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When I found old John’s barbershop on the far end of the city, I knew he was going to be a perfect barber my wife. As often as I’d driven by, there had not been that many occasions when I’d seen anyone else in his chair. When I did, it was always an older man getting the type of haircut older men get; short back & sides.

I visited him myself for a haircut to check out the possibility. The shop was a traditional one: big red Belmont barber chair in front of a large mirror, counter filled with all the those things a good barber uses like scissors, lotions, razors, shaving brushes, combs, hair-brushes and clips. Under the counter hung several electric clippers of different sizes. He handled clippers with confidence and agility. Yup he was going to be perfect.

“My wife wears her hair cut very short. Can I bring her in to have you cut her hair?” I was testing the water.

With no hesitation he responded, “Sure, bring her on in anytime.”

“It’s really short,” I continued. “She likes it that way, but hates talking about it. When she comes in, just cut it short like this.” I showed him a picture I had brought for the occasion. It was an SB&S cut I’d given her years before. The back & sides were all but shaved. Looking at the photo, it was difficult to tell if there was any hair on the lower part of her head at all.

“That is short,” he commented. “I can do that. Bring her in.” I knew I was going to like this barber.

By now he was edging me with the straight razor. “Will you be sure to shave her around the ears like this too? She thinks that’s the nicest part of getting her hair cut.”

“That’s no problem.”

I explained to him that I’d been cutting her hair lately in a sort of bowl cut. I also told him that since I like to cut her hair sometimes, I’d like to learn how to do it better, so I wanted to videotape how he did it. He was quite agreeable to that.

I didn’t waste a lot of time getting her into John’s barbershop. We did the necessary dickering to determine her “reward” for the visit and the trip to her next SB&S was arranged for late Tuesday afternoon. That was always the best time. Late meant not many others would come in towards closing time, so less chance of her being watched by others. Especially on an odd day like Tuesday. Fridays were always bad. Saturdays were worse. Tuesdays were the best for low traffic in a barbershop.

John’s shop was in the bottom of a building on a corner. I parked just around the corner from the shop front door & left her in the car while I went in to check with the barber. No one else was in the chair. I reminded John how short her haircut was going to be & that I wanted him to shave her. He assured me she would be shaved.

Walking into the shop with me, my wife showed no hesitation. She hated the wedge part of her bowl cut so was almost looking forward to returning to the little boy look of a good SB&S cut again. She hung her coat on a rack beside the door and walked deliberately to the red & chrome barber chair.

As she sat down, John made only a small comment. “Looks like you had a mushroom cut. I’m going to change that.” My wife said nothing, but lifted he neck so the barber could throw a big cape around her and bring it to her throat. He pulled a neck-strip from a box on his counter and tied it around her neck before securing the white-and-black pinstriped cape.

He didn’t need to pump the chair more than twice to have her at the right height. He swiveled the chair so she was facing his left. Combing her hair the barber created a very sharp part on her left side. He combed all the hair on her left side straight downward. The rest was combed over the top of her head. The back was combed down too.

With a large set of clippers from under the counter John began removing her hair first from the back. Raising his shears from her nape upward, he met little resistance until they reached through the weight-line of her “mushroom” cut. Then there was a large chunk of hair that he flicked onto the cape. I could see from where I stood beside him the path through her hair. All that was left was a short stubble up past her occipital bone. He made several more passes like that, each time ending with her hair flicked onto the cape or onto the floor. It took less than a minute for the weight-line to disappear and the short back taper to start showing its shape.

With the rough shearing of the back complete, the barber moved around to her right side. In like fashion he clippered all the hair off the side up to the top of her right side. The most dramatic part of the shearing was removing the sideburn up over her temple stopping about two inches above her eye. Her right side was now completely clipped to less than a quarter inch.

Her left side took only slightly longer to rough clip. When he had cut all the hair from around her ear, he made the same pass up her sideburn in front of her ear. He stopped just about where the part met the front of her face. As the part moved towards the back, I could see that he had left it gradually longer. The “mushroom” no longer existed and he reached for another set of clippers for the serious shaping.

With her little boy cut now revealing its shape, John started buzzing off the remaining hair. Drawing up the shears from the bottom of her neck, he seemed with every pass to be clipper-shaving her hair. Everything up to the occipital bone was shaved off the back and this was done correspondingly on both sides. Her part on the left was laser straight. Below it there was almost no hair. On her right side she was again looking almost bald until quite near the top. I had to assume he used at least a 000 blade in his clippers.

When he had her back & sides thus bare, he used his scissors to begin reducing the length of the top of her hair. Her top was about 4 to 5 inches to hang down to the weight-line of her wedge. The barber was now quickly lifting it with his comb and slicing off two inches at a time. When it was close to where he wanted it, he spritzed it with a spray bottle, then combed it into place. The cutting of her top hair continued until it was about two inches and lay flat over the top of her head. Her part was still laser straight. Immediately below her part the hair was a half inch long next to her eye. As it moved towards the back of her ear, that first bit below her part gradually lengthened to about an inch and a half where her part met the back hair. Her sideburns were shaved off entirely to just below the part. With her hair dampened this way and combed flat in place, she looked exactly like a little boy with her head above the cape. The cape was covered with her clippings.

The barber used a pair of thinning shears to convince the top hair to blend with the sheared sides. Slipping the scissors into her damp hair, he gave a couple of snips, removed the thinners, combed out the thinned hair, then repeated the process. He did this several times to ensure that the top hair was perfectly blended.

Substituting the thinning shears for another pair of scissors, John snipped more of the sides and back to get the blending perfect. I knew this had to be very difficult to do on hair this short. Yet, when he was finished, it did look perfect. There wasn’t a line to be seen. I especially liked the way her top met the neatly sheared sides. The blending was complete.

“I’m going to shave you now.” Probably John spoke to warn her of what was coming.

“I know,” she said resignedly. Of course she knew. I always had her shaved at this stage. It was the part of her haircut I always looked forward to most. Watching the barber lather had always been a highlight emphasized even more when drew the straight razor over her hairline.

She was always apprehensive about being shaved. Rarely was she nicked at all by any barber, but the rasping sound of her hairline being razored off drove her crazy. Most of the barbers were excellent shavers. If their razors were sharp, the experience for her was satisfactory. A dull
razor felt too rough to leave her comfortable.

John filled a mug from his counter shelf with warm water from the tap. He dipped his shaving brush into the mug and wet down her areas to be shaved. I noticed he wet down the entire back & sides almost to the top. His lather machine whirred as he pushed the button to pour the hot lather into his mug. Moving to her right side, he applied the warm soap using the brush to spread it over her sideburn area and up her temple. He didn’t just soap the lower part of her hairline. She was lathered completely all over the right side of her head to the top where the haircut began to thicken. I was beginning to suspect that he was going to entirely clean-shave the sides. He seemed to confirm this thought as he moved around her to the back. He didn’t just lather her nape, but instead spread the foamy soap over the complete back of her head to the crown. As with the sides, he rotated his brush round and round working up a thick lather with each circular stroke. By the time he finished soaping her left side, my wife was fully lathered on the back and sides to the top of her head. By now even she was convinced he was going to clean-shave those areas.

She shot me a look of shock. For my part, I was secretly elated at the prospect of John clean-shaving her that way. I just shrugged. She gave me another stern glance. As I’d watched the barber swirling his shaving brush round and round, my expectations of her being clean-shaved increased.

John set his mug & brush on the counter in front of the large mirror. I watched him choose a straight razor from his selection laying on a small towel. It had a white pearl handle with chrome markings. He approached her chair, lifted the razor strap from where it dangled from the seat, and stropped the blade several times to bring up an edge. I looked at my wife completely caped in the chair with most of her hair in her lap. Her head was almost completely soaped with a thick lather except the short brown hair on the top. That was still neatly parted and combed sideways across the top. And now she was to be shaved.

The barber swiveled the chair so she was facing the mirror. He stood on her right side and rubbed his thumb through the lather removing most of the soapy bulk. He started her shave with a downward draw on her sideburn I could hear his razor cut through her hair as he carved a straight line across the bottom of her sideburn. It now became obvious that she was not going to be clean-shaved. He again removed most of the lather with his thumb from around her ear. Placing the razor at the bottom of her hairline, John neatly shaved the arc around her ear. After each stroke, he wiped the blade of his razor on a small towel he had laid on her shoulder. I could see in the soap the tiny whiskers he had shaved from her hairline.

With this finished, his thumb again rubbed the soap down her napeline to the bottom. He gently placed the straight edge of the razor against her skin and gave the razor a quick flick. I could hear the hair being shaved. When I looked next, her hairline was cut perfectly straight. A few razor strokes down the side of her neck to remove all strays, and her right side was completely edged.

Although the edging was finished, the remainder of her right side was still completely lathered up to the top of her head. Except for the section along the bottom where John had used his thumb to remove enough lather to see her hairline, the rest of her right side was still covered in soap. Instead of doing anything more with it, he swiveled the chair so he was now looking at her left sideburn.

The process was continued in the same way that he had shaved her right side. Thumb rubbed off most of the lather, razor shaved the hairline, wiped the soap & hairs on the towel, hairline shaved to the bottom. Across the bottom of her nape, he loosened the cape so he could safely shave down her neck.

Her shave was now complete, yet she was still fully lathered on her sides and back. I had to admit that this had me confused. He soaked the small towel on which he’d wiped his razor and rinsed it. Then with it wet and warm, he proceeded to wipe off all the excess lather from my wife’s head. I could see she was enjoying the warmth of the towel as he wiped her. With the bulk of the lather gone, he rinsed the towel again. Now I could see what he was doing. The excess lather picked up a lot of the nibs from her haircut that adhered to her scalp. These were rinsed away. He wiped her clean with a second toweling to rid all traces of the lather.

Unlike most barbers, he didn’t put the aftershave in his hand. Instead he poured it on a small piece of pad then wiped the back & sides of her head with the wet pad paying particular attention to the hairline he had freshly shaved. When she wrinkled her nose, I could tell this wasn’t my wife’s favourite scent. John dampened her hair and gave her a final combing to ensure her hair was laying perfectly. He part was straight enough to have been made with a laser. It was white against her dark brown hair. The barber poured a lot of talcum into his soft dusting brush and I saw a small dust cloud as he added the talcum all the way around her.

Before freeing her from the cape, the barber turned her completely around in the chair twice to examine her haircut and to get my approval. It was a fabulous little boys haircut. The crispness of this SB&S was superb. Seated up in the barber chair with only her head showing above the pin-striped cape, she indeed looked like a little boy.

Her hair was parted on the left with the top hair combed straight across the top of her head. Her bangs were combed just slightly towards the back. Her part began just above her eye and the straight white line marked the length of her left side. At her temple the hair immediately at the part was about a half inch long. Below that to her sideburns, it was tapered extremely close to her scalp. It appeared quite white in its closeness. As the part moved back on her head, the hair below the part graduated slightly longer, but the hair to the base of her nape was cut so close & crisp, it was little more than bristles right up through her occipital hollow. She might have stepped right out of a 1950’s barbershop advertisement.

I really liked the way she smelled, a combination of after-shave lotion & talcum powder. John removed the cape and shook out her hair onto the floor. As she walked across the barbershop towards the door, I saw her run her hand upwards over the tapered bristles. She would love the feel of it, but would never wear this haircut in public where she’d be recognized. Only when we traveled during the summers could I expect her to wear something this radical. For now, only John & I would be the ones to see her looking like a little boy.

As always, would like to hear from anyone interested enough to write to me. Email address in the Author’s section.

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