criticism the Guard in other States have faced because of local political issues. Dave sighed, but then smiled. "I do have a really good lead with the Army Reserves. A Colonel who works as an engineer for the government when he is not on Army Reserve Duty said he would meet me to talk about my idea. I gave him the address of my channel so he could look at some of my videos and he could get an idea of what I’m all about. We’re having lunch tomorrow."
The next day, David was standing in the large entry area of the restaurant when a very fit looking guy who appeared to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s came in. His slightly spikey flat top haircut and very erect posture made David assume that this was the Colonel. "Colonel Robertson? I’m Dave, we spoke on the phone."
The Colonel had a very firm handshake. "Please Dave, call me Carl. I save the ‘Colonel’ for when I am on duty. Why don’t we sit down and order and get to know each other." They spoke and ordered lunch. The Colonel had watched several of Dave’s videos and had asked him about his interest in this project and what his feelings were on military service and other forms of national service, including civil service, elected office, etc. The Colonel, a West Point Graduate, was a strong believer in serving one’s country and so he said that he would support this project, but he and Dave would have to find a way to give back to the military community in some way. He also stated that Dave would have to understand that whatever was asked of the unit, he would be expected to do too. Dave agreed that this was fair. Finally, they discussed who the videographer was, and Dave explained that his videographer, Jacob Louis, was an Army veteran who was in good physical condition and Dave thought could be an asset to him in understanding the way things are done in the Army. The Colonel agreed that this was a good idea. They parted with the Colonel promising to be in touch as soon as he got all the permissions lined up.
Dave’s videographer, Jake, was a freelancer. Jake did a tour in Afghanistan with the Army, got a BA in photography when he got out and made a decent living off his portrait work, and what he called his "artsy stuff." Jake usually had a couple of days stubble on his face and shaggy looking hair that he parted on the side and usually hung down past his ears and fell to his nose. When it got too annoying, or if he was filming a "society gig," he’d get his wife Leah to trim it up a bit for him. But, this latest project of Dave’s, no, this was not something to be cute about. Jake knew this because he had received a call out of the blue from the Lieutenant he had served under in Afghanistan. Jake wasn’t surprised that the officer had risen to the rank of Colonel in the years since. Carl Robertson was smart, clever, and unusual in most circumstances, well-liked by his troops. The colonel told Jake that things looked good for Dave’s project, but the general he reported to had looked at Dave’s videos and while he didn’t find the videos objectionable, he did find "that pretty-boy hairdo as a no-go. The colonel went on to explain to Jake tha he had promised the General that Dave’s hair would be cut before he started training with the troops and that this would turn-out to be a positive for the Army.
"Jake, you were always somebody that I could count on back in that god-forsaken desert. Can I ask you to help me now? I’ve checked out your photography website and I can see you’ve grown some hair since you left us. Could I get you to consider a nice short haircut? I’m going to spring a suggestion on Dave, sort of "an offer he can’t refuse" when you fellows arrive on base. It will come down to a haircut for him, or no project. That’s basically what the general left me with. Jake, who thought Dave spent silly money on his hair anyway said that he thought it was a fun idea and promised he wouldn’t say anything to Dave. Dave won’t pull out or cry or anything, will he? Colonel Robertson asked. I hate it when guys cry about their hair. There was a guy who came to summer training last year with hair that was way too long. His Sergeant sent him right to the barber and the barber really went to town on him. Sarge said the guy came back all red-eyed because his girl hated short hair. Can you believe that?"
"Don’t worry about Dave,"Jake told his old comrade-in-arms, "he will freak out about it in a quiet sort of way, but he wants this project to succeed. Me getting scalped first (no offense sir) will help. Plus, I’ll work on him after the haircut and massage his ego." Of course, Jake knew that Leah, who had met him right before he got out of the service and always liked the way he looked with short hair. He didn’t know what Roni would think about Dave. She was a sensitive lady, but she did have a wicked sense of humor. He’d have to think about this.
For Dave. two anxious weeks passed before he received the call he had been waiting for. "Dave, Carl Robertson here, looks like you’ll have your chance to call me Colonel! The brass signed off on it and I have some ideas on how we can make this work for the military community. Why don't you and your camera guy come up to the base on the Friday before the Unit arrives to start training and we can get everything set up."
Before heading over to Dave’s to make the trip to the Army facility, Jake made one last stop. The slowly twirling barber pole looked the same as it had whenever he passed the shop. The barber, Ace Nichols, had shaved Jake’s face a couple of times before. So, Ace’s first question was, "You in for a shave Jake? Good timing it’s a slow day."
"Actually Ace, believe it or not, I’m here for a shave and a haircut—and a crewcut at that!"
"Well, that’s a big change, spill the beans man. You going to court or is Leah punishing you for something?"
"Nah, nothing so dramatic," Jake responded in his laconic way. "You know Dave Mattucci, that guy I work on YouTube videos with?" (Ace nodded that he did.) "Well, he’s doing another of his silly ‘challenge videos.’ This time its training with an Army Reserve Unit up at Fort [ ]. It’s going to be hot, and they are going to run his butt ragged. I want to be as invisible as possible to any hard case lifer soldiers up there, so I want to get a nice short haircut and be clean shaven. They tend to leave "civilian pukes" alone if they look like they conform."
"Well, no problem, man. Hop in the chair. We’ll take care of that mop first. I’ll taper the sides down from a 2 and leave the top a little longer. You know, just enough for you to brush the front up or leave it down and leave enough of a guide for even a commissary barber to follow if you should get forced into another cut while you’re up there. I served too, remember. I know what "Richards" some NCOs can be. I can’t believe they’re going to let you buddy Dave get away with that pretty hair of his though."
Yeah, the haircut sounds about right, and I hope you’re wrong about being forced into another one. And, I’ve been thinking the same thing about Dave, but I’m letting him figure that out for himself. Jake didn’t want to let anybody know about his and the colonel’s secret.
Ace knew his way around a pair of Oster hair clippers and soon had Jake cropped to a uniform 3 all over with his front bangs about half an inch long. Then he took the sides and back down to a Number two and took a smaller pair of clippers to taper the bottom. He cleaned up his neck and around his ears and turned Jake to the mirror, "Voila! What do you think?"
"Wow, Leah’s right, I am cute looking with short hair, he said jokingly."
"Well, you can pull it off, I’ll say that. Now, let’s get that fuzz off your face." Fifteen minutes later, Ace was tilting the chair back up and showing Jake his newly shaven face. Hey, get some sunscreen or better still, some moisturizer with sunscreen in it. That’s a big change for your skin."
"Thanks Ace, there is nothing like a shave from an expert. What do I owe you?"
Jake stopped at home to show Leah what he looked like. She made a suitable fuss. He picked up his stuff and headed to Dave’s with a slightly loose ballcap on his head.
Dave opened his door and looked at Jake with surprise. "Whoa, looks like you cleaned up for this gig!"
Jake entered Dave’s home, removing his hat and thinking to himself "my mama raised a gentleman." Then he said, "yep, I cleaned up good.’ I don’t want any trouble up there."
Dave was still looking at Jake’s new haircut and clean-shaven face. "What do you mean by trouble?"
Jake just replied, "I was shaggy looking with the beard and my unkempt hair. There could be guys up there that might not like me making the place look untidy. Plus, it will be warm, we will be outside, and I suspect I’ll be chasing you around some, so, ‘the boss’ gave her permission and I did it. Come on man we better hit the road."
A few times on the drive up, Dave thought about delving into the subject of hair again. It had never even entered his mind that hair could be an issue. While he never considered himself shaggy, his hair was long. But always looked it’s best. He had brought plenty of sweat bands to keep it out of his eyes during exercise and drills. After all, he was an ‘Influencer’ and he might be bringing positive publicity to the Army Reserve. Jake talked some about his time in basic training and how it had been, overall, a good experience bonding with the other guys. They discussed plans for shooting and editing the videos and before they knew it, they were taking out their identification at the gate. "The young soldier at the gate, directed them to "Bachelor Officers Quarters" where rooms were allotted to them and told them to put their gear in their room and to bring a camera with them and meet the Colonel in his office which was just a short walk away.
After they had placed their bags in their assigned quarters, Jake got the equipment he thought they might need, and he and Dave made the walk over to the colonel’s office. Jake remembered to "remove his cover" upon entering the building. When they got to the captain’s office the door was closed. Jake told Dave to, "knock loudly and wait for the command to enter and don’t sit down until we are directed to." Jake was quite relieved that Dave did exactly as Jake asked.
When they heard, "enter," Dave opened the door. Dave was a bit taken aback to see the captain in his fatigues with a fresh tight flattop haircut, looking much more the military man than he had at their earlier meeting. "Colonel Robertson, I would like to introduce you to my colleague Jacob Louis. Jake does all the photography that can’t be done by me with a hand-held or a "GoPro’."
"That is a fresh-looking crewcut you are wearing Jake. Dave told me you were a veteran and I’m not surprised to see you come on base looking squared away. As Dave will find out appearance is important."
Jake, usually a laid-back guy, almost stood to attention as he replied, "thank you sir."
"Speaking of military service and haircuts, gentlemen, please take a seat. Dave, you had mentioned that you won’t be posting these videos until the two weeks are completed. That gave me this idea and its why I asked for Jake, here, to bring a camera with him. As you agreed, you will be doing everything that my troops will be doing, and that is going include showing up for the first day’s training with a regulation Army haircut." Captain Robertson said this as matter-of-factly as he might have said, ‘you’ll be doing PT at 0700.’ Jake bit the inside of his cheek to stop from laughing. Dave looked like he was about to speak, but the captain rolled on. "Since you’ll be cutting your hair anyway, let’s make a fundraiser out of the haircutting, with all money raised going to charities assisting veterans with mental health needs or to fund advanced prosthetics. We’ll used military listservs and the internet. You can put it up on your channel today. We’ll do a "before’ video right now. I was thinking that we’ll set a minimum of $20,000 if they want to see the haircut you’ll get today. Oh, and it gets better. (Dave looked like he thought it couldn’t get worse). The sergeant in charge of the infantry platoon you will be working with has agreed to go along with us on this. If anybody shows up with hair too long tomorrow, the whole crew goes to the barber and come back with their hair cut shorter. The "long hair" ends up with an induction cut. We’ll film a second video after your haircut today that assumes that there will be somebody who trips the haircuts tomorrow. If not, on the last day of training, the sergeant will take you and Jake (if Jake agrees) to get ‘cleaned up’ before you go home. Then we’ll use that as the second fund raiser. Great idea, right. You get on with your project, we raise the money. It’s a win-win. Do you have a problem with this? If so, we can cancel the whole thing."
"Sir," Dave said, the reality of the situation hitting him, "well, its, um, my hair."
Jake, seeing the hole Dave was digging, stepped in. "And when he says its his hair sir, he means, its his hair to give for the good of a great cause. He’s excited to do it. In fact, when he saw me, he said he wished I had taken him to the barber with me. Didn’t you buddy. And if it comes to it sir, count me in for that final day cleanup."
Dave, knowing a lifeline when he had one thrown to him, had composed himself, and quickly agreed. "Yes sir, shall we get started on that video?" One hour later, the three men had the structure of a great "teaser" video. Dave introduced the idea of the fundraiser, the colonel having coached him on the names of the two beneficiary organizations. It was the third take when Jake felt Dave’s smile was genuine enough when he described the haircut and how his fans would only see it if they donated enough. The colonel proved to be an adept actor too, standing next to Dave and rubbing his hand across the top of his ramrod straight flattop as Dave mentioned his Army-regulation cut. Dave and Jake would do the editing, drop in some footage of the two charities and Jake would post it Dave’s website and send a copy to the colonel before he went to bed.
"O.K. men, Jake, bring that camera, next stop the barbershop!" With those fateful words, Colonel Carl Robertson led Dave and Jake to a Jeep. He hopped into the driver’s seat invite Jake to take the passenger seat and had Dave sit in the back. On the short ride to the large modern commissary, the colonel talked to Jake about their service, and they traded stories about the good, bad and ugly of that recently ended war. Upon arrival at the commissary, a chagrined Dave followed the colonel and Jake into the building as the colonel led the way to the "Family Haircut Center." This was clearly an operation set up to take men, women and children. It was also clear that the colonel had planned this trip in advance, knowing the best time to arrive on a Friday afternoon. "Hello Toby," Colonel Robertson said to the young barber standing by his chair in the corner of the shop. This is Mr. Mattucci and former Corporal Louis. Mr. Mattucci is going to be training with one of my units for the next two weeks and, as I told you on the phone, he needs to get that hair squared away into a regulation Army cut. Let’s see those ears and a nice clean taper. You know what to do on top."
"Yes sir, Colonel," said the barber. "We’ve already had some other Reserve units come through and plenty of guys came in to get cleaned up when they arrived. It’s hard to get a real military cut from a lot of places on Civvy Street. Mr. Mattucci, please take a seat. I understand Mr. Louis will be filming this and taking some before and after shots, correct." All three men indicated that was correct.
Dave walked over to the barber chair as Jake prepared the cameras. Jake was quick and efficient with the "before" shots. He then asked Toby where he would be starting from, and they arranged how he could best stay out of Toby’s way but still get the best view of the cut. Dave, meanwhile, sat awaiting his fate. He loved his hair and was not anxious to have most of it cut off. "Is it alright if I call you Dave, Mr. Mattucci?" The barber asked this because he could sense Dave’s tension and wanted the chance to calm him down. Dave indicated that would be fine. "OK, you have a lot of hair, so I’m going to start with the clippers and take these sides down. Try to relax." Dave didn’t consider himself to be "soft." He didn’t go to the fancy high-end men’s salon for the pampered treatment, he went for the quality haircut. But he was nervous. When Toby turned the clippers on, he jumped slightly. Toby squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, then moved to his left side with Jake positioned in the corner and the clippers moved up from his sideburn, but surprised Dave by not pushing all the way up. He continued around Dave’s head scooping the hair off the bottom part of the back of his head and then moving around the other side. Dave relaxed a bit when the clippers were turned off, but this was momentary so that Toby could switch the metal guards to a slightly longer one. And with a comb in one hand and the clippers in the other, he tapered, thinned and shorted the top half of the sides and back of Dave’s formerly thick waves. Dave’s head now felt much cooler. He looked in the mirror and saw his ears that he thought looked a bit too large. He looked down on the cape and saw more hair than he had seen on a cape in for as long as he could remember.
Toby now turned his focus to the thick cluster of waves that still populated the top of Dave’s head. "Okay Dave, now I’m going to wet your hair and do two things, first get the length down to regs and then thin it out so it lays properly. Hang in there, this is coming along nicely." After wetting his hair thoroughly, the barber took some hair from the front in the long comb and chopped off about half the six inches that had graced Dave’s head. Using that as a guideline, he proceeded to lift and cut, lift and cut, lift and cut until he was satisfied. Then he combed Dave’s new shortened bangs straight down and cut them at a severe angle, taking about half an inch off the longer edge and leaving the shorter edge very short. Next, he took out a pair of thinning shears and "went to town" on Dave’s remaining waves, including any that had survived the massacre of the hair on sides and back and the new angled bangs. When he was done, he formed a straight part on the left combed the hair over so that it laid flat against Dave’s head, the hair at the front conforming to his hairline. The barber then proceeded to apply shaving cream to Dave’s neck, around his ears and to where his sideburns had been, leaving him with just shadowed tabs reaching the top half inch of his ears. He wiped off the remaining shaving cream, applied some talcum powder, brushed Dave down, and said, there you go, one haircut, well within Army regs for men. Quite a change, but I’d say you look like a soldier now."
Dave, who considered himself a good communicator, was speechless. He had watched most of the transformation take place when Toby hadn’t turned the chair away from the mirror a few times during the haircut, but he was still looking at a stranger. He opened his mouth, and nothing would come out. As Toby removed the cape, he raised his hands to touch his hair and was shocked to find that his hands were an inch or so away from his head. Toby gently took Dave’s hands and placed them on the back of his head and asked, "feels different, huh?"
Dave continued to touch his newly shorn head and said, "wow, this is very different. He ran his hand gently across the top of his head and said, man this is short!"
Jake had paused the filming and was preparing to take the ‘after’ pictures. "I know you are going to think I’m not telling you the truth, but you look good, bro! And trust me, you will appreciate it after a few days of Army PT." Jake knew from looking at Dave that he was going to have to get word to Roni before Dave spoke to her. So, he surreptitiously snapped a picture with his phone while Dave was distracted.
The colonel was beaming and said, "I agree with everything Jake said." Rubbing his hands together he got an even bigger smile and said, "I can’t wait to see the second haircut. Dave, this one’s one me. Great job Toby. Now come on gents, we need to get Dave fitted in some appropriate PT gear."
As the Colonel showed Dave the clothing he thought would be appropriate, Jake excused himself saying he had a few calls to make. He quickly called Dave’s wife and told her, "the Colonel had "sprung a surprise idea for a fundraiser on us that involved Dave cutting his hair. Dave went along with it, but he seems a bit shook up, I just wanted to give you a heads-up in case he calls you and sounds a little off. I have a picture I can send to prepare you, but Dave doesn’t know I took this one."
Roni asked for Jake to send the picture. When it arrived, she said to Jake, "oh my poor husband, ne looks so forlorn! But I can’t wait to see him in person, I think he looks pretty hot."
"Just remember to act surprised when he tells you," Jake said, as he rung off.
The next morning, Dave and Jake woke up, and checked the website and were shocked to see that over $5000.00 had been raised since they posted the video the previous night. Dave admitted, sheepishly to Jake that his short haircut seemed a much more efficient way style in the morning and then handed Jake a bag with all his hair care products. "The colonel says I’ll be moving into the barracks with the guys and to only bring what I need to film when you aren’t around." Jake pretended that this was news to him, but the colonel had explained this to him yesterday. He wanted this to be as full an emersion as possible for Dave.
The two newly shorn pals had most of the day to themselves and wandered around the base. The colonel had arranged for them to have access to the commissary, and they saw several guys in the uniform of the colonel’s Division in the barbershop. Dave wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or not. He would find out tomorrow.
Stay tuned for a possible part 2.