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I didn't want it with a line by SteDJ

As I sat in the waiting area of Kieran Jeffries Men’s Hairstylists, I was still wearing my rugby kit, as I often did to go home after school on Wednesdays. It seemed a waste of time getting changed out of my sports shirt and shorts at school only to have to get changed again when I got home. It was 1984, I was 15 years old and my mum had given me the customary £2 for my bi-monthly haircut at Tony’s Barbers, the place where I had had my hair cut since time immemorial. My hair was typical for a teenager of the era, centre-parted, over my ears and a couple of inches over my collar at the back. I had become bored with the predictability of my regular dry trim at Tony’s, and even though it was going to cost me more, I fancied trying somewhere more interesting where they did shampoos and blow-dries as well as contemporary haircuts in a modern trendy environment that was more in keeping with the 1980s. Tony’s was more reminiscent of the 1950s with its old-fashioned metal-framed chairs, Brylcreem and Durex adverts, harsh fluorescent strip lighting and the smell of cigarette smoke.

Kieran Jeffries seemed to fit the bill for somewhere different and modern, with its streamlined interior design, spotlights, comfy-looking heavily padded barber chairs, pot plants and piped background music. They even offered you a cup of coffee while you were in the chair, although I couldn't see the attraction of drinking something which had hair clippings floating in it. They also had one of those systems where you took a numbered ticket as you went in, and waited for your turn to be indicated on a screen above each chair.

Soon enough, my number came up, and I was invited to take a seat in one of the four barber chairs. I removed my jacket, hung it up on the coat stand and climbed into the chair, a sense of intense excitement gripping my entire body as I sank comfortably into the sumptuous brown leather upholstery.

The young barber, who it transpired was called David, didn’t look old enough to shave, let alone be employed to cut hair. He was smartly dressed in a collar and tie and a navy-blue knee-length plastic bib apron and had a centre-parted mop of dark hair which was tapered down to almost nothing at the back. All very 1980s.

"Right then young man, what are we doing today?"

"I want it washing and blow-drying and just cutting a bit round the edges," I muttered, making sure that I got the most important thing in first. After all, if I’d just wanted a dry cut, I’d have gone to Tony’s. As if to emphasise my instructions, I randomly waved my right hand around my head, immediately realising that as a piece of communication, it must have meant very little.

David then folded the collar down inside my rugby shirt, and quickly sealed me in under a huge navy-blue plastic cape, which matched his own apron, and which completely covered both myself and most of the chair. He then secured a white vinyl shoulder cape around my neck, tightly securing the Velcro fastening under my chin. I found the sensation of the heavy cold vinyl sheet rubbing against my bare arms and legs to be oddly yet intensely exciting and I soon found myself becoming aroused as David raised the chair up and I got to see the full effect in the mirror. This was all very different from being draped in the boring white cotton cloth I had to wear for a haircut at Tony’s.

As I sat there taking in my blue and white caped reflection, David busied himself getting ready to shampoo my hair. Seemingly satisfied with the water temperature, he threw a white towel around my shoulders, firmly tucking it in around my neck, and I began to wonder how many more layers I was going to be forced to wear before I had finished getting my hair cut here.

The whole shampoo experience was like a dream " leaning over the sink, I sat there in a trance-like state as David firmly massaged the richly perfumed shampoo into my scalp, before rinsing it away with warm water of the perfect temperature. I had never experienced the feeling of someone else washing my hair since my mum used to do it for me when I was a little boy, and I had already decided I would be back here for more the next time I had to have a haircut. I was almost disappointed when all too soon, I was sitting back upright in the chair in a state of full arousal as David combed out my wet hair and picked up his scissors.

"Not too short," I reminded him, suddenly returning to reality and bearing in mind that this was about enjoying the process rather than the finished product. David didn’t reply.

Raising the chair another couple of notches and shoving my head forward, David set about cutting, and I felt the scissors dig into the hair at my neck, crunching their way up the back of my head. I tried to look up to see what was happening, but David firmly pushed my head back into position and I had nothing more than a view of my long wet fringe, the cape over my knees and the floor in front of me.

Something didn’t feel right. The intense ferocity of the snipping seemed to stop about half way up the back of my head, and it felt like the barber was cutting off much less higher up. There was no cut hair visible anywhere on the cape; it must have been going straight to the floor behind me, so I therefore had no way of knowing how much I was losing.

I didn’t have to wonder for long though, as my head was lifted up and David appeared round my left-hand side. The scissors instantly crunched into the long hair above my ear, and a shower of wet clippings two or three inches long noisily hit the cape before quickly sliding all the way down to land on the floor at my feet. My jaw dropped in horror as I was quickly relieved of all the hair over my left ear, and the barber left behind a band of stubble no more than a quarter of an inch long above my hair line at the side. The long hair above the stubble was quickly trimmed to create a heavy line about half an inch above my ear, and David then painstakingly snipped away to connect the line at the side with the one he had presumably created across the back of my head. This was really not good. He was giving me one of those awful haircuts that looked like my mother had placed a baking bowl on my head and cut round it.

"Excuse me, I didn’t want it with a line…" I began to protest.

"It’s a bit late for that. You asked for a wedge," replied David.

"A what?"

"A wedge. You definitely said a wash and blow dry and cutting into a wedge. Short at the bottom, and longer on top."

"I never did," I replied, trying unsuccessfully to get my arm out from under the heavy vinyl cape to feel the damage at the back. "I said something like to cut it a bit round the edges."

"Well you need to speak more clearly in future. I heard you ask for a wedge " and you showed me with your hand that that was what you wanted, so that’s what I’m giving you. Either I can finish it, or I can give you a short back and sides; that will be the only way to get rid of the line. What do you want me to do?"

I could feel my heart sink into my boots and my eyes began to well up with tears. Any sense of excitement about this haircut was now long gone, and all I wanted to do was to escape from this horrendous situation and David’s barber chair.

"I don’t want a line…"

"So a short back and sides?"

"Can’t you do it not too short at the back and sides? I haven’t had short back and sides since I was a kid and nobody has hair like that nowadays. Everyone will laugh at me."

"So the wedge then? Come on young man, make up your mind. I haven’t got all day."

I sat there blushing red staring at my ridiculous reflection in the mirror " long hair at one side and short at the other, faintly reminiscent of Phil Oakey of The Human League, who were a popular group of the time.

"I really don’t want a line so I suppose it will have to be the short back and sides," I reluctantly conceded.

"OK, we can do that," said David, reaching for his hairdryer. "I can’t clipper your hair when it’s wet though, so let’s get it dried off."

My head was suddenly engulfed in a tornado of burning hot air, my hair flying around in every direction as David ruffled it with his hand until it was fluffy and dry. He then combed it down, picked up a pair of electric clippers, wrapped the cable round his wrist and standing behind me, lined the clippers up to begin their onslaught.

"Are you sure about this? Once I’ve started, there’s no going back."

"Yes, I think so."

"Right then, here we go."

With a loud electric clack, the clippers hummed into life, and shoving my head forward once again, the barber steered the clippers up the back of my head. The buzzing beasts effortlessly chewed their way with a rasping crunch through everything in their path, and as David flicked his wrist, a huge fluffy clump of blond hair hit my shoulder. More followed as the clipping continued, David roughly steering my head around and folding my ears down to ease the path of the machine of tonsorial destruction. More and more blond hair was dispatched to the cape, creating a fine carpet on my shoulders and down my front. How much hair can one person lose at one sitting?

The answer was quite a lot, as the scissors took over from the clippers. With a rapid series of rasping snips, scissors-over-comb the next phase of the cutting got underway, and the long hair on top was reduced down to a couple of inches and blended into the near-shaved back and sides. Next, David grabbed me by the chin, lifted my head up and as I stared intently into the mirror to see most of my fringe being obliterated, my blood ran cold.

"Smithy! What’s with the skinhead? Have you forgotten that this is 1984 and not the second world war? Or are you joining the army?"

One of the kids from my school " Richard Hill, who was well-known for being one of the hard-case bullies, was standing behind me with a stupid grin on his face, and the embarrassment almost killed me.

I chose to look away, but he came right up to me, and roughly grabbing my caped shoulder, he sent an avalanche of cut hair raining down to the floor.

"You know you look like a total tw*t with your hair like that!"

"P*ss off Hilly." I couldn’t think what else to say as I sat there blushing brighter red than ever.

"Yes, young man, go sit down please," added David. "We can always arrange a short back and sides for you if you like…"

"No thanks, you’re all right," answered Richard, looking at me in the mirror still grinning and now miming scissor gestures at me. "I can’t wait to see you at school tomorrow looking like that. It’s just gonna be such a laugh!"

It was only then that I noticed Richard's mother sitting next to her son in the waiting area behind me, glancing at a magazine and seemingly oblivious to his behaviour.

A matter of minutes later, the razor had been applied to my hairline, my sideboards had been brutally removed, the remainder of my hair had been blasted once more with the hairdryer into a side parted short back and sides, the blue plastic sheet was gone and I sat there in my sports kit feeling emotionally battered. Thanks to David's handywork, I looked like a member of a 1950s youth football team.

The chair was let down with a gentle hiss, and I was free at last, but the embarrassment wasn't over yet.

"I guess you enjoyed that after all," said David with a smirk on his face having noticed the damp patch in my crotch.

My face burning even redder than before, I grabbed my jacket and school bag, paid the £5 for my haircut, and as I passed Richard, who was now sitting caped up in the neighbouring barber chair, I was just in time to witness a row developing between Richard and his mother. Mrs Hill had seemingly taking a liking to my new haircut and was busy instructing Richard's barber to give him the same. Richard meanwhile was doing his best to escape from the chair whilst turning the air blue with expletives to the effect that he wanted to keep his long hair.

I smugly feigned sympathy to Richard as I headed for the door, and suddenly began to look forward to the next day at school after all.

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