Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Get yer 'air cut...

Haircuts - Oh, how I hate them. From the very first the idea of having my hair cut has filled me with dread.

It wasn’t too bad when my mum used to cut my hair with nail scissors, but from the tender age of four or so I was taken to the barbers on North Street where my soft blond hair was short-back-and-sided by Charles, the town barber, or his sidekick George. Charles was a pale, fair haired, man in glasses who wore a dentist’s jacket and would have reminded me of a serial killer if I’d have known that there were such things at that early age. George looked very much like Bruce Welch out of the Shadows – dark and brooding and continually combing his hair, sweeping the sides back and patting with a particularly practised flair.

There were two chairs in the barbers. Both were dark red leatherette, with a central single chrome leg that swivelled and adjusted. The chairs had armrests and stood, bolted to the light blue Marley tiled floor, in front of a huge single, silvered, mirror. Two large, white, individual, porcelain sinks stood beneath the mirror, and the glass shelf under it was stacked with combs, sprays, Brylcreem, hair tonics, and packets that Charles, with a wink, called ‘something for the weekend.’

As you have probably gathered, the barbers left quite an impression on my four year old mind, not least of all because I’d seen an electric chair in a movie on TV one night when I’d been forgotten and stayed up late. Of course I was too small to comfortably sit in the barber’s chair - but Charles had a board that hung from the chair back. He’d place this across the arms of the chair for small boys to sit on - thinking up ways to murder them as he snipped away their excess locks. It was cold, hard, and uncomfortable.

Don’t fidget or I’ll cut your ear off.’ The serial killer barber would say.

I hated the way the hair slipped down the back of my neck and into my shirt, despite the green cotton cape that Charles insisted I wore. I hated the snip of the scissors which threatened to remove the mole on the back of the neck. I hated the smelly, sticky spray from the rubber pumped diffuser that Charles sprayed onto my hair after he’d finished.

As soon as he held up his mirror to show me the shortness of the back of my short-back-and-sides, I’d jump down from the chair, thrust the two bob my mum had given me in his serial killer hand, grab my coat and practically run out of the shop.

Nothing for the weekend then?” Charles would call - making the old men reading ‘Weekend’ and Racing Times’, who sat on the line of wooden chairs placed against the wall laugh at me.

And so it was about every couple of months until I was twelve when - HALLELUJAH - long hair suddenly became the thing. I just let it grow, occasionally snipping wildly at an untidy over-long tress.

Get it cut or take a months worth of double DT. My form teacher would sometimes mumble.

I did a lot of double DT’s.

Then, at around the age of fifteen or so unfortunately, fashion changed once more. Hair was short again as we all donned Crombie overcoats, Doc Marten shoes, and stomped around trying to look ‘ard’. For a while it looked like a return to the serial killer was going to be the only solution… but then I discovered the Ronco comb.

The incredible Ronco comb hair trimmer was a small hand held comb with a razor blade inserted inside it. You simply combed, whilst it cut. What a blessing; no barbers required and worth putting up with big bald patches that always appeared when I got a little too close to my scalp. These days you’d call my miscutstram lines’ - either way I didn’t mind, they weren’t as bad as a trip to Charles the serial killer.

After that I never looked back; self-cutting, self-shaving, self-colouring my hair right up until the late seventies (a Bowie red, a Ferry black, an accidental shade of Mrs Slocombe lilac). It was around this time that I returned to the professionals to get my Brodie poodle perm. How cool was that? Answer – not very. Fortunately my perm was short lived - but the teasing, streaking, blow-waving of the next few years meant that I needed to return to a hair-dresser (unisex not serial killer) to get that trendy New Romantic look. How cool was that? Answer – not very.

There was a spell, around the time I sold out my art and became a ‘Manager’, that I was required to return to getting my hair cut short by a barber. I still hated the hair down the back of my neck, and the sprays; but worse still was the chit-chat. The inane mumblings of the pretty, if over made-up, young woman in pink leggings and grey leg warmers were almost as bad as the stony serial killer silence of pasty-faced Charles – and almost as threatening.

‘Been on holiday? Do you like George Michael? Does my bum look big in this?’

Answers: No. No. Yes. Although I wasn’t required to answer.

Eventually I married a woman who had once trained as a hairdresser. I like to think that it wasn’t the only reason I married her, but as time goes on it seems to get closer to the top of the list as others drop away and become null and void. She cuts my hair now - under protest, and only when I really can’t put it off any longer, that ‘either get it cut or buy some ribbon’ time. I still hate it. I still wriggle. I still blow the hair out of my face frantically as she lets it drop onto my nose – sadist! I leap up the minute she’s done, rushing off to shower and change all my clothes - just in case there’s a hair or two hiding about my person waiting to make me itch and wriggle

The conversation revolves around ‘sit still’ - ‘stop that’ - ‘don’t fidget or I’ll cut your ear off’. And it’s become my job to sweep my hair up afterwards, but at least there’s no spray, and best of all - I’m never asked if I’d like something for the weekend.


  1. Nice memories.
    Must be our age as there are so many overlaps.

  2. Tricia Kitt commented on Facebook:

    trauma for all of us mate! (look at mine....)

  3. My Dad used to take me to Mr Corlett's. Without fail he would always ask "are you one of them Beatles? We'll soon sort that out". I didn't mind the actual process but hated the perfect straight line of the fringe. Kids don't have fringes these days.

  4. I love the Beatles comment - Barbers are a strange bunch. Looks like Carl, you, and I, Andy all have a shared recollection of the ritual that is getting your hair cut.

    I just remembered a sign that Charles had by the mirror it read - 'We do not do quiffs.'

  5. I think my Dad was the last person to use Brylcreme. He favoured the Ray Reardon / Dracula look though I think he modeled it on Clark Gable.

  6. y dad used it to. Not these days though.

  7. My aunt used to cut my hair - she could cut a straight line for my fringe so she had the job for years.