Thursday, 29 May 2014

Hair Today - Sepia Saturday

I cannot hope to match hair like this but I did once write about my experience with haircuts - see what follows, with a few pictures thrown in.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It’s a sight I don’t often see these days. But then I don’t visit the barbers any more. What sight do I mean?

You must have seen a young child, watched over by a hovering mother getting his or her first hair cut. I must have been about four when I was introduced to Mr Fawkes, known to everyone as Guy. He was an ex-service man invalided out during the early days of WWII and fortunate to be retrained as a barber.

I remember being forced to sit on a narrow plank of wood, rough enough to leave a splinter in your bum if you did not sit still. Not that you had much chance of moving in the vice like grip of Mr Fawkes. Children were never allowed to call him Guy.

When I was older and permitted to visit his shop alone I soon realized why everyone called him Guy. If he had been the real Guy Fawkes, whom we had learnt about at school, I don’t think he would have been caught before he had had the chance to ignite the gunpowder in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament. Guy was an awesome sight with a lighted taper in his hand as he approached, intent on singeing the hairs on the back of the neck and in the ears of the victim in the chair.

Frank Churchill having his hair cut
{Illustration by Chris Hammond  in Jane Austen's "Emma."}

It was no fun waiting your turn. If an adult entered you went to the back of the queue. However it was informative to wait and see which staid gentleman accepted Guy’s offer of ‘something for the weekend,’ especially when it was the vicar.

Guy’s shop has gone together with his red and white pole.

George Webb's shop at 30 Friar Street Reading complete with barber's pole
(1890-1899 phot by Walton Adam)

 Guy went as well some time while I was at university. 

Bob at St Andrews

There is no barber’s in the village now. Even if there was it would be a unisex hairdressing salon with nubile young girls to cut your hair. Now this is something I miss as you will see as this tale unfolds.

The men on my side of the family have all gone grey and lost their hair. In my case the first signs of grey were pointed out to me when I was just sixteen. The receding hairline just crept up on me over the years. 

However I still had sufficient hair to feel shocked when I was subjected to the brutal trim administered by an army barber on my second day at Catterick as a National Service man.

British and American soldiers having hair cut in Normandy in 1994 
(ex Imperial War Museum collections)
My National Service haircut was just like the one behind the soldier with the paper.

Later I thought about auditioning for Hair. Eventually I decided against it. There really was not much point as I can’t sing and with three left feet my dancing is more one-sided that England’s football team. The audience would have left in horror at the scene in the nude. After all, who wants to see a hairy ape on stage?

Children have a habit of asking awkward questions. However there are some who come to their own conclusions. Once when I was not wearing a shirt I was told, “Daddy, I know why you have no hair on your head. It must have lost its way and grown on your chest instead.”

Hair has its own way of telling you when you should get it cut. In the days when I had to wear a safety helmet at work I knew the time had come when my hair curled upwards outside the brim, preventing my ear defenders from being deployed. 

Hard hat, safety specs and long sideburns
While I was in Norway, the one thing that delayed corrective action was the thought that a haircut would cost you an arm and leg as well.

Hair’s a funny thing; it grows profusely where you rather wish it didn’t, like down you nose and in your ears. Far be it from me to conclude that here it is well fertilised. Isn’t it strange that the ladies, and men too I’m told, get their unwanted hairs removed by using wax?

I don’t go to the barber’s any more. I really miss the attention of those young nubile things. I’m told they are not good for my blood pressure, but that’s not the reason I have given up. The cost of a haircut soared so much that it was better to invest in an electric trimmer.

This has it dangers as she who wields the clippers has designs on trimming the hair on my back – because it gets up her nose in bed. I suppose I must be thankful that my ears are intact. She draws the line however at using the attachment to attack those nasal hairs and those with their roots embedded in wax.

Finally here’s a safety warning. If you approach me from behind you had better wear dark glasses. My polished pate shines brighter than a landing light on a flies’ aerodrome.

For more follicle challenges you need to check the hair styles at Sepia-saturday-230.


Alan Burnett said...

As usual, your post set memories off romping around my brain. I too recall the village barber from my youth (in my case an Italian prisoner of war who went on to make his home in the country) and the haircream and the smells and the hard benches. When I asked my current hairdresser the other day if I was getting thin on top she answered very diplomatically that it was a well known fact that hair got more transparent as you got older!

violet s said...

I remember being very young and getting my hair trimmed and crying the whole time. They didn't understand that I was crying not because of the hair cutting, but because I'd been made to sit on a wooden plank that went over the arms of the chair and not in the chair proper as I'd done before while waiting for my father. Not sure why I was at a barbers and not a 'beauty salon' with my mother - maybe in those days it was more common for barbers to do children's hair.

Jo said...

Hubby still has to have his hair cut and we both go to the same salon. However, the woman who cuts our hair is not a nubile young thing. Matt is a tad thin, but he still has coverage.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

I never thought (before days of electric trimmers) how the hairline might have been finished off with a taper. Oh my. My first haircut was in a department store at age 4.

Kristin said...

Quite a trip down the lane of hair memories.

shelly said...

I couldn't imagine having all that hair in the first picture. Headache comes to mind.

I remember my brother's first hair. My mother and him both cried, sniveled, and screamed. It was quite an ordeal.

La Nightingail said...

Times do change. When my youngest grandson had his first haircut at the barbershop, he sat in a special chair just for kids sporting a ride-in kiddie fire truck. No tears & he had a ball steering & ringing the bell while the barber clipped. We all tease my husband when he says he needs a haircut as he only has a bit of fringe around the bottom. But he says it bothers him when it gets too long. I tried getting him to let it grow out into a ponytail, but, he won't do it.

La Nightingail said...

P.S. How funny. Just as I clicked the 'button' to publish my original comment, my husband informed me he was going out to get a haircut!

Jo said...

Talking about this later, Matt told me he used to pay a quid to get his hair done before he knew me. We were wondering how much a haircut is nowadays. Matt pays $14 for his.

Jo Featherston said...

Great story, and there's yet another photo of you as a smouldering young fellow back in your student days.

aw said...

The prompt photo for this post reminds me of two of my mother's older sisters who never had their hair cut to the modern bob in the 20s and still had long hair worn either wound into a bun or plaited and wound around the head when I first knew them in the 1950s. When they brushed their hair each evening it fell in waves just like the photo. Short and sweet is much easier to manage though.Unisex establishments for hair styling now seems the norm.

Postcardy said...

Singeing sounds like it would scare anyone, not just a child. My early haircuts must have been uneventful. I don't remember any of my haircuts until I was in high school, and then only because some looked better than others.

boundforoz said...

My goodness. I've never heard of that taper caper. It sounds frightening.

Mike Brubaker said...

A brilliant post, Bob. I am reminded of my first haircuts by Sam the Barber who was my grandfather's old friend and responsible for introducing him to my grandmother. Somehow I always liked the name and chose it for my son many years later.

Tattered and Lost said...

But think of all the money you save by not having to buy hair products. And you can jump from the shower and be on your way oh so quickly. But you must always remember to wear a hat outside. Skin cancer is not something to ignore.

Wendy said...

I'm reminded of that old saying: God made only a few perfect heads. On all others he put hair.

Little Nell said...

Well as well-known comedian once said- it’s not the receding hairline you should worry about, it’s an advancing one! My father had you current hairsyle for years and swore that he hit his head more, whilst climbing in the car, since going bald.