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Hi, my name is Nicola and this is a story of a real haircut that actually happened. It all started about 10 years ago when I left school and got a job as a trainee hairdresser in a salon. I picked this career because I was always interested in hair and loved it when school friends had new short haircuts.

As the junior I did all the dreary tasks and I was shown how to wash clients’ hair so the stylists could begin their work.

This is how I first met Helen. It was about 3 weeks after I started that she came into the salon. She knew who everyone was and was clearly a regular, her stylist Barbara introduced me to her and explained that they had gone to school together and Helen had come to the salon ever since Barbara had qualified. As a youngster I was so shy and nervous but what I clearly remember was that Helen was so chatty and friendly I soon felt at ease with her. To describe her then is quite easy, about 27 years old, small, about 5 foot and wearing trendy clothes. Her hair was in a long bob below her shoulders and her fringe was past her eyelashes, how she could see I didn’t know! As I washed her hair I asked her how often she came to the salon and she said that she liked to come monthly so no one could tell that she had had her hair cut. As I took her to Barbara’s station she thanked me for washing her hair, it stuck in my mind as so few clients were nice to the junior.

This was my first meeting with Helen and after she left I asked Barbara about her. She told me that they had been friends for years and that Helen is in the “long forever club”. I didn’t know what that meant and she explained that some clients just wont ever have a restyle and Helen is one of them. She explained that she only ever has the ends dusted and her style now is just the same as when they met at 11.

That really was how things were for a few years, as I progressed and a new junior started I still shampooed Helen whenever possible as we got on so well and it was nice to hear news about her: she was divorced, had a young daughter and used to tell me all about her latest boyfriends.

It was after about 3 or 4 years that Barbara started suggesting something a little more stylish for Helen as she felt that something a little shorter would suit her better to take the weight off her face. This was an absolute no-no, she didn’t want any of it cut as she felt it looked great as it was.

Time went by and now after about 5 or 6 years I had my own client list but we always had a good chat when Helen came into the salon. It was about this time that we all realised that Helen should do something with her hair but it is very difficult to tell a regular client that their cut is just not suitable any more. Gone were the days when her beautiful long bob was an asset, it was now a liability.

Barbara suggested on a few occasions a style a little different but it was always met with a definite no. She felt that men liked sexy long hair on girls and that short cuts are great for housewives and mothers who want a quick and easy style. What Helen didn’t realise was that when a lady is in her early thirties it is best to still look young and stylish but not to look like mutton dressed as lamb, so to speak. This was Helen’s problem, her general style and appearance was more like a woman in her 20s rather than in her 30s. She still had a super trim figure but short skirts and low cut tops were ageing for her along with all that hair.

It was after about 7 years that Barbara’s husband Ian got a job with IBM in London so she had to move to another salon in the group. When Barbara told Helen she was leaving Helen asked her which stylist she would advise to do her hair, she thought I would be ideal and so did Helen. So I was picked and just before Barbara left she said, “Nicola, when you eventually cut that mop off, ring and tell me.”

I would now like to tell you a little bit about myself, I have always loved hairstyles and used to get a great pleasure out of watching makeovers on TV, especially when stylists showed no mercy and just cropped long hair all short. This was why I wanted to be a stylist and when I started cutting myself I couldn’t believe how wet I used to get, so much so I used to have to go to the bathroom to fit a pad if I was going to do a major cut.

It is very rare nowadays to cut long hair off all short in one go, most women have it cut in stages and even though I love cutting it off I do like to consider my client’s best interests first. In my 10 years as a stylist I have only had two clients have their elbow-length hair cut short in one go: one was a young girl of 17 and the other a lady of nearly 50 who felt it was time to cut her bun off, but they are different events, back to Helen.

I’d now been doing her hair for about 4 years, I’d gently advised some changes but to no avail. By now it was obvious she was desperate for a new look to soften her image. It was at the stage that the salon staff felt I should tell her she looked foolish with long hair and short skirts but how do you tell someone who I now classed as a personal friend? Quite often we would have a drink after work together and go back to her house for some dinner. Her daughter Katie, who is 16 and also a client, she has a tucked behind her ear jaw length layered bob which looks fab on her, asked me on so many occasions if I could persuade her Mum to cut her hair. I explained to her that I agreed with her but her Mum wasn’t ready yet and would know when she was, just like when Katie was 14 and had to fight with Helen to let me bob her long hair off.

Well after about 10 years, this summer in June the time just came. She was in for her usual trim on a Tuesday afternoon and as I combed down her wet hair she suddenly said, “Nicola, I think maybe you’re right. I feel I need to now have it cut short.” I was so stunned I asked why. “Well two weeks ago I was walking back from my cousin’s house. It was a glorious day and I was wearing a short denim skirt with a body-hugging top. As I walked down the lane I heard two gardeners give me a wolf whistle, I was so pleased to think I still had it! I turned to thank them and before I could one said, ‘I’m so sorry, I hope we didn’t offend you – we thought you were a youngster.’ In that one moment I knew my long hair, short skirt days were over. I’m 37 and I suppose I’ll have to adopt a more classical look. What do you think, Nicola?”

That was a hard question to answer but I did agree it was time for a change. I suggested that I give her her usual trim today and that she should think about what she should have and ring me in a few days. Then came the 64,000 dollar question: “You think I should have a short crop don’t you?” I looked at her and said “Yes, I’d love to see you with a Demi Moore Ghost cut, very short and tapered into the ears and neck with some length on top and a wispy short fringe.”

It was the perfect style for her features and her colouring would look great with that cut. I also did say to her that it would make her look years younger, which did get a smile! I also advised her to do it in one go as I knew she would go half way and not let me cut it shorter a second time – she smiled again! As she left the salon she said, “Give me a few days to be sure”

Three days later the call came, she had decided to go for it. I suggested I do it next Thursday at my latest appointment at 5pm and we go for a pizza after work together if were still talking! I explained that if she changed her mind just give me a call to cancel.

I didn’t hear from her and at 4:50 that Thursday she came in the salon with her mother. She was dressed in a classic above the knee Jaeger style suit which looked lovely on her.

“Well?” I asked.

“Yes I’m ready to do it, I’ve brought my mum with me for moral support.”

“OK, firstly let’s all sit together and discuss what we’re going to do. I want you to be sure about this, Helen.” She nodded. I showed her some pictures of a cut I was sure would be perfect for her, very similar to Demi’s, it was short, soft and femi
nine, just perfect for her face shape and petite figure. Her mother Brenda was so pleased as she loved the cut and so did Helen.

“Let’s get you gowned up and have you shampooed.” I asked Rosie to do the honours at the backwash. As Helen went off Brenda said she was so glad she was at last having it cut off, she had tried to persuade her for years that it needed to be cut but to no avail. She showed me a picture of Helen with her two sisters Jayne and Joanne, who were both short and even though Helen was the oldest by three years the other two looked so much better. Brenda told me that when Helen was young she was convinced boys liked girls with long hair and that’s why she had kept it long all these years. I told her not to worry and that she must just give Helen some support as during the cut she would be so nervous as it was going to be such a major change for her. I then said I was going to the bathroom. I had to fit a pad – I was going to need it. After Rosie had shampooed her I sat her at my station and Brenda sat next to her. I combed her hair down, as it was wet it was past her shoulders with her fringe at mid-nose length. For the last time I asked her if she was absolutely sure. She said yes. I looked at Brenda who said, “You’ll look great, trust Nicola.”

With that I combed down the wet long hair again. I had decided to remove the bulk and then section the hair to do the detailed cut. Without any more questions I tilted her head sideways and cut a section of long hair from the top of her ear, angled downwards and forwards. A strip of brown hair about 12″ long fell on the gown. I repeated the same cut on the other ear and then quickly cut her hair across her nape hairline, taking all the length off. She was so rigid with fear even I felt sorry for her.

Brenda asked if she was OK, she said yes. Just to make her nose dry I snipped her fringe quickly back to stop some of the water dripping on her face and I asked Rosie to sweep up so Helen wouldn’t be reminded of how much hair had been cut off.

I now sectioned the ears away from the neck so I could cut the shape in. Brenda was a great help, constantly assuring her she had done the right thing. As Helen’s head was bent forward I started cropping all the hair scissor over comb into her hairline. It was hard to believe that minutes ago this was long hair but I was sure that we would all like the end result. As I was cutting, memories of the last 10 years came flooding back and by now Helen seemed to be gaining a little confidence. While we all chatted I shaped the neck and ears quite short and then had to blend the top in. I’d decided to razor the top down to about 2″ so as to give a soft look and a wispy fringe with a soft side parting. As the cut was now almost finished I asked Rosie to sweep up again and take Helen back to wash her hair again so I could detail the cut and blow her off.

Brenda thought her daughter looked absolutely wonderful, so did I.

I then spent a few minutes detailing the cut and showing her how to blow it and advised on some products like wax and gel. Helen was fairly upbeat about the cut and didn’t seem shocked when I showed her the nape in the mirror. It would take time but she would soon get used to it.

As she got up all the salon staff said how great she looked and she smiled nervously as she kept feeling her neck and ears. She looked so different but did say she liked the look. I knew that in a few weeks she would be so pleased with it as it did make her look so much younger.

When we had all finished chatting we went to Mario’s for a pizza. As we went in no one recognised her but soon everyone was showering her with compliments. This brought a smile to her face as it is so important to get a good start with a new haircut. When she saw her daughter Katie waiting at the table she nervously asked, “Well, what do you think?”

“Mum, you look like a superstar, Nicola has done you proud.”

As we were eating I just couldn’t take my eyes off Helen, gone was the long bob with long fringe, instead here was this woman with a super short crop who looked so different and judging by the numerous compliments the style was a success.

I could see by now her confidence was growing and I excused myself to make a telephone call. I used my mobile and left a message on an answer phone. “Barbara. Hi it’s Nicola, just thought I’d let you know Helen Carter has gone short and I mean short. Ring me at home later, bye.”

It is now six months since her first cut. Helen still comes in monthly and it is now slightly longer for winter, she can just tuck it behind her ears but the basic cut is still the same and I’m happy to tell you that she loves it. She even comes out with the old saying, “I should have done it years ago”

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