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Matching Flats by Flatty
After several years in the working world, I had decided to go back to grad school. I got into my first choice program, but it was in a new city where I didn’t know anyone. It was sad to be leaving behind all of my friends but at the same time, I was excited about starting my new program and was strangely exhilarated by the prospect of starting a new life where nobody knew me.
The week before, I had packed up my belongings and drive the roughly 1,000 miles to the new town that I would be calling home for the next few years. That first week, I spent a lot of time getting my new apartment settled and getting my bearings. It was mid-August—classes were scheduled to begin the week—and I found myself in the middle of a major heat wave. It was unbearably hot and I wasn’t used to the humidity in this new climate. I was constantly sweating. Worse, my hair wasn’t responding well at all to the new climate. Truth be told, I had always been pretty vain about my hair. It was thick, very dark and wavy and I wore it combed straight back. It curled at the collar and around my ears and I typically got compliments on it almost daily. However, in this humidity, my normally silken and wavy tresses had a tendency to look frizzy. I was having to spend even more time than usual to get my hair into that sexy, slightly disheveled look that I liked. I had been meaning to get a trim for a few weeks but in the craziness of getting ready to make the move, I hadn’t had time to get in to see my regular stylist and I wasn’t sure how to find a good new stylist in my new town. After all, I hadn’t let anyone new cut my hair in years.
The Friday before classes were scheduled to start, I got up early and hit the gym for an unusually long and hard work out. When I got back to my new apartment, I was still sweating miserably and even a long cool shower didn’t help much. I gently towel dried my hair and realized that the front of my hair reached down well past my nose—almost to my chin. As I fingered my hair back from my face, I decided that I really did need to find a new stylist and get a trim. In fact, with this heat and humidity, I might want to get more than just my usual trim. The thought sent a shiver down my spine. Despite all of my vanity about my hair, I had secretly wanted to get a short haircut—a really short haircut—for as long as I could remember. I had never had the nerve to go through with it before—in fact, I had never even had clippers used on my locks at all, but I found the idea oddly exciting. Maybe in this new town, I could finally try a new, short look. I ran my fingers though my still damp hair—what would it look like to see all of these beautiful, pampered waves hit the floor? I was tempted, but knew that as usual, it was just a fantasy. What I needed to do was to find a proper stylist and get it trimmed, nothing more.
I decided to head over to the local mall first—I wanted to get a few new shirts to make a good impression when classes started the next week—and then I would try to find a good salon, though if it was really a good one, they probably wouldn’t be able to work me in for a week or more. I walked into the department store and immediately felt the comforting blast of the air conditioning, though I could still feel sweat working its way down the back of my neck.
I slowly walked around, trying to find the right new clothes to show off all of the hard work I’d been putting in at the gym. As I turned away from one rack of clothing, I heard someone behind me ask in a deep voice, “Can I help you with anything?” I turned around and saw an extremely attractive man with the most amazing blond flattop I had ever seen. It was clipped down tight on the back and sides—not razor shaved but close to it. The top was a thing of beauty—it was almost hard to believe that precision with which it was cut. Every hair stood straight up in perfect order and shone in the light. The top was board flat—it didn’t look like any hair was even 1/32nd of an inch out of order. The sides were completely boxy but still tight to the crown. I was dying to know if he had a landing strip as well, but he was an inch or so taller than me, so I couldn’t see the crown of his head. I felt my heart leap as I took in all of the details of this fantastic flattop. I tried to appear casual as I looked into his green eyes and said “No thanks, I’m just browsing.”
“No problem,” he replied, “let me know if you need anything.” I felt weak in the knees as I watched him walk away, admiring the shaved back of his head and how masculine and powerful he looked. In that moment, I had an almost overwhelming desire to reach up and run my hand up the back of his head. I had been an avid watcher of short haircuts, flattops in particular, for years, but I had never seen a cut that looked so precise, so perfect, in my life. I wanted to get a cut to match so bad that it almost hurt. I turned away and caught a glance of myself in the mirror. My long, wavy black hair, that I usually admired so much, looked messy and unruly compared to the precise, angular cut I had just seen.
I realized in that moment that the time had come—I was going to watch my carefully coiffed hair being buzzed off today—I simply couldn’t resist any long. For the next fifteen minutes, I pretended to continue browsing through the clothes, but in reality, all I was doing was watching the salesman and his gorgeous flattop. When he went back to the cash register and leaned his head forward to write something down, I finally saw the top of his head— he didn’t have a shaved landing strip but the hair at the crown was extremely short, so short that you could see a nice swath of scalp under the erect stubble on top—it was right out of my dreams. I started to feel awkward—it must be obvious that I was staring at him but I just couldn’t peel my eyes away from his head.
Finally, I worked up my nerve and approached him. “So, did you find anything you liked?” he asked. My heart pounding, I said, “Um, not really. But I was wondering if I could ask you a random question.” He looked slightly apprehensive but quickly replied “Sure, I’m here to help.” “Well, I’m new in town and I was wondering where you get your hair cut.” All of the apprehension left his face and he broke into a broad grin, “No problem—I’ve been going to University Barbers on College Ave at Main for years. They do a great job, though I’m not sure they’d be the best at cutting long hair like yours—they mostly do buzz cuts and things.” In a voice with a lot more conviction than I felt, I replied, “Actually, I’ve been thinking about getting mine cut into a short flattop like yours.” His toothy grin got even wider, “In that case, they’re the best. Make sure you ask for Jeff—all the barbers there are good but I think he’s the best for flats—he’s the one that cut my hair this morning. And be sure to make sure you tell him you want at least a zero blade on the back and sides—otherwise the sides will be too long and you won’t get that totally sharp look.” I nodded enthusiastically, “Will do, thanks.” “Sure thing,” he replied. “But just so you know, flattops take a lot of maintenance—to keep it looking sharp, you’ll need to get it trimmed up every 10 days or so. I think I end up spending a lot more on my hair than my mother does on hers, even though none of mine is longer than ½ an inch!” he said with a laugh. “Well, you’re getting your money’s worth,” I replied. “The flattop really does suit you.” “Thanks,” he said as he rubbed his hand up the back of his head, “I actually just recently got it cut this way again. I had decided to get a #1 buzz cut earlier in the summer—I liked the low maintenance of it but I really missed the flat. It was only a couple of weeks or so ago that it had grown out enough for Jeff to get the corners on the flat looking right.” “Well,” I said, meaning every word, “whatever he did, it worked. You should definitely keep it—it really looks great!” He smiled again and said playfully, “I’m just looking forward to seeing what you look like without all of that hippie hair!” and he reached over and ran his hand through my hair. That took me so slightly aback, but I loved the feeling and quickly grinned, “Me too.” “I’m Chris, by the way,” he said, holding out his hand. “Hi, Chris, I’m John.”
“Well, John, you said you’re new in town. After you get that mop of yours taken care of, do you want to go out for a celebratory drink later tonight?” “That would be great!” I replied enthusiastically. We exchanged numbers and made plans to meet later that night.
As soon as I walked out of the department store, the heat and humidity hit me like a brick. I quickly walked to my car and made the 10 minute drive to the shop Chris had described. I felt a rush of emotions—I was completely thrilled at the prospect of getting a sharp, tight flat to match Chris’ but I was terrified at the same time. What would all of my classmates think? How would I explain the decision to cut off my long, luxuriant hair? Then it hit me—nobody knew me here! They would never know that I had always had long hair—as far as they knew, I could have had a flattop for years. As I pulled into a parking spot outside University Barbers, I ran my fingers through my long locks one last time. I couldn’t wait to see what it would feel like to run my hand over a newly shorn flattop!
I eagerly walked into the shop, ready for my transformation. The shop had 3 chairs, all of them full of young guys getting what looked to be #2 buzz cuts. Based on the amount of hair on the capes, 2 of the guys were just getting a trim but one of them had just undergone a major shearing—and I was going to be next! A sign behind the barber closest to the door identified him as Jeff, and he wasn’t at all what I expected. I had assumed anyone who could cut a flattop as expertly as the one Chris wore must have had decades of experience, so I as expecting an older guy, not this totally buffed, young guy with dark brown hair cut into a sharp high and tight. He was just finishing up one of the guys. Surprisingly, there was no one else waiting and he looked me in the eye and said “Please take a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Jeff spread some shaving cream on the guy’s neck and used a straight razor to clean it up. Before I knew it, he was done and I was sitting in the chair, being caped. “So, what will it be today?” he asked as he ran his fingers though my long locks with a disapproving look. “Well, my buddy Chris tells me that you give the best flattops in town.” His face immediately brightened, “So, we’re cutting off this mess into a proper flattop then?” he asked. “Yep, and I want it nice and short—a zero blade on the back and side and as short as possible on the top while keeping it boxy and super flat.” I couldn’t believe how calm I sounded, especially with my heart pounding with anticipation. “You got it!” he replied, with a gleam in his eye.
With amazing speed, he flicked on a set of clippers, set them on my right sideburn and without any hesitation, ran them straight up the side of my head. Mounds of hair cascaded past my shoulder—no turning back now, I thought, and was surprised that I felt no regret or anxiety at seeing my head buzzed to the scalp. I felt myself breaking into a grin as he repeated the pattern, methodically working his way around the right side of my head. Then, he firmly pushed my chin down to my chest as he ran the clippers from the base of my skull all the way up the back side of my head almost to the crown. As he did so, I was forced to stare at the large mound of wavy black hair in my lap, which was growing larger by the second. It seemed impossible that that much hair had been on my head, especially since he hadn’t even touched the top yet! As he worked his way around to the left side of my head, I realized that I could feel the breeze from the fan in the shop on the right side and back of my scalp—I had never experienced anything like it! It felt amazing and sent a shiver down my spine.
All too soon, he was done with the back and sides. The side and back of my scalp were a shining white next to the dark skin on my neck and face—but with my dark hair underneath, my scalp took on almost a blue tinge. It looked strange to see the shaved skin right next to the hair on the top of my head that still hung in shining waves. “Now, let’s get rid of some of this bulk on top” said Jeff. He grabbed a wide comb and pulled my bangs up from my head and quickly ran the razor straight over the comb—close to 8 inches of hair fell in a heavy clump, adding to the mound on my lap, and leaving maybe an inch of short hairs behind. He quickly worked his way back towards the crown, leaving a roughly shaped, not very precise flattop shape.
I started to panic—this looked pretty ragged—nothing like the precise cut that Chris sported. Jeff turned off the clippers, grabbed a spray bottle and wet the short hairs remaining on my head. He then rubbed in a generous amount of wax and used a hairdryer to get every hair to stand straight up to attention. Then, he placed the comb directly on the crown of my head and sheared off the inch of remaining hair to a bare stubble. He methodically worked his way forward, cutting down the remaining hairs so that the very front hairs stood straight up at just about ½ an inch in length. He then worked to make sure that the sides made perfectly flat corners. When he was finished, I truly did have an exact replica of Chris’ precise flat, though in jet black compared to Chris’ golden hues. Finally, he spread warm shaving cream on my neck and cleaned up the hairline.
He handed me a mirror to see the back—it looked perfect! When I leaned down and used the mirror to see the white scalp at the crown of my head, I couldn’t believe how amazing I looked and felt. I had finally done it! I had the short haircut of my dreams and I absolutely loved it. “Well, what do you think?” Jeff asked. I tentatively reached a hand up and rubbed it up the back of my head—it felt like fine sandpaper—nothing like the silky feeling of my previously long tresses. It felt amazing and I knew I was hooked, “It’s perfect—thanks so much!” “My pleasure—it’s always fun to give someone a good shearing and you were certainly overdue. Now I expect to see you every 10 – 14 days to keep this looking sharp!” he said with a laugh. “You got it!” I said—and meant it. Jeff removed the cape and tossed my former pride and glory into the trash—while I looked on with pleasure. I paid, including a generous tip, and walked out feeling like a new man.
A few hours later, I walked into the bar to meet Chris. He had a huge grin when he watched me walk in—he quickly ran his hand up the back of my newly shorn head—“I wasn’t sure you’d actually go through with it but it looks phenomenal!” he said, with obvious enthusiasm for my cut. I couldn’t help myself—I reached out and ran my hand up the back of his head, just as he had done to me. “Thanks—I guess we’re twins now!” I said with a laugh. He nodded in agreement, showing off that amazing glimpse of scalp at the top of his perfectly flat head. All night long, we drew a lot of attention sporting matching flats—everyone wanted to give one or both of our heads a rub. Every time someone did that, I felt a tingle down my spine, though none as strong as when Chris did it when I first walked in. Needless to say, Chris and I became fast friends and sport matching flats to this very day.