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I like to have my wife’s hair cut by older male barbers that still cut hair in an old-fashioned style barbershop. I know what I’m looking for: the red & white striped pole out front that says “This is a real barbershop!” A barber chair that is the big, old-style that tilts, swivels and pumps up & down. Lots of mirrors are a plus, especially if I can view the cutting process from several different angles without having to leave my chair.

I prefer a shop that doesn’t usually get a lot of customers in a day. If I want to videotape her haircuts, there’s generally no one else watching me. Without other customers in the shop, my wife tends to be more comfortable & relaxed somewhat without being self-conscious of being so thoroughly sheared or shaved in a typically male environment.

But another advantage to such a shop is that the barber is much more apt to cut her hair exactly how I want it if he doesn’t normally get many customers to fill his cash register. He’ll work harder at accuracy if he thinks he can persuade her to become a regular customer, even if that means almost shaving her very close for every haircut.

I found such a shop in the east end of the city on a fairly major thoroughfare. Every time I drove by I would see the old barber either sitting in the barber chair watching his TV or standing outside his shop on the sidewalk taking in some sun. It was an extremely rare occasion that I ever saw a customer in his shop. So I decided to check him out as a prospective barber for my wife.

Walking into his barbershop, I caught him tinkering with a watch. As I later discovered, he did the odd watch repair job on the side according to a small sign on the window. A large green upholstered barber chair stood in the center of his small shop. On the left wall which was closest to the chair were two huge mirrors side by side. Below it was a counter on which were combs, scissors, brushes and numerous bottles of lotions and after-shaves. More importantly there were two razors and a mug for shaving lather. Standing upright between them was a small shaving brush. On the right wall was another huge mirror reflecting everything in the left wall mirror.

“I’d like to bring my wife in to have her hair cut.” I told him. “She’s going to have it cut very short.” Without waiting for an answer, I pulled out a photo of an extremely short SB&S haircut. Taken from the back, the photo had a definite ’50-ish look to it. “Can you do this haircut?”

I didn’t ask him if he WOULD cut her hair, but rather if he COULD. I knew what his answer would be. This guy was going to be happy to have somebody, anybody, come sit in his chair for a haircut. It was clear he was not doing well financially.

“Yes,” he said. “I can do this.” Besides, what barber would deny being able to do a basic SB&S, even one clipped as short as the picture I handed him?

“Good. I’ll bring her in later this afternoon. I’d like you to be sure to use the lather & straight razor around her ears and across the bottom of her neck to shave all the little hairs to make it look clean.” I told him as I pointed to his shaving brush & razors on the counter.

“She wants me to shave her neck?” he asked.

“Well, I want you to shave her. I know it looks better that way.” Then I jokingly added, “and I’m the one that’s going to pay you.” I knew that would help him understand that he was definitely to use the razor on her.

“I will shave her neck.” he said. I knew he was getting it. The barber was an old Italian man. I guessed him to be in his 70’s. His English was not particularly good. I was able to make out his words, but I could tell his vocabulary was poor. So was he. It was going to be a good choice of a barber for my wife’s haircuts.

My wife’s hair at the time was in a rather shaggy mess. She had not had it cut at all in almost two months. Truthfully, I don’t remember now why that was. This was about 25 years ago. It may have been at a time when we were just busy doing things, on vacation, or I may have been away on business. But she was long overdue to have her hair cut again, so we had discussed her upcoming barbering and reached a mutual arrangement. She was to be barbered in another SB&S cut with a slightly heavier thatch to comb over the top.

Her hair at that time was dyed a medium brown colour. It was my intention to have her hair cut, then dye it a reddish auburn shade that I particularly liked. It always looked so good on her. I thought that for now, the brown top would be set off very nicely with the sides & back slightly white-walled. I always liked the light shading the clippers left if cut close enough.

Later in the afternoon, about 3:30, I drove her to the barbershop. The barbershop was a corner facing the busier thoroughfare, but I parked on the side street just around the corner. I left her in the car telling her I was going in to ask the barber to cut her hair. What I wanted was to emphasize to the barber how short it was to be cut and to stress the shaving. I also wanted to ease the surprise a bit by showing him I had my video camera with me. I wanted to record her haircut. I didn’t tell her I’d previously spoken with the barber about cutting her hair.

As usual the shop was empty. I reminded the barber about the SB&S cut and again showed him the picture. “Don’t forget to use your lather and straight razor,” I told him.

“Yes,” he assured me.

“I’m going to tape her haircut so that if there’s anything she wants to change for another visit, she can show it to you.” That seemed to convince him we could become regular paychecks.

“I’ve already given him instructions how to cut your hair,” I told my wife on returning to the car. “Just sit back and enjoy it.

I followed her into the barbershop. She set her purse on a chair and walked directly to the barber chair in the center of the shop. She placed one foot on the step part of the chair, then sat down. She then placed both feet on the angled foot-rest. I sat in the chair directly opposite her about 5 feet away. I had a direct view of her and a view in both mirrors of her sitting in the chair.

The old guy picked up a cape from the rack beside the counter, shook it out to full length, then he draped it around my wife. It lay loose around her shoulders while he picked a clip from the counter and secured then cape tighter around her neck with this clip. Seated in the chair fully caped this way she looked rather small with only her head protruding from under the cloth. Everything else was fully covered by the cape. I could tell her arms were lying on the upholstered arms of the chair under the cape.

The barber took a comb from the counter and ran it through her hair once or twice. I thought he would comb her hair in roughly the style it was going to be cut, but he didn’t. He just combed the top straight back, then ran it through her hair on the back of her head. Then he traded the comb for his clippers.

He put a plastic attachment on his clippers, then added 7 or 8 drops of oil to the teeth. I thought that seemed like a lot of oil. He moved behind her in the chair and ran his shears up through the back of her hair. The first clump of hair that came free and bunched up in front of the clippers glistened with excess oil. I supposed it really didn’t matter since her hair was flipped from the shears onto the floor at his feet.

He began the first path at the naked part of her nape. The path didn’t stop until well above her occipital bump. Obviously he really was going to make this SB&S a high one. As he moved around her right side with the clippers, I got up from my chair & stood beside him with the camera. He seemed to be OK with what I was doing. He concentrated on cutting my wife’s hair, paying no attention to me.

He used his clippers quickly. As he sheared her, I noticed that he wasn’t combing her hair or keeping it in any kind of direction at all. He was just running the clippers up her head, moving over an inch or two, then running up another p
ath. Each time he would flip all the hair that was cut off onto the floor. Some fell onto her cape and lay in her lap.

When he sheared the piece up her sideburns, he ran the clippers well up past her eye level. He was definitely planning a high SB&S, I concluded. The next pass up her sideburns took a sharp left turn around her right ear. He stroked the area several times to cut any strays that were hiding as he held her ear at right angles with his left hand.

Her back and right side were reduced to about a half inch. He began now to do the same to her left side. This was the side that was to be parted. Instead of beginning this side near the back where he had started her haircut, he began at her left sideburn. Pushing the clippers up her temple, her hair was cut up past that eye as well. He went so high with the shears, I wondered where he was leaving enough hair to make the part.

His second pass on that side of her head made a sharp right turn around her ear. This pass cut lots of hair because that area hadn’t already been clippered. Instead of beginning his third pass behind her ear & working the clippers upward, he began above her ear and pushed the clippers across her left side all around to meet the back that was already clipped. I thought this rather strange. Eventually though he had the entire side sheared to the same half inch as the rest. It all looked rather ragged and I knew he was going to have a lot of blending to do.

I had told him to leave the top full. I wanted it longer as a contrasted to the short sides & back. He picked up a pair of scissors and another comb. Standing at her right arm, he lifted her hair with the comb almost straight up. Her hair was about 5 inches long on top. He placed his scissors across the comb and with the first snip, he cut off about 2 inches. Using the same method, he again combed her hair straight up and cut off about an inch and a half. On the third combing another two and a half inches was cut off.

By now I was getting the definite impression that this barber really didn’t know what he was doing. Her top was being cut, but every combing produced a different length. Then he combed it all over the top to lay flat across her head. He wet his comb to ensure the flatness. The part at the front that made up her bangs was combed downward over her face to keep it out of the way of the rest of the process. When he had her top hair lying flat, he produced a pair of thinning scissors and clamped them through her hair many times at the area where the buzzed sides were supposed to blend with the top. After every 3 or 4 scissorings with them, he would comb through the area to collect the thinned-out hair on the teeth of his comb. This did help with the blending but it was a long way from perfect (or even good).

The old barber stood back to survey his handiwork. “Is Ok?” he asked.

“I want the sides & back cut much shorter.” I said.

“Will make it look too white,” he replied. I really didn’t want to argue with him, but I guess the determined look on my face told him I definitely wanted it much shorter. We were standing behind my wife who was facing towards the back wall away from any mirrors. The barber picked up his clippers and rummaged on his counter for another plastic attachment. As he picked up the next shortest one, I shook my head at him to show my disapproval. He knew then he was to cut her hair short.

He left off the attachment but pushed a lever on the side of the clippers to extend the length of the clipper’s guard. He took a tiny pass up the center of my wife’s nape and cut a swath upward about an inch and a half high. Then he looked to me to get my approval. I simply nodded, then without touching her head, raised my hand upward to the top at the back and her left side. He now knew what I wanted. The shearing began.

As I learned with all subsequent visits to this barber, every pass with the clippers up her head was rapid and high. As long as the shears could cut that fast, he would push them through her hair as quickly as was feasible. In no time at all, she was entirely white-walled. Her hair was clippered off to about an eighth of an inch or less. It certainly couldn’t have been more than that. Whatever blending took place was done as the clippers met the top of her hair that was trying to lay flat.

All that was left to complete the haircut was her shave. The old barber loosed her cape by pulling out the clip. He then tucked a white towel under the cape all around the back of her neck. He took his brush and a mug to the sink just slightly to the right of where my wife was waiting in the barber chair. When he turned on the hot water, she looked around to see what he was doing.

“Is he going to shave me?”

“Yes, I asked him to shave around your ears. It makes the edges look much sharper.” I didn’t tell her that the whole haircut was awful, or that it looked like it was performed by a kid. The barber was terrible, but he did follow instructions without a lot of questions.

With the water hot enough, the barber worked up a mug full of lather by swishing the brush round and round in the soap. Brushing it around her ears and across her neck, he almost looked as though he was going to enjoy shaving her. But then he reached for a towel and wiped off all the lather. That was a huge disappointment for me as I was looking forward to watching the lather shaved off with the straight razor.

But he moved again to the sink, worked up more soapy lather and spread it over the same areas with brushstrokes. The lather now was even thicker around her neck. He stroked at it with his razor and I could hear the rasping as it cut through her hair. He wasn’t just shaving the strays on her neck, he was actually shaving a very precise hairline into her hair. When he was done she had been shaved at least an eighth of an inch into her hair. The little nibs where they had been sliced off by the razor were quite visible. Her sideburns were squared off nicely though at the point where her hairline met her face. He drew the razor down about an inch onto her cheeks.

Putting his razor on the counter, he picked up a bottle of green after-shave. He removed to lid and poured a generous amount into his left hand. Keeping his hand cupped, he lifted it above my wife’s head and began rubbing his hands together. Some spilled onto her head, but he then began massaging all of it into her hair. With her hair now soaked in after-shave, he combed it flat across the top gently angling the front hair towards the back. Her sides & back were far too short to comb, but her ran his hands downward several times to make it lay flat in place. An extra rubbing of the after-shave was given to the back of her neck that had been shaved.

With her Little Boy’s SB&S my wife looked fabulous as she sat still caped in the barber chair. A lot of her hair was still lying in her lap. She did manage a smile, but it may have been from the relief of having her cropping finished. Her hair was combed flat across the top of her head. There was not much hair visible on the sides at all. Her part was a perfect white line down the left side of her head. Her newly shaved hairline was clearly white below her brownish white-walled sides.

As haircuts go, it was technically awful, but she still looked fabulous. You’d probably think this was no doubt the worst SB&S she’d ever get, but it wasn’t. We went back to this old barber frequently over the next ten years or more. As he got older, the haircuts got worse as he slowly went blind. But I could always count on him to do just what I asked. Some of the most stimulating High-&-Tights, Chelsea clipper shaves and “flattops” were almost beyond description as he sheared and shaved my wife many, many times. By comparison with some of his later haircuts, this one was superb. He was the worst barber I’ve ever seen. But I took her to him regularly. After this first visit, there was never again any question that she would be shaved as short or clean as I told him. I could tell a dozen stories about the
“haircuts” she got from him. Maybe I will.

I appreciate hearing from anyone who cares to write. My address is in the “Authors” list on this site. Please put something recognizable as hair related in the subject line to avoid being discarded as spam.

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