The Free Makeover by Hair-Raiser
Jane entered the brightly-lit salon. She was flustered. The advertisement had said 7:00pm and it was already 7:15. Was she too late? The receptionist smiled sweetly as Jane fumbled for the ad which was now crumpled at the bottom of her pocket.
“Am I too late for this?” Jane showed the ad to the receptionist. The ad read;
“Tired of your long hair? Free long to short makeovers by top stylist.”
“No, of course not. You’ll need to review this and then sign the bottom. They’ll be starting in about 10 minutes so if you hurry, you can still get some of the champagne and snacks.”
Jane took the clipboard and read the single sheet of close print. As far as she could make out, she was only agreeing that she was over 18, she did not want to keep any of the hair cut and she was allowing photographs and videos of her haircut to be taken and distributed without any royalties due. She quickly signed and was ushered through the reception area to the main salon.
The room was filled with animated chatter from the 10 women in the room. There were a number of small tables with champagne bottles and glasses. Others had party snacks. From the ambiance, Jane guessed that a lot of champagne had already been drunk. Jane didn’t normally drink alcohol, but she was hot after her rushing to the salon and there seemed to be no other drink, so she poured herself a glass.
Jane looked around the room. There was certainly a lot of well cared for hair in that room. The girl with the shortest hair had a shoulder length bob. Most of the girls had much longer hair, mid back. An Asian girl had the longest hair. It was beautiful, straight jet-black hair that swung gently around her butt as she slowly turned to the people that she was talking to. Jane’s hair was only about 6″ shorter than the Asian girl’s hair and much thicker and slightly wavy. It shone auburn in the bright salon light. She had thought long and hard about cutting her hair and if it hadn’t been for her mother’s encouragement and the timely advertisement for the free makeover, she wouldn’t have got this far. She hadn’t told her boyfriend Mark about her decision. She was pretty sure he would be supportive, but it had to be her decision and there was only her mother’s advice that she trusted when it came to her hair.
She had decided on the “Rachel cut” made famous by Jennifer Aniston and even had a picture of her in her bag. Her friend Mary had laughed that there couldn’t be a single hairdresser who didn’t know that cut and had teased Jane that she had missed the fad by over a year. Jane had to admit that she had first thought about getting that hairstyle over a year ago, but it had taken that long to build up enough courage.
Jane looked around the room hoping to see a conversation to break into. Instead, she saw that the salon had three red barber chairs facing the mirror, rather than the usual chairs she was used to seeing in ladies’ hairdressers. She noticed a video camera on a tripod facing the centre chair. She then noticed that the receptionist had left her station and was walking amongst the girls while videoing them with a third camera. Jane poured herself another drink.
Meanwhile, Joanne was getting impatient. She was talking with a group of 3 women and there was just so much hair talk that she could stand. Joanne was one for action. She had responded to a different advertisement to Jane’s. It had read;
“Girls, Cut your long hair short for cash.”
She had called the telephone number on the ad and had spoken to John, the stylist. She finally met him last week. He had offered her $50 to take her overgrown, blond pageboy cut down to a crew cut, but told her that there was an opportunity to make more than $50. John explained that he was going to hold a makeover session where women would be offered a free makeover. Joanne would have to pretend to be one of the girls and volunteer to go first. She was coached to look and sound excited during the cut and afterwards, talk enthusiastically to the other women about her new look. When it was the other girls’ turn, Joanne was to offer verbal encouragement for the girl to go shorter. For every girl that ended up with a crew cut or shorter, Joanne would be paid $50.
“But why not just offer the girls $50 for a crew cut?” Joanne had asked.
“Well I don’t think there would be many takers for $50 and I don’t want to scare anyone away” had been John’s reply. What John hadn’t explained was that taking a woman past the point she really felt comfortable was part of the fun for him. It always felt like going fishing to John. First he would dangle the bait in front of them that if they’d just go a little shorter they would be sooo much more attractive. Once they took the bait, they’d wriggle on the hook and try to get away once John explained just how short they needed to go. With patience and skill he’d slowly reel them in until they were landed and hair was flying everywhere. Yes, girls like Joanne, who loved to go short were great, but they were no substitute for the emotional roller coaster of the reluctant customer.
John had owned the salon for nearly three years and had slowly become more and more frustrated with woman after woman who came in for a trim. Occasionally one of his clients would want something different, but these were few and far between. In the first year, he had tried to go fishing with his customers, encouraging them to go shorter, but when enough of them stopped coming back, he gave up the approach. This was the first time he’d arranged an event designed specifically to get women to part with vast quantities of their hair and from the staff room where he had wired the video monitors, he was pleased with the turnout. He had 8 genuine volunteers and two “plants” he’d arranged to go first to get the audience responsive to how attractive they could look with close cropped hair. He’d given the same deal to both of the plants, so for every girl persuaded to get a crew cut, he’d be down $100. John had taken out $1000 from the bank and so knew that he was going to be able to cover the cost in the unlikely event that they all decided to go for the close cropped look.
“Time to get the show on the road.” John declared to himself and walked into the salon area.
“Ladies. Please take a chair and we can get started.”
Slowly the hubbub died down and the women found seats. A couple of women took the opportunity of topping up their champagne glasses.
“Welcome to Hair-Raiser’s and to my celebration of makeovers. We’re celebrating not only how a makeover can make you look different but feel different as well. My name is John and I’ll quickly explain what we are doing this evening. Firstly, we are going to take turns to sit in this chair.” John slapped the back of the middle barber chair so loudly that one of the more inebriated women jumped out of her seat.
“You take your turn by volunteering. If you are the only volunteer, it’s your turn. If there are others, I will decide the order. If there are no volunteers, again I will decide whose turn. Once you are in the chair, you tell us your name and how you would like your hair cut. I will then let you know what I think and offer suggestions. We then ask the audience for their views. Finally, the person in the chair makes the choice on her new hairstyle and I then cut it. Remember, your hair is only cut how you decide you want it cut.”
The audience looked around and nodded at each other satisfied that they would be deciding how their hair was going to be cut.
“Now, I must point out that this is for long to short makeovers, so you are in the wrong place if you just want an inch off the ends. If that applies to you or if anyone hasn’t signed the release, please leave now.”
Everyone looked around and after a few moments of silence, John declared, “Who’s first?”
Right on cue, Joanne leapt out of her chair and demanded, “Me first.” She almost ran across the room and jumped into the chair.
“OK then,” John replied and swept the cape around her and fastened it about her neck. He picked up a brush and started pulling it through Joanne’s hair.
“So, who are you and how would you like your hair cut?”
“My name’s Joanne and I’m at University and well I just don’t have time to care for my hair. I thought a buzz cut would be nice and easy.”
“Oh that is a good idea.” John enthused. He pulled her hair back showing her ears.
“Yes. Look at those great cheekbones and large eyes and you have such petite ears. You could take a crew cut no problem.” John turned the chair towards the audience. “So what do you guys think?”
There was a stunned silence as many of the girls thought that they had misheard. Eventually a redhead with big hair ventured, “It’s a bit severe isn’t it?”
“You wait and see,” John replied and turned the chair back towards the mirror. He brushed her hair once more and stood back so that everyone could see the entire length. The fringe had grown past her nose and it was difficult for her to see out. The front of the basic pageboy had grown to her shoulders and the back was about 5″ longer.
“You’ll want to see this.” And with that John lopped off Joanne’s fringe in a couple of chops with his trusted 6″ shears. John again swung the chair back to the audience revealing the roughly cut 1/2″ long fringe and Joanne’s broad smile.
John swung the chair back to the mirror and with great bravado picked up his clippers. He put on a number 2 guard and held them up in the air and turned them on. As they buzzed into life, the audience jumped up right in their chairs. Starting at the temple, John started plowing the clippers up through the hair and quickly moved around Joanne’s head sending lock after lock slipping down the cape to the floor or Joanne’s lap. When the sides and back were cropped close with just a thicker mass on top, John swapped the number 2 guard for a number 3 and he then reduced the top to a fine furry covering. When he was done, John tore the cape from around Joanne’s neck sending hair flying around the room.
“It’s great!” Joanne declared running her hands through what was left of her hair. “I wish I’d done this years ago.”
John turned to the redhead. “What do you think?”
“Actually, I agree. I think it looks great on her.”
Joanne went over to the redhead and invited her to feel it, which she did and then the others in the audience wanted their turn at a feel.
“OK. So who’s next?”
On cue, Jeri stood up. John’s second plant in the audience. Her hair was slightly longer than Joanne’s but it was badly bleached. The ends were dry and brittle and the dark roots were showing through the yellowy blond hair. After much debate about the shocking state of her hair, John ventured that they would probably have to go short. He asked the audience what they thought.
“Yes. Buzz it all off. It’ll be a mercy cut,” yelled the redhead, clearly entering the spirit of the event.
“You’ll not be sorry,” added Joanne, feeling that she needed to earn her money.
“Same again?” John asked.
Same again!” Jeri confirmed.
When John had finished the cut it was really stunning. He had cut a flat top and all the hair was dark brown with the exception of the tips of the flat top which remained blond. There were many congratulations passed to Jeri as she went back to her chair.
“OK, next,” John cried, hardly able to control his excitement to see who the first true volunteer would be. He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the Asian girl with hair to her butt stand.
“Can I go next?”
“Of course you can.”
The girl walked nervously over to the barber’s chair. Before she sat down John put the cape around her shoulders and fastened it. Unfortunately he didn’t get all of the hair outside of the cape and so there were a comical few moments as he kept pulling hair out from under the cape. Holding all the hair up, he led the girl to the chair. “Well lady, same again?”
“Oh no. I don’t think so. My name is Dajit and I’d like this taking to shoulder length. This length is just impossible to care for.”
“Well,” John tried to think quickly and not let his disappointment show. He took a brush and started slowly running it through the hair. Dajit visibly relaxed in the chair. “You know when it’s shoulder length it is still a lot of work. Also your face is quite long which will be accentuated by that length hair. We should probably go for a bob with undercut. It would make your face look more oval and would be real easy to care for.”
John had thrown the bait in front of the fish but wasn’t convinced she was going to go for it. He decided to apply some more pressure before Dajit could say no. He turned the chair to the audience and asked them to comment. Joanne and Jeri did not let John down enthusing the advantages of the bob. The redhead, who introduced herself as Rula was also offering encouragement that John knew best.
When John felt there had been enough encouragement he asked, “So are we going to take just a little bit more off and go for the bob?”
Dajit looked unsure and turned the chair back to face the mirror. She looked long and hard turning her face from side to side and finally quietly whispered “OK”. Some of the audience leapt to their feet and clapped. John wondered if he needed to explain what an undercut is or that the ‘little bit more’ was in fact another 6″. He decided that she would find out soon enough.
John pulled all of the hair except for a section at the back into a huge ponytail which he coiled like a snake and clipped it to the top of her head. The back section extended level to the top of the ears and fell 2″ short of the floor. John pulled it together and threw it over Dajit’s shoulder so that a mass of hair sat on her lap. He then roughly pushed her head down so that her chin was planted firmly in her chest and she was staring at the mass of hair. If Dajit could see John picking up the clippers, she didn’t flinch. John looked at the audience who were smiling broadly.
John put his left hand on the top of Dajit’s head as he turned the clippers on. It was just as well as she nearly leapt out of the chair and John was applying quite some pressure as he swept up her neck with the clippers, freeing hair and sending it slipping over Dajit’s shoulder and landing in her lap. Quickly the mound of severed hair grew and the back of Dajit’s neck had been reduced to 1/2″ stubble. John turned the clippers off and swung the chair back to face the audience. He grabbed the 3′ mound of hair in her lap and held it aloft like a trophy. The audience stood and clapped and cheered. A honey blond girl was cheering the most and so John handed the trophy to her. He then turned back to Dajit and noticed that her head was still bowed and that she was quietly sobbing.
“What on earth is the matter?” John asked, as if he couldn’t guess.
“I thought you were only going to cut it into a bob.”
“Look!” John released the clip and the long hair tumbled down her back once more.
“See. That was just the under cut. We bob this layer and the short neck hair allows us to curl it under.”
Dajit visibly cheered up and dried her eyes with a tissue provided by John.
“But you know.” John offered. “You’ve done the hard work. It gets no worse than that. We could finish it all the same way as the back. Look how great your neck feels.” John held Dajit’s hand and put it on her neck.
Dajit had to agree it felt kind of nice.
“Go for it girl!” the honey blond encouraged, shaking the severed ponytail.
“Be brave,” Jeri yelled.
“No. I want the bob!”
John couldn’t quite believe that he’d got so near and yet so far. He reached for his 6″ shears and roughly chopped the bob line slightly below her ears. This was shorter than she had imagined, but at least John had put the clippers down. He then wet the hair with a spray bottle and spent time tidying the cut up, cutting it in layers and then blow drying it. When he had finished, he thought she looked marvellous and the curled under hair was clear of her earlobes. He had not asked if she had wanted a fringe cut, but he had cut one high above her eyebrows. Dajit’s happy smile indicated that she approved, or at least, that she was pleased that it was over.
“Next!” John declared.
The alcohol was beginning to take its toll on Jane and she was feeling very light headed and she was really getting into shouting encouragement to the girls as they sat in the chair. She hoped no one would think her too boring asking for her Rachel cut. She decided that she better leave it for a few more turns until some more conservative girls took their turns.
“What no volunteers?” John asked. Silence
“OK. So I get to chose.” John walked the line of chairs. He stopped briefly by the honey blond still clutching Dajit’s severed mane. ‘No’ he thought. She would be pleading for a crew cut after a couple more volunteers had been cropped. He looked at Rula who had become the most vocal of the audience. He decided that she was too strong-willed to be swayed from whatever she had planned, and he didn’t think she had a crew cut planned. John needed another person to clipper to keep the momentum going which had been slightly lost when Dajit decided not to go all the way, although John had to admit, that was the most hair he’d cut off in one go for quite some time. As John walked down the line, he noticed Jane smiling at him. As he returned the smile, Jane immediately looked down trying to avoid further eye contact. In an impulse John touched Jane on her shoulder and declared;
“It looks like we have our next customer.”
Jane got up slowly and climbed into the chair to the applause of the audience, many of whom were glad that they hadn’t been called.
“So who are you and what would you like?”
“My name’s Jane and it’s taken me some time to work up the courage, but I’d like the Rachel cut, you know, like Jennifer Aniston.”
“Gosh. It’s been some time since I’ve been asked to cut one of those. I don’t know if I can remember how to do it.”
“I’ve got a picture,” Jane offered reaching into her pocket.
John smiled. Obviously sarcasm was lost on this one. “No only kidding. But don’t you think you are going to look a bit odd. You know, a fashion follower following a fad that’s been and gone over a year ago?”
“It took me a year to get up the courage. It’s the only style I’ve been thinking of.”
“Well, it’s my job to help you think of other styles.” John thought a moment staring a Jane’s reflection in the mirror, trying to decide what bait to use.
“What about something like Dajit’s new cut?”
Jane was taken aback. She hadn’t been thinking of anything that drastic. “I like it a lot, but I don’t know if it would suit me.”
“You know. You could be right. Your face is quite round, so it would tend to make it look fatter. Yes, you are right, we should definitely go shorter.” The look of horror on Jane’s face spoke amply about how she thought about that idea, but before she could reply, John had swung the chair around to face the audience and asked for their views.
“It’s got to be better than having all of that hair in the summer months,” Joanne suggested.
“Just imagine all the time you’d save in the mornings not having such a mass of hair,” Jeri chirped in.
“Just do it!” Rula commanded. Rula was never a person with great amounts of patience and she was looking forward to seeing this girl’s auburn hair liberated.
“It’s not that bad once he gets started,” Dajit stated, feeling a lot braver now that someone else was sitting in the chair.
“So it’s agreed. Our third crew cut.” John knew he had to move quickly and get the crowd behind him if was going to land this fish.
“Yes!” the audience cheered.
Jane’s mind was racing. This certainly wasn’t what she had in mind, but would it be so bad?
John turned the chair back to face the mirror and started brushing Jane’s hair. He wanted to give her time to say no, but without giving her the opportunity to say no. As he brushed, he could feel Jane relax in the chair. He knew the prize was nearly his. John stopped his brushing and picked up the clippers, taking off the guard. Jane knew she had to say something quickly.
“What about Heather Locklear?”
John didn’t immediately acknowledge that he’d heard Jane’s outburst and slowly walked behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, the clippers in his right hand and the comb in his left. He stared long and hard at her reflection in the mirror and Jane’s heart pounded as she stared back at the clippers only inches away from her flowing mane.
“Too conservative,” finally John stated. “Nobody would even notice that you’d cut your hair.” John knew that wasn’t true but he’d got his fish on the hook and he wasn’t going to let the truth get in the way of him landing it, no matter how much it wriggled. All he needed was persistence and the hair was history.
“A shag cut,” Jane offered. Her mother had the same style and though she had no interest of looking like her mother, desperate times called for desperate measures. She needed salvation from John’s clippers.
Again John looked long and hard at Jane’s reflection trying to give the impression that he was seriously considering the suggestion.
“We could do that, but I think you’ll regret it. You came here for a long to short makeover and you’re just getting cold feet. Be brave, take a deep breath and it’ll soon be over.”
“Meg Ryan! Her hair’s short,” Jane was getting panicked.
John liked this girl. She’d never even challenged the notion that she was going to have her hair cut shorter than she had originally intended and now with hair just short of her butt, she was volunteering to have a very short hair cut. The Meg Ryan cut would look absolutely fabulous on her and on any other occasion, he would have been happy to oblige, but he’d got his clippers in his hand and she was going to have to tell him no to his face for him to put them down. Still, this was going to be a tough one to answer.
“For God’s sake!” Rula’s patience had snapped and she leapt from her chair and dashed over to Jane’s side.
“Look here Rapunzel. We know it’s a big deal for you and it may even put Pantene out of business, but if John doesn’t do it now, I’m going to.” She picked up a fist full of Jane’s hair and started waving it at the mirror. “Bye, bye, Jane. Bye, bye,” Rula mimicked in a high pitched voice and then returned to her normal voice. “Look your hair has said its farewells, now let’s do it.” She tossed Jane’s hair into her lap and walked back to her chair.
John looked at Jane’s reflection trying hard not to laugh. Jane was staring wide-eyed into the mirror and John knew her resistance was broken. He moved to the right side of the chair and slipped the comb under her hair, halfway up her ear. He turned the teeth outwards and taking a last quick look at Jane’s reflection, he turned the clippers on and swept them across the bottom of the comb sending 2′ of hair slipping into her lap.
There were loud cheers and claps from the audience and Rula leapt out of her chair, grabbed the severed hair from Jane’s lap and started parading it around the room. The room quickly died down as they saw John move to the back , lift the hair up again followed by the sweep of the liberating clippers and another 2′ swathe of hair was sent plummeting to the floor. Jane’s gaze didn’t flinch. It didn’t even look like she was blinking. John finished the last piece leaving Jane with a rough bowl cut and a huge mound of hair on the floor and lap. John fitted a guard on the clippers and pushed Jane’s chin into her chest. He’d seen the look of fear and bewilderment on Jane’s face and was enjoying the sense of control. He ran the clippers over her head, pass after pass reducing her hair to 1/4″ stubble. He’d got the art of flicking the hair as the clippers reached the zenith so that the severed lock would slide down the front of the cape into her lap. All too soon, it was over. Jane stared blankly at the close cropped reflection that greeted her stare in the mirror.
“So what do you think?” John had a fair idea what Jane thought, but he couldn’t resist asking.
After a long pause, Jane eventually replied in a monotonic voice, “It’s too short!”
“Well it’s too late to worry about that.” John couldn’t stop a laugh as he swept the cape from around Jane’s shoulders signaling the end of her ordeal. He had a sudden pang of fear that he’d been too harsh on Jane and that he had scared the other girls from getting into the chair. Slowly Jane returned to her chair in the audience, walking like a zombie. Fortunately for John, the alcohol had taken affect and the other girls weren’t at all sympathetic to Jane’s situation, they laughed and giggled as she sat down and self-consciously rubbed her denuded scalp.
“You’ve got to give me one of those!” Rula declared leaping to her feet. John couldn’t believe how well things were working out.