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This story is based on the experiences of a friend of my husband. It has appeared on a defunct website before.

I’m Michael Threadgold and at the time of the story, I was thirteen years old and had transferred schools with my father moving his job. I went from one famous English Grammar School to another. The first day was daunting, new school, new teachers and new friends to make.

But the first day was also uneventful. I met my new form teacher and was given a timetable. Two boys were asked to show me the routine of the school; Arthur and Tony; and I rapidly established a friendship with them. During the first day, I noticed that half of the boys had their hair very short; indeed Arthur and Tony were in this category. One quarter of the boys were growing hair out and the other quarter had longer hair with one or two daring souls having it just over the ears and just over the collar. My hair was thick, layered and dark brown and was over the ears and way over the collar. My mother’s hairdresser had always styled it. I’d never been in a proper Barbers ever.

On my third day, I asked Arthur about this and he said

‘Have you met Dr Wilson, the Headmaster?’

‘No,’ I responded,

My parent’s had been interviewed by the Head as part of my admission procedure, I had yet to be introduced to the Head.

‘Oh, you’ll meet him soon enough.’

He left the exchange at that.

On a Tuesday, two weeks in and I had started to learn my way around, I had been given an errand to run by my form teacher. I approached the long main corridor and started to walk down it, at the other end appeared the Head walking towards me, with his long black gown and the light behind him he looked like the spitting image of Count Dracula. We were on a collision course. I looked for a side corridor in vain. No toilet to dodge into either. I looked into each classroom – there was a teacher and class in every one, each step brought us closer. I angled my approach so to slide down the side of the corridor. We got closer. I can’t avoid him. He’s ten yards away.

‘Dear Boy, Dear Boy, your hair Dear Boy,’ he exclaimed.

‘Yes Sir,’ I responded.

‘When you were walking down the corridor I thought we’d started to admit girls! It’s dreadfully long, it desperately needs cutting.’

‘Yes Sir,’ I mechanically replied.

‘Then get it CUT, I’ll be looking out for you.’

He swept away and I continued on my errand.

Break time, I mentioned my encounter to Arthur and Tony.

‘He’s got you now,’ said Arthur.

‘There’s been no known escape,’ chimed Tony.

Still they would not elaborate. I decided to ride the matter out, perhaps Dr Wilson would forget. Perhaps I could avoid him. I didn’t mention my encounter with the Head to my mother.

Wednesday, I went to ground, any sign of Dr Wilson in the distance sent me scurrying away. Thursday, morning assembly, I thought I had hidden in the crowd but as my form trooped out Dr Wilson was waiting.

‘Dear Boy, you’ve failed to get it cut. Why have you disobeyed me?’ He exclaimed.

‘Well,’ I stalled, ‘I’ve not really had time.’

This was a pathetic excuse and one he had heard a thousand times.

‘What’s your name Dear Boy?’

‘Michael Threadgold, Sir.’

He reached for his diary and made a note.

‘Ah, the new Boy,’ he said, ‘listen, Threadgold, today is Thursday, you have until Monday to get your hair cut. Don’t give me the excuse you haven’t time, you have got the entire weekend! I will call your name in assembly on Monday. DON’T DISOBEY ME!’

The last instruction was shouted.

‘No, Sir.’ I mumbled.

He strode regally off to apprehend another malefactor.

‘Great,’ I thought, ‘this is a tough one to get out of.’

Arthur and Tony were watching from a distance and they hurried over.

‘Well,’ said Tony, ‘He’s got you by the balls this time.’

‘What are you going to do?’ Arthur said.

‘I’ll have to get it cut,’ I responded, ‘the problem is telling my parents.’

I now realised the significance of the short haircuts and how they had strung me along, they knew I would get caught.

I arrived back home at 4-30pm with Tony and Arthur in tow as we had some collaborative work to do on a project. Half an hour later my mother appeared.

‘Michael, the Headmaster phoned this afternoon to say your hair was far too long and reminded us of the school rules on the subject and how we had  agreed with them, you’ll have to get it cut.’

‘Oh shit,’ I thought, ‘mother’s a stickler for rules, I can’t see how I can get out of this.’

She turned to Arthur and Tony and asked,

‘Where do you get your hair cut?’

They both chimed in with the name of a local Barber.

‘Good,’ mother replied ‘We will go there on Saturday.’

‘Can’t your Hairdresser do it?’ I pleaded.

‘No, the Head said that boy’s hair should be very short and that is how yours will be.’

End of discussion – Arthur and Tony exchanged glances.

I was trapped.

Friday, what to do and how do I handle this. I decided to tell everyone in my form that the Headmaster had gripped me and now I had no choice but to get a very short haircut. This got me the sympathy vote as most people would have liked to grow their hair but they didn’t dare to –they knew the consequences.

Friday came and went. That evening I tried again with my mother.

‘Why can’t your hairdresser cut it, even if it’s short then at least it will have some style?’

‘No, you will have a regulation haircut just like Tony and Arthur, you don’t hear them whinge.’

‘Please, I don’t want to look unfashionable.’

‘No, you will have the haircut that the Headmaster told us to get and what we agreed to.’

End of story.

Saturday, I awoke with a sick feeling in my stomach. During breakfast I eyed mother closely and tried again.

‘Do I have to have it cut at the Barbers – please, pretty please can your hairdresser do it?’ I wheedled.

‘We’ve been over this ground last night and I’m not changing my mind,’ was the response.

‘Get in the car; we want to be there when he opens.’

A short, silent five minute drive and then mother parked the car. We got out and walked to the shop with its red and white pole outside. It was 8.25 and we were early. A short agonising wait before a key turned in a lock and the sign went from closed to open. With her hand behind me I was propelled into the shop.

We were greeted by one of the Barbers who was a pleasant looking man in early middle age.

‘Good Morning,’ said my mother, ’Michael here needs a haircut and I was wondering if you could oblige?’

She was still thinking of her hairdresser and how appointments were the norm. The Barber said there would be no
problem and asked what sort of haircut.

‘A drastic short back and sides, please’ parroted mother.

‘Ah, does he go to the Grammar School?’

‘Yes.’

‘Dr Wilson sends ‘em in by the bucket load, we get loads of business from Dr Wilson,’ he responded, turning to me he said,

‘Would you like to get into the chair?’

I viewed the chair; it looked like a chair that you saw in movies, an electric chair. I mounted the thing and fully expected to have leather restraints applied to my ankles and wrists. Instead a white cape was wrapped around me and I was elevated skywards.

I gazed at myself with long hair, how would I look later? The Barber busied himself with some mechanical shears. Suddenly they burst to life with a rasping sound. He tilted my head to the left and brought the shears closer. They had a long toothed attachment on them. He placed them on my right cheekbone and moved up. Nothing visible happened until he reached the top and flicked his wrist. A hank of my beautiful hair detached itself, curled up and floated onto the cape. It drifted across the cape like tumbleweed rolling across the main street of a western ghost town. Three more goes later, more hair on the cape and one exposed right ear later and I thought

‘He’s shearing me like a sheep.’

The simile was apt, just like a sheep is trapped when its fleece is shorn; here was I in the same predicament. I had never seen hair cut so quickly, I had expected him to snip it off with scissors.

Round the back and he appeared over the left side. More tumbleweed on the cape and the left ear exposed. The whole process had taken less than two minutes and I had been fleeced.

He had left some hair on but the effect was ragged and the occasional longer tuft remained. He disengaged the toothed attachment got out his comb and merrily proceeded to splay more hair on the cape.

Next once again I was tilted to the left; again the naked shears on my right and up we went again. They had travelled two inches and I could see the white scalp with the tiny nubs of hair left behind. I got very distressed (pun not intended) and began to squirm and fidget in the chair as the right side was removed. All this did was to earn me a sharp rebuke. I resolved not to look at my reflection and stared at the mound of tumbleweed on the cape. Round the back again and across the left and he stopped. The shears switched off. I looked up. It was dreadful, total devastation, a massacre, acres of white scalp with tiny apologies of hair embedded in it with the top looking like a giant quiff totally disproportionate to the sides.

Out with the comb, out with the scissors as he crunched with gusto into the top rapidly reducing it down, again I tried not to look. Now the final humiliation, a blob of Brylcreem on the top and a razor sharp parting inserted to replace my loose one and it was over. I dared look up at the fifties throwback looking at me. I looked truly horrible – the haircut emphasised all the angular features of my face and made me look utterly repellent.

Down with the chair, a vigorous dusting and I was free to go. The Barber turned to mother and said,

‘There you are. Dr Wilson will find it difficult to find fault with this haircut.’

Mother looked relieved, but I understood the double meaning – he had sheared me far shorter than was necessary. Another short, silent journey and we were back home.

I had been in the house for 10 minutes and the phone rang. It was Tony.

‘Hi, how was your hairectomy.’

‘What on earth is a hairectomy?’

‘The surgical removal of hair.’

‘Alas, completely successful.’

‘Ooh, can I come and look and sympathise.’

‘I need to convalesce, come at 2pm.’

‘OK, see you then.’

I moped round the house and my father grinned and made the occasional joke – at least his company did not tell him to get a haircut.

At 11am, another phone call.

‘Hi Michael, Arthur here how did the operation go?’

‘I regret to say totally successful.’

‘Do you mind if I come and look?’

‘Why not, Tony’s rang, can you come at 2pm I’m still in total trauma.’

‘OK, see you then.’

2pm, I heard the gate swing, then a knock at the door. I positioned myself in the middle of the lounge. Mother answered the door.

‘Hello Tony, hello Arthur, he’s in the lounge come on through.’

I stood in the middle of the room as they burst in. Their faces dissolved into convulsions of laughter and I reddened with embarrassment.

‘Well that is a cut and a half,’ said Arthur.

They walked around me inspecting the haircut from all angles.

‘Look,’ said Tony, ‘He’s taken the clippers a good inch higher than ours.’

‘Must be a record,’ said Arthur, ‘from the longest hair in the school to possible the shortest. Just how are you feeling now?’

‘Totally bloody humiliated, I’m going to get it on Monday’

‘Oh don’t worry, two days and it’ll pass, plenty of people have gone through what you’ve gone through,’ Arthur reassured.

Monday came, from the bus ride to school, through registration where even my form teacher passed comment on its savagery and through the day I was a spectacle. Dr Wilson called my name in assembly and I reported to him.

‘Ah Dear Boy, a vast improvement, this will allow far more air and light into your brain and improve your academic performance.’

With a magisterial gesture he dismissed me.

Any thought that that I could quietly grow my hair out, vanished five weeks later when I was escorted for a reshearing. I protested.

‘Look, Michael, it’s the rules – go and see the Head if you want to change them,’ mother explained.

This was something no right minded pupil would do.

I had to keep the detested haircut for two years. I came to loathe the sound of the shears as they peeled away the hair, it ended because father was transferred away again and I had at last the opportunity to regrow hair.  

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