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Mr Brown One haircut changed everything by clippered kid

You might of thought that as I got older things would have changed. Mum might of eased up, mellowed a little. But you'd be wrong. Her attitude to long hair never changed. She was as determined as ever to see to it that I did'nt get any "funny ideas" as she put it, and would remain a short back and sides boy. I still found myself despatched up yo Mr Browns with instructions to come back with it nice and short as often as ever. The cat and mouse game of me trying to dodge haircuts for an extra week or two before Mum would eventually lose patience and snap, also continued.

However if I'm honest at some point, certainly after I'd turned 16, I'm pretty sure I could of stood up to her if I'd really wanted to force the issue. At this point Mum was no longer the real issue. Although I did'nt like to admit it, deep down I knew the real problem was me. You see the only place I had ever been for a haircut in my entire life was Mr Browns, so not surprisingly I found the idea of going somewhere else ( especially somewhere modern ) a bit odd , and actually quite intimidating.

The modern salons were bright, lively and busy with a generally younger clientele including lads my age. They were the complete opposite of what I was used to. Mr Browns shop dark run down, the atmosphere inside solemn and respectful. Occasionally there would be another poor unfortunate lad like me getting the full Mr Brown treatment and we'd share a sympathetic look, but mostly the customers were older gentlemen.

Of course I often intended to go somewhere else. In my head I had it all planned out, I'd even earmarked one or two likely alternatives. More than once I actually went as far as getting right up to the door of another barber only to lose my nerve at the last minute and walk away. For some reason I just could'nt go through with it. I'd chicken out and I'd hate myself for it. Inevitably it meant that come Friday at 5pm I'd be back in the chair at Mr Browns for yet another short back and sides and I had no-one to blame but myself.

The truth is I was terrified of making a fool of myself. I'd never really told a barber how I wanted my haircutting, I genuinely did'nt know what to say. Not only was I worried about feeling out of place in a modern shop, I actually felt that somehow they would know I was a fraud, I did'nt belong there. Even if I'd dodged a haircut for a few weeks, my hair was by no means long just extra scruffy. I had visions of them telling me to go away and come back in a few months when it had grown a bit. The modern places were for long hair and the old barbers were for short hair. It sounds daft now, but that's what I honestly beleived at the time.

To me it was the most natural thing in the world for your barber to be a man in his late 60's. Someone how took charge. He sat you down, tucked you in, put down his pipe, picked up his clippers and off he went. 15/20 minutes later, without having to say a word, you were done. You stepped out of that chair with the back and sides of your head stripped and the small amount of hair you still had, shining and held rigidly in place with grease. Mr Brown had once again done you the great favour of taking care of the problem of your hair and it was time for you to express your gratitude as usual.

That morning when you'd combed your hair before leaving for school, you'd promised yourself this was'nt going to happen. This was the day you were finally going to pluck up the courage to go somewhere else. But here you were back again. The hair that had taken weeks to grow was gone. It now lay on the lino of Mr Browns shop soon to be swept up and put in the bin where it belonged. Any thoughts you had about going somewhere else to get it " styled " were now academic. This was the way it had always been for me. The idea that you could have a haircut of your own choice from a young guy or god forbid even a women was completely alien to me

It might of made things easier if I could of blamed Mr Brown for my predicament, but I did'nt, not at all. I blamed my mum and I blamed myself. It would of also of helped if I could of somehow brought myself dislike Mr Brown, but I never could. He'd been giving me haircuts since I was little more than a toddler and just a few short years ago, I even enjoyed thinking of myself as one of his favourites. So thanks to a combination of my insanely good manners and lack of confidence I was stuck.

The plain truth is that I never did stand up to my mum. Just tell her straight-no more short back and sides- no more Mr Brown. My short back and sides day's only ended when Mr Browns shop closed for the last time and he retired when I was 17. And the fact is by that by the time that happened I'd given up. And by that I mean I'd really given up completely. For the last year or so he was in business I went for haircuts much more often, and frequently without being told.

The stress of trying to avoid haircuts, and the sense of despair and failure I felt for not going somewhere else just got too much. ( I gave up my resistance ) I adopted an " I don't care attitude " In fact as a final act of bravado, I even took too asking Mr Brown to do it really short for me everytime I went in

Once settled in the chair Mr Brown would do his usual thing of making me look in the mirror while he announced

" Good short back and sides for you David is'nt it "

Only now instead of just saying " yes please sir "

I would add

" Can you take it all off for me sir. Make it nice and short "

There was one final little incident which sparked this change of attitude. It happened when I was 16 at the time I would do anything to avoid a haircut, and it had a profound effect on me

I remember it was a nice sunny day in the middle of the afternoon. I was wandering around on my own, checking out the places we used to hang about to see if I could hook up with my mates. ( It's what you did before mobiles and txt ). Innocently enough my route took me past Mr Browns. I was always wary of walking past Mr Browns shop for reasons i'm sure you can imagine. I would avoid it altogether if possible, or at least cross to the other side of the road. But on this day I'd got a bit casual, I let my guard down and it was to prove a big mistake.

The main window of Mr Browns shop was a kind of dark frosted glass that had some lettering on it


It meant you could'nt see clearly into the shop but you could make out shapes. The outline of someone waiting on the bench under the window, the outline of Mr Brown at the back of the shop working on the head of someone in his chair. Above the main window were two smaller windows with plain glass, that could open. That day just as I was passing by, the shop being empty. Mr Brown had stepped up to give his windows a wipe.

The next thing I knew I was shaken out of my daydreaming by a banging noise behind me. I looked around and there was Mr Brown smiling down and gesturing for me to come into the shop

At this point I was not too concerned, my overwhelming emotion was relief. I was so relieved that none of my friends were there to see me summoned into the shop by the old barber and dutifully doing as I was told. I assumed that Mr Brown was going to ask me to run down to the shops for him, so I thought, lets get in there and get it over with.

As soon as I entered the shop, passing from the bright sunny day outside to the solemn headmasters study atmosphere inside, my confident mood evaporated ,I knew I was in trouble. Mr Brown stood in front of me with a big smile on his face,

"Hello David how are you today "

"Fine sir"

"Lovely day son is'nt it"

Yes Sir

By this time the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. I'd never seen Mr Brown looking this happy something was'nt right. He went on

"Are you busy son

"No sir"

"Not in any particular hurry. Nowhere special you've got to be

" No I've got nothing to do really "

With that Mr Brown sort of half turned and pointed to the barbers chair

" Right then, you just sit yourself down in that chair in the corner, you know the one. Make yourself nice and comfortable, there's a good lad "

Now you might think that I should'nt of been too surprised at this turn of events. But the thing is I'd actually been in for a haircut quite recently. Less than 2 weeks ago, more like 10 days ago. I still had the just had a haircut look.

I hesitated. Seeing the confused look on my face only seemed to add to Mr Browns amusement. By this time he was grinning from ear to ear. He spoke again

"Come on lad get in the chair. What is it I'm always telling you eh. What am I always saying to you David "

Eventually I twigged

"That I should come to see you more often sir "

" Thats right son. Got you have'nt I. Caught you red handed walking right past the shop with nothing better to do. Come on sit yourself down "

So that was it. I seriously don't think that even Mr Brown thought I needed a haircut but he was making a point. As I headed for the chair, cursing myself for being so careless as to be caught walking past the shop, I graciously conceded

" Fair enough Mr Brown you got me "

I did at least point out to Mr Brown that I'd not long had a haircut, but this I think turned out to be a bit of a tactical error. You see I think that to Mr Brown there was no such thing as "too soon for another haircut " that whole concept did'nt exist for him. I was trying to hint that I did'nt think too much had to come off, but I think that he thought I was concerned I would'nt get value for money. Mr Brown told me not to worry, since he knew I liked it short, he'd make sure plenty of hair would be leaving my head that afternoon, and everybody would know I'd been to the barbers. Far from being re assured by this information I nevertheless took my seat

Once caped up and in the chair my nerves settled and I relaxed as usual. I was back in the old routine, that familiar feeling of Mr Brown being in complete control came over me. There was nothing else for me to do now except be a good lad, follow all Mr Browns instructions and leave everything to him just like always.

Mr Brown said this would be a nice surprise for my mum when I went home looking all neat and tidy, and I for my part promised Mr Brown I'd tell Dad how he'd "got me" when he came home from work.

Throughout the entire haircut Mr Brown never lost that pleased with himself expression, and for some reason seeing Mr Brown in such a good mood meant I could'nt help but smile and laugh along with him despite the circumstances. It was probably this that distracted me from paying proper attention to the dreadful damage Mr Brown was inflicting on my head.

Back in the chair for another short back and sides in 10 days you might of expected it to be over quite quickly. A little tickle with the clippers, a drop of grease and there you go, but no. That was'nt Mr Browns way. He prided himself on taking special care of his regulars. He would never leave them feeling short changed, they would always feel the full benefit of a haircut from him. So this haircut followed exactly the same pattern and took every bit as long as any other haircut. The trouble was I did'nt start this haircut with a normal amount of hair o n my head. Again and again the clippers hummed up the back of my head as Mr Brown worked away in his usual unhurried methodical manner. When the clippers reached the top of my head he would give that little flick and more hair would roll down the cape and come to rest in my lap.

Again if I had'nt been so distracted by the happy mood in the shop, I might of been a bit more concerned that the amount of hair building up in my lap was'nt too much different from any other haircut either. Finally after a good going over lasting a full 20 minutes, the grease had been applied and Mr Brown was dabbing the clippers down the part, the haircut was over.

To say I was shocked when Mr Brown held up his mirror to show me the back would be an understatement. I'd had plenty of short haircuts over the years but nothing like this. Normally I would expect to see absolutely no hair at all on the back of my head up to the level of the tops of my ears. Then there would be a roughly clipped and shorn area blending into the greased hair on top, but not today. Today as far as I could tell, from the nape of my neck to the very top of my head there was nothing. There was absolutely no trace of hair on the back of my head at all. It was truely horrendous, it took my breathe away. And the sides had been butchered equally as short to match. I'd never seen anything like it.

So what did I do when Mr Brown showed me the finished haircut, well of course I thanked him. My behaviour at the barbers was programmed into me, like I was on auto pilot. I always said the right thing, the thing Mr Brown wanted to hear, and today was no different. Mr Brown spoke

"There you go David, nice and short just the way you like it "

" Thank you Mr Brown it looks great "

" Not too short for you son "

" No Mr Brown it's fine really nice "

" Feels good to get rid of all that hair and have it cleaned up David does'nt it "

" Yes sir it feels really good "

" Can't beat a good short back and sides can you son "

" No sir. Thanks again Mr Brown it's really good "

This was the typical sort of exchange that took place between Mr Brown and I at the end of a haircut, and I've got to say I was quite proud of myself for behaving as normal and hiding my shock so well.
Mr Brown removed the cape and as I stood up he passed me a tissue to wipe away the loose hairs. As I fished in my pocket for some money, Mr Brown was lighting his pipe still looking incredibly pleased with himself. He spoke again, and his tone was serious

" so then David will you be coming in to see me more often in future "

" Yes sir I will "

" Is that a promise son "

" Yes sir definitely "

At this point I would of agreed to anything, I just wanted to get out of there. Mr Brown continued

" Good lad, I think your a bit to old now to wait till your mum tells you, don't you "

"yes sir "

" It's time you took a bit of responsibility, were a bit more grown up about it "

" Yes Mr Brown your right "

In the past whenever Mr Brown pulled me up over leaving it too long between haircuts, I would always say I never really noticed till Mum said. He went on

" Young hair grows quick. I should see you in here more often than your father, not the other way round eh "

" I know Mr Brown sorry "

" So son from now on I want to see you in here every 2 or 3 weeks. That way we can keep right on top of it. Keep nice and tidy can't we, just like today "

" Yes Mr Brown I'll do that and thanks again for the haircut "

" My pleasure son "

And with that I walked out of the shop.

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