The Haircut.

our 3 grandsons

our 3 grandsons

The most avoided event for young boys and perhaps girls as well was the looming of the haircut. That’s why I cannot remember this ever happening when I was very young. I am sure it was done and most likely by my mother or perhaps even dad. There were vague references to a terracotta flower pot being used to snip around the perimeter after it was placed on the hapless victim. Money was scarce and seen as a waste spending it on kid’s hair.

Adults would go to a barber and a women’s hairdo were referred to in French as in coiffure or bouffant to give it a special and heightened sense of feminine importance. With men it would be a shave and a cut. A flick knife with a frighteningly long blade would be sharpened in front of the victim on a leather belt before the stubble or beard would be tackled. You would not want to have a violent disagreement with the barber and politically savvy positions would be taken at all times. The barber would politely ask ‘brush good and warm today, Sir?’ The reply was always a mumbled, ‘yes, very nice and warm.’ The brush would be soaped up in warm water and rubbed around the palm of the barber’s hand or a special dish to get a nice lather, not too sloppy nor too firm. There were skills involved that seem to have got lost.

However, my last haircut a few days ago, those lost skills were re-discovered. I had held off as long as possible but after Helvi’s remark I looked like a Hottentot, I felt I should really get a cut, especially as our fiftieth marital milestone had been reached. I decided to try a new barber shop. It looked rather snazzy and had a computerised system with special rewards for loyal customers. Now-a-days, any business has to have some gimmick and what more gimmicky than having some connection with the electronic world, especially a computer. I punched in my name and phone number. Out came a ticket with a number and I sat down waiting for my turn.

I was immediately struck by the performance of one of the cutters. He was hair cutting enthusiasm incorporated. He had a dark complexion and with a full head of pitch black hair, always a major plus in my opinion. I mean a bald hairdresser doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the world of hair. I don’t know why; perhaps an odd prejudice on my part?

He displayed a barber agility I had never seen before except perhaps in the world of gymnastics or even ballet. He danced and jigged around the man he was haircutting. The amazing part was that the customer did not have much hair to cut. He was an elderly gentleman of slim proportions with the only hair available at the back of his head creeping towards the lower part of his neck. Even so, the hairdresser was clicking his scissors as if approaching a fully fleeced Merino. The customer’s wife was sitting next to me, giving gentle instruction to this dancing and swiftly darting about hairdresser who, in full flight, was giving every strand of his remaining hair full and undivided attention.

photo Gerard

I could not wait for him to do my hair. I was fully rewarded. He was overjoyed to work on my still fully bouffant head of hair and soon got in his stride. Fever pitch would be an understatement. It turned out his darkness was not Spanish but originated from a Philippine mother and Australian father. He learned his considerable skills on the job and did not go to a technical college. Towards the end he rubbed some fragrant pomade between his hands which he did by holding them above my head. I felt I was getting some kind of laying of hands, it was almost religious. He looked at my head and turned it a bit here and a bit there, almost like an architect contemplating a new opera house on the banks of the Danube at Bratislava. He finally rubbed it on my hair, gave a sigh of utter satisfaction and was finished. I must say it was the best haircut I ever enjoyed.

An improvement on the terracotta job of so many years ago.

Be gentle:photoselfie 2

A more provocative one. I am the one at the front.

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27 Responses to “The Haircut.”

  1. Silver in the Barn Says:

    And Helvi? Is she pleased? Has she retracted her “Hottentot” remark? Because, after all, it’s her opinion that most matters, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. berlioz1935 Says:

    What a delightful twist you can give a story. As a child one did not have a choice neither with the cutter nor the cut. One was send and had to endure. Money was no object but the out come was. Mum was happy and I was crying or being upset.

    During the war I had an especially bad time. Waiting my turn could take, what seemed to be, hours, as the barber gave preference to any soldier on R and R. I felt the whole German army was hiding in the barber shop instead of fighting on the Eastern front or being a nasty occupier in Holland. Perhaps there was an order that soldiers had to look fit and proper when dying for the fatherland.

    What a relief it was when the barber went into the corner of the shop to get the special seat for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, that is right . There used to be special seats to prop up the child. I think in post-war Holland, haircuts were performed by adults on each other when money was short.
      Helvi used to cut my hair but she used to jerk my head around a bit and after a somewhat mild remark by me told me to go to a barber. She is no nonsense and lovely and utterly Finnish.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. M-R Says:



  4. Yvonne Says:

    We deserve a photo of you in all your glory!


  5. Curt Mekemson Says:

    That sounds like one heck of a haircut Gerard. All the barber needed was a little classical music to cut by. I think I may have suffered through a bowl cut or two in my youth. The barber shop I did use, way back in the 40s, is still standing and is still a working barbershop. Next time I get back to my hometown, I may give it a try. 🙂 –Curt


  6. Andrew Says:

    I have my monthly short back and sides. That’s it. Once, about 12 years ago, I went to get my haircut in Singapire, where I was working. First haircut there. I followed a friend’s recommendation. I should have guessed from the price it wasn’t a flower pot job. I don’t remember the outcome being very different but it was done with flair, a touch of arrogance and there was the laying on of perfumed hands. I went back to my 2/6 cut after that. Barber shops are safe havens in my experience. Hair stylists are not.


  7. Master of Something Yet Says:

    How coincidental. I had my hair cut today. As did the 15-year-old. No one was harmed.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      That’s good news. No radicalisation or subversive tactics used by the hairdresser?
      I had a strange experience some years ago when the barber plunked himself in my lap with his legs spread apart, to snip away at the front of my head. I did not know how to turn or what to make of it. He was from Malaysia and I thought it might have been a cultural thing. I thought it was more than friendly. I was astonished!
      I never went back there.


      • Master of Something Yet Says:

        Are you sure you were at the right sort of parlour?

        Fortunately this is a hairdresser of long standing since same boy was in a pusher. As she also shaved his head in front of the whole school when he was 11 when he decided after 4 years of growing it to cut it all off for Earth Hour and the WWF, she is one to be trusted with all things.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        That was a good thing to do. The co-founder of Earth Hour, Andy Ridley is a good friend of my son dating back many years.


  8. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Great fun Gerard. I hate the hairdresser, and for many years cut it myself, however recently I have started going to my husband’s barber, and Italian family run shop and I am surviving.


  9. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I’m so glad you no longer require a flower pot for determining the correct length Gerard. I always gave the grandsons what we call a “Dutch” cut. Straight all around with bangs. Dr. Advice is easy, a few slides of the cutter and he’s clean as a whistle again. Do get your eyebrows trimmed. You don’t want to look like a grey Faustus.


  10. chris hunter Says:

    Gerard, the joys of a homemade haircut. During the 1950’s I grew up in a remote mountain valley in New Zealand and my step mother gave haircutting a go with some new fancy hand clippers.

    It was a nightmare, she kept getting them jammed in my hair and eventually, after much travail, would rip them clean away, then start afresh. Once, they were so badly jammed in my hair she said I would have to actually wear them until Dad got home from work, in an hour or so, in the hope he could free them.

    The thought of wearing them around, if only for an hour, appalled me, I implored her to rip/chop them out and she did. After this last monumental/painful effort she gave up on her homemade haircut ambitions and I returned, thankfully, to Mr Papps the village barber, with his hair oil and his strange finger snapping sounds behind your neck.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I think I can vaguely remember those hand operated trimmers. They were used by my mum but did not really work except by pulling tufts of hair out, roots and all. No wonder us kids preferred unkempt and long hair.
      Thanks Chris. Those lingering memories.


  11. roughseasinthemed Says:

    We bought a DIY kit some years ago. Best seventeen euros we’ve spent in ages, saved a fortune on hair cuts and I’ve got quite proficient.


  12. Lilith Says:

    A fully fleeced Merino!! How I laughed. YOu are therapy!


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