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My Best Barber by Snipped Sam
I had only met Mr Robbins a week or so before, at an evening wedding reception, he had struck me as a nice man. He and his wife and some friends had sat on the next table to my parents, my sister and I, which is how we first all got chatting. He was very friendly towards us, and cracked a few jokes, at the end of the evening when we said goodbye, he said to me that he hoped to see me again.
"Yes, I’m sure we might see you again."
"Did you know I’ve got a gents hairdressers over on Southdown Road?"
"No, I didn’t."
"Maybe I could cut your hair sometime."
He then told me exactly where his shop was and suggested that I could always come and check it out, no obligations. Wendy, my sister asked if she could come as well, and Mr Robbins said she could if she wanted to and I didn’t mind. I was quite interested to see his premises, and certainly did not rule out making a visit there. Wendy was two years younger than me, and as she was just twelve, I had to go with her to the dentist. After her appointment, as I knew Mr Robbins barbers was not far from there, I decided that perhaps I would go and have a look out of curiosity and even get a haircut.
When we arrived there, as we approached the door, I saw that Mr Robbins was sitting down reading a newspaper. I pushed the door and we went in, he looked up and greeted us warmly standing up. He was a big chunky man, probably early forties, his dark brown hair brushed back, his sideburns meaty and the hair on the back of his head was cut with a precise square finish, I thought his haircut really suited him. He was wearing a white short sleeved tunic; I noticed his arms were big and hairy. I told him that Wendy had just been to the dentists and as we were close by, I thought we would drop by and say hello.
"Nice to see you both again, how did you get on at the dentists Wendy?"
"I just had a check-up."
"Do you need anything doing?"
"No, the dentist told me that my teeth almost perfect."
"You must have been very pleased to hear that, did you see the dentist as well Richard?"
"No, I wasn’t due for my check up."
"Have you been in a Gents Hairdressers before Wendy?"
Wendy nodded and replied;
"Sometimes I used to go with mum, when she took Richard to the barbers."
"So, it’s perhaps been a while since you saw him having his haircut."
"It’s been ages, he used to have it cut really short."
"Did he now?"
"Yes, our Mum and Dad like his hair cut really short, and Dad has told him he should get it cut before the start of school next week."
"That’s enough Wendy."
"And its Friday tomorrow."
"I think I better get you in the chair."
He replied looking directly at me, I had been going to the same place for ages for my haircuts, and I rather liked the idea of this big chunky man giving me a haircut. I pointed to the long red vinyl bench and told Wendy to;
"Sit there in the corner and be quiet."
Placing his hand on my shoulder, he guided me in the direction of the barber’s chair, it was a short walk and soon I was sitting down. The white cape was fitted without delay and the seat pumped up to the required height.
"It doesn’t look like you’ve had it cut for a while Richard."
"No, Dad lets me grow it a bit during the school holiday."
He started to comb my hair and then looked over at Wendy.
"Why don’t you can come and sit a bit closer Wendy."
"She is alright where she is."
"Don’t be so mean to your sister."
He then gestured for Wendy to move closer, which she did and I could see a little smile on her face. He selected his scissors and comb from the counter in front of me, positioned my head so it was slightly tilted forwards, and began cutting my hair.
"I have a very good idea how you father would like your hair, so I will cut your hair how as a father, I would like your hair."
He combed my hair then held it firmly between his fingers and the cut with determination. My summer holiday hair growth was fast disappearing from my head. It was obvious to me that whilst he had been very friendly when we met him at the wedding, it was a little different once in his chair. He had a job to do and he was very much in charge, but I didn’t really have a problem with that.
"Wendy, you said when your Mum used to take Richard to the barbers, they used to cut his hair really short."
"Yes, that’s right."
"Do you remember if they did the back of his head and the sides with the clippers."
"Yes, I think so."
I was annoyed that Wendy had mentioned about the fact that I used to have my hair cut very short, and it was obvious that he thought she would be more forthcoming than me.
"They would have made a loud buzzing noise."
"Yes, they were loud, when he was clipped"
"I’m glad you brought your sister with you Richard."
I replied, although my hair was kept short, it had been almost two years since I had such a short haircut like that. I wondered if Mr Robbins was teasing, or was this the sort of haircut he would as he said earlier, give his son. I knew that I had no say in the matter, and I had a very good idea that he wasn’t teasing either. Whilst he had told me he was a Gents Hairdresser; in my case he was certainly more like a barber. Having placed his scissors and comb back
on the side, he dusted my face and head with a soft bristled brush to remove the loose hairs.
He then removed a different comb from the steriliser cabinet and then selected his clippers from a bank of three, that hung on hooks. I noticed that the cable was long as he walked with the clippers to stand behind me. He pressed firmly on my head to bend it forwards, and soon he had brought the clippers to life, purring loudly and soon they were making their assent up the back of my head. They made their way smoothly through my hair, as my hair just tumbled away from my head. He gripped the front of my head firmly as he pressed the clippers hard against my head.
I imagined that Wendy was quite enjoying watching this being done, this was what some barbers did with boys’ hair, whereas when she went to the hairdressers the results were hardly noticeable. After adjusting the position of my head, he worked on the left side of my head first and then the right. After extensive clipping on both sides of my head, he gave my head a vigorous brush down, before taking different clippers and blending with the comb. I noticed that there were short chestnut brown hair clippings on his right arm, which has dropped from my head when he clipped me. Following a further brushing down, he took his cut throat razor and started shaving and edging the back and at the sides, holding my skin taut with his left thumb. He then wiped my neck and round my ears with a tissue. He then lifted my head up, holding it either side.
"What a smart lad you now look, not that you weren’t smart before."
He said as he combed my hair into place.
"My Dad will be really pleased with what you’ve done."
"What about you Richard?"
"I’m sure that I will get used to it."
Mr Robbins then looked over at Wendy.
"Short enough for you Mam?"
He said jokingly, which made Wendy giggle as he took the mirror and held it for me to see the back, it was even shorter than I had suspected, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Yes in 1973 this was classed as an old-fashioned haircut, but I knew even then it was the best haircut that I had ever had.
"Would you like anything on your hair?"
"May be a little hairspray, please."
"Good choice…the Cossack I think."
He said taking the can and removing the top and giving my hair a good spray with it. After a generous dusting with powder, the cape was removed and I stepped off the chair. I then went with him to the till to pay for my haircut.
"So, Richard, do you think you will come to see me for another haircut?"
"I think Dad will insist on it."
"What do you think?"
"I’m happy to come back."
"That’s a good start."
"As I said, I’m sure I will get used to how short this is."
As Wendy and I left, on feeling the back of my head, I realised that I had missed how the back of my head felt after a good clipping. In a way in a way I was already looking forward to my next haircut. About ten days later, Dad came home from work having had his haircut, later he told me that he had also been to Mr Robbins. He then advised me, that he and Mr Robbins had agreed that they would be keeping my hair very short, and that he would be taking me to see him on the Saturday morning.
"That’s just over a two weeks since my last haircut Dad."
"I know, but we don’t want to leave it too long before your next cut…You will soon get used to it Son."
I knew that was no other option, but to get used to it, there had been teasing and jokes about my very short haircut at school. But that was as far as I was concerned the only stumbling block, I secretly liked that Mr Robbins was now my barber. I also rather looked forward to the strict haircut regime which they would be implementing. The following summer, when we broke up for the holidays, I had already been told that my haircuts would continue to be as regular as in termtime. In fact, with us going on holiday for two weeks at the end of July, Mr Robbins near enough scalped before we went. Even when I left home at twenty, when I ever I was home for a weekend, I would go and see him for a haircut…He remains without doubt the best barber I have ever been to.