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My Story: The Click by Stopfordian Stationer


After I didn’t get the buzz cut I wanted as described in the first part of the story, I didn’t really think any more about short hair. I maybe noticed short haircuts a bit more than I had previously but it never occurred to me again that I wanted short hair myself and I always resisted on the occasions my parents suggested I might try it. It’s frustrating to think about all that now as I’m pretty sure that if I had expressed any interest at all or agreed to give it a go when I was a kid, I would have been, depending on when it was, in the barber’s chair or on the cutting chair in the back room at home sharpish with my dad ordering a short back and sides or crew cut for me. In fact, I really wish they had made me have that whether I liked it or not. Looking back at photos of myself from that time I cringe as I really do look awful. My hair is a long and untidy bird’s nest with no neatness or semblance of style to it at all. It’s over my ears, messy on the top, long at the back and the fringe hangs limply down over my eyes (imagine a longer, uglier, more untidy, stragglier version of Nicholas Hoult’s haircut in About A Boy). It really was an abomination but I was still shy about my ears and using my hair as a hiding place and hoping nobody would notice me. I had gone to a different secondary school from all of the kids in my primary school and my new classmates had also picked up on my ears sticking out. It was an all boys school at the time so teasing and taunting about any perceived weaknesses were commonplace.

I started to think more about shorter hair when I was towards the end of my second year in secondary school, a couple of months before my thirteenth birthday. Sometimes when Richard had come to cut our hair, I had gone into the back room when my dad was having his hair cut and noticed it was finished with what I then realised were clippers. Richard would trim all over with the scissors, comb dad’s hair across to the side as it was always styled (it wasn’t parted as such but brushed from left to right and then brought around at the front rather than leaving a fringe) and then finish off by clipping up the bottom of my dad’s neck and over his ears. After happening to see this once or twice, I then deliberately started to hang around so I could watch and I became fascinated with seeing dad being clippered. I now associated clippers with a short and smart haircut and thought about it in my mind as having your hair cut into your neck as opposed to hanging down your neck like my hair did. This coincided with me getting persistent ideas about looking smart myself and when I was on my own in the house, I began parting my hair and combing it behind my ears and back off my forehead. This subsequently was combined with putting on my school uniform, blazer, tie, top shirt button done up, the lot. I seemed to be developing a need to look smart and subconsciously wished that I would be made to look smart by some unspecified authority figure and have no say in the matter. Although the uniform looked fine when I dressed up, even when I combed my hair as neatly as possible it was still more or less a mess and it occurred to me that what I really wanted was that short, smart haircut exactly like my dad’s. I tried to fight against it and agonised for a while but about six months later, in the autumn, I finally came to the realisation that I really did want a short haircut and I was ready for the clippers myself. This was probably helped by the fact that nobody at school bothered about my ears anymore and I got teased instead about my truly tragic haircut. I steeled myself to have "the conversation" with my dad.

The weekend before Richard was next due to come, I casually asked dad if Richard was coming the following week even though I knew full well that he was. ‘Yes, he will be here on Wednesday,’ dad said. ‘Why?’
I took a deep breath. ‘Well . . . I think my hair is a right mess. He should cut it shorter.’ There, I had said it.
‘OK,’ replied dad. ‘I’ll ask him to take a bit more off.’
That was more or less it. I didn’t push it or go into any more detail and didn’t say anything else before Richard came. Disappointingly I don’t remember the haircut at all now or how much shorter it was although I think it was finally scissored over my ears as I recall Richard folding my ears down while he snipped around them rather than just trimming the hair over them as usual. I think he also took the back up my neck a bit and cut my fringe a bit shorter. When I saw it after I was finished it was a small first step but I wasn’t satisfied as it was nowhere near what I wanted. I was going to have to be clearer next time.

The weekend before our next appointment, I decided to be more specific about what I wanted. I mentioned Richard coming to dad and told him I wanted it much shorter. ‘You can tell him to use the clippers on me,’ I said.
Dad ummed and aahed a bit and said that might be a bit drastic when I had had long hair for such a long time. He would have to consult my mum about letting me do that. When I got home from school on the night Richard was coming, I walked into the middle of a discussion between mum and dad on how I was going to get my hair cut. ‘I don’t want it shaving up his neck . . .’ mum was saying. That came as a considerable disappointment to me as that was exactly what I did want. I should have argued and pressed the point but I didn’t. I just listened as they talked about some compromise that would be shorter but still not as short as I wanted. It looked like more disappointment was in store.

When Richard arrived, Alex had his hair cut first and after that I went into the back room and sat down to have mine done. Richard now had his own shop rather than working in someone else’s so things were looking up on the equipment front and he always brought a barber’s cape with him so we were fully covered rather than just having a towel and ending up covered with hair. Richard caped me up and I sat and waited as my fate was discussed. The consensus seemed to be quite a lot more length off than I would normally have but not too short. Tapering was mentioned, not that I knew then what that was. Richard set to work and I could tell from the hair on the cape and the floor that I was at least having it properly shorter this time. I could also feel the comb and scissors much closer to my head than usual as he snipped away, especially went he went up my neck to do the back. I was still not paying a great deal of attention and I was mainly reading stuff that was in the newspaper on the floor. This went on for 10 minutes or so until it seemed I was more or less done. Richard said ‘Just wait there one second,’ and went in his bag. I heard him plug something in behind me and I assumed he was going to use the hairdryer to blast the hair away from round my neck and off the cape as he usually would at this point. I then heard a click, followed immediately by a low humming noise. I knew straight away what it was and my stomach jumped into my throat as it hit me: "Oh my God, he’s going to use the clippers on me!" When I look back now, I still remember that click as a seminal moment in my haircut journey.

Richard laid his comb on the back of my neck and trimmed the hair at the bottom with the clippers over the comb. He moved up slightly and did the same and then did similarly over my ears. After a couple of minutes of trimming it was sadly all over, the clippers were turned off, Richard did blast me with the hairdryer and I was done. When I got up off the chair, I was straight upstairs to look in the mirror in the bedroom I shared with Alex. I took the handheld mirror from the bathroom and held it behind my head so I could see how the back was cut. It was a lot shorter than I had had it before and I felt the clipped bits at the bottom which were pleasingly stubbly compared to the long hair I had been used to there. It was a big improvement and obviously well executed and neatly tapered into my neck at the bottom but it still wasn’t enough. Now I had finally had my first experience of the clippers, I was even more keen to receive what I would consider to be a "proper" clippering.

Having had no success with my dad, I tried to persuade my mum directly to let me have my hair clippered at the back and sides like my dad but to no avail. Much to my disappointment my parents, who had tried to get me to have my hair cut short when I didn’t want it as a little boy, now seemed determined not to let me have it when I did want it. I nagged and nagged over a period of time and even offered to pay for my own haircuts but it was no use. I was still getting basically the same cut every time, sometimes with the clippers used, sometimes not with one or two tweaks now and again. I got my fringe cut a bit shorter and it was feathered a couple of times which I liked because it didn’t seem too heavy and thick that way. One thing that I did notice changing though was my attitude to getting my hair cut. Until I started wanting it shorter, having a haircut was just something that happened from time to time and I didn’t even think about it. Now, however, it was something to be anticipated and had almost become a ritual. I had started to wash my hair before Richard cut it so it was cut wet rather than dry and I also started taking a shirt I had worn for school from the laundry basket and putting that on for my haircut. The reason I gave was that was better than getting hair down the neck of whatever T-shirt I happened to be wearing at the time but the actual reason was that wearing a formal blue or white shirt with the top button fastened (again ostensibly to stop hairs going down my neck) added a certain "something". It must have been the smartness thing again. I would have loved to be taken to the barber’s straight after school to have my hair cut whilst wearing my uniform but that never really happened. I liked Richard a lot and recognised by now that he was a very good barber. Him coming to our house made life easier and avoided queues, but I could not help thinking I was missing out on the full barbershop experience somehow.

I persisted and finally, over a year later, my mum relented. I don’t know what made her agree in the end but she did, possibly as short hair was much more mainstream than it had been. I was 14 by now and roughly halfway through my fourth year at school and in a form of about 30, more or less all the lads now had some form of short haircut. The day before Richard was going to come, mum made it clear to dad that he should let me tell Richard what I wanted and I would then have it cut like that. To say I was excited was an understatement. The clippers were finally going to make the journey up my neck as I had seen so many times with my dad. When Richard arrived, I went straight up to the bathroom to wash my hair before putting on a white shirt from the basket and going downstairs to the back room. Once Alex was done I sat down on the chair, Richard put the cape on me and asked dad whether I was having the usual. ‘Ask Patrick,’ dad replied. ‘He’s going to tell you what he’s having.’
What I was going to say was seared onto my brain and I had practised saying it in the mirror more than once. I spoke. ‘Short on top, feathered at the front and like my dad’s at the back.’
‘OK, Cliff?’ asked Richard.
‘He’s the boss now,’ said dad. ‘If that’s what he wants, give him that.’

Richard combed my hair as usual and started cutting the top from back to front. Looking at the length of the hair on the cape, I could see that there was more coming off than normal. He went down over the sides and trimmed the hair over my ears into the top. We chatted away as we normally did and I remember him asking me at one point ‘So are you in charge of your own haircuts and what to ask for now?’
‘I hope so,’ I replied. ‘I’ve wanted it like this for ages so I’m pleased I’m finally being allowed to get it done.’
Richard came round the front and I closed my eyes while he snipped my fringe. It was getting a bit shorter over time but was probably still below halfway down my forehead. Once that was done, he combed the top again, checking for any stray hairs before brushing the little hairs off my face that had been left from cutting my fringe. I glanced to the side and saw Richard was going into his bag now. He took out the clippers and I heard him plug them in behind me. Then there was the click and the hum. This was it, it was finally time.

The next thing I felt was Richard’s hand on the top of my head as he gently but firmly guided my head down. ‘Keep still for me now please, mate,’ he said. I had only ever had clippers over the comb before to taper the bottom but this time there was no comb and the clippers touched my neck directly and went up the back of my head for the first time followed by another pass up and then another. This was nothing like the tapering and I could feel the warm clippers close to my head and actually removing quantities of hair rather than just trimming round the edges. This was more like it. Richard then did the sides in the same way and clumps of clipped hair came down onto the cape. This went on for a few minutes, much longer than he had ever used the clippers on me before. Finally, he blended the clipped hair into the longer hair on top and I was done. I was straight upstairs to look in the mirror and using the bathroom mirror to check the back. I could see it looked and as I ran my hand over it, felt, discernibly coarser, shorter. I was elated that I had finally had the clippers and my hair was properly and neatly barbered at the back and sides. The top and fringe, although getting shorter, were still by no means really short and I reflected they were still a work in progress.

I stuck with the same cut for probably another three months or so before my next change. I was still getting stick at school for the way my hair went straight forward and fell into the longish and thick fringe. My hair was dead straight and had no curl or weight to it at all, it was very fine, and that exacerbated it. Most of the lads at school had their hair in either a side or centre parting and I was regularly called bowl head or basin head. I had had enough and thought it was time to try to inject some sort of style. I quickly decided that would be best achieved by the haircut I had seen so many times before so when Richard next caped me and asked me what I wanted, I replied ‘Can you just cut it exactly the same as my dad’s please?’
‘What you mean brushed over and brought round at the front?’ he asked.
‘Yeah I have had enough of the fringe, it’s got to go.’
The cut was done pretty much exactly as normal except when Richard was drying my hair at the end, for the first time I could feel the brush across my head from left to right instead of straight up and down, culminating in him blowing the hair around and off my forehead instead of into a fringe. When I looked in the mirror this time I was interested in the front rather than the back and I was pleased straight away with how much better I looked with something a bit different from all my hair hanging down straight forward. I thought about how many times I had seen my dad get this exact haircut and how long I had watched and wanted it for myself, even before I had realised. Now I had it and that made me happy.

Another couple of months went by and I was about to break up from school for summer. Although I liked my hair as it was, my mind wouldn’t let me settle and I still felt the need to go further and push the boat out some more. I thought about what I could ask for and came up with various vague phrases that didn’t really mean anything like "a lot shorter" and "twice as short" so I thought I would try them and see where that took me. Although I was familiar with clippers now, I still didn’t know about the different guides that took more or less off and left varying amounts behind. I more or less thought that if it was cut with clippers, that was it and it was "clipper length" for want of a better phrase. When the time came, I sat down and Richard asked what I was having this time. Instead of "the usual" for years, he now more or less expected something different each time.
‘I want it shorter,’ I said. ‘Twice as short as I normally have it at the back and sides and a lot shorter on top. And can you give me a side parting please?’
‘Nice and short then?’ Richard responded.
‘Yeah that’s it, nice and short.’
He started by combing in parting on the left which didn’t feel much different from how I had been wearing it already. He next went straight for the clippers which took me by surprise as he had never started my hair cut with clippers before. As the clippers went up the back, I knew straight away there was something different and the heat and vibration felt closer to my head. As I saw the first chunks of hair come off, for the first time ever I thought "Wow that is SHORT."
I don’t know if Richard read my mind but he said ‘You know I remember when I first started coming here and cutting your hair and your dad could barely get you in here and you hated it. I would never have thought you would be here years later asking for it shorter and shorter. I will have to start bringing the smallest combs for you.’ I didn’t know he meant the guards for the clippers. Chunks of hair were raining down on the cape and floor and when the clipping was finished the hair on top was combed across from the parting as Richard determinedly snipped away at it. After he dried my hair, he asked ‘Do you want some gel on it, that will keep it in place better?’
‘OK I’ll give it a try, I responded.
He added a small amount of gel and rubbed it into the top before finally combing everything back into place. ‘There you go Patrick. Hope that’s short enough for you!’ was his final remark.
I raced upstairs to look in the mirror. I liked the way the top lay flatter with the clearly defined parting and gel holding it and when I checked the back in the hand mirror, I could see a noticeable difference from how I had ever had it before. Looking back now I think he had done a number three at the back and sides whereas before it had been a four or perhaps even a bit longer. I admired the smartness of my new look and thought to myself for the first time, "I’ve got short hair now."

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