London Tales III

London Tales III

London Tales III – LondonHair

As I’m sure many of you will remember, way back in the early eighties geometric haircuts were the in thing for many. With the advent of new romantic bands such as the Human League and many others – the brave, the bold and the daring went in search of haircuts like the Wedge, the Step and ubiquitous Geo’ cut.

Many of these styles evolved as stylists developed their skills and elaborated with their creativity, techniques were turned from boring long 70’s cuts, perms, long limp bobs to the styles that we know today in the nineties. In fact, the sharp well crafted and structured cuts, crops, bobs that we see today and although around for many years – were really created in the early to mid-eighties.

On my journey into work back in those days when I had to ride the tube (underground) to get to Soho, London I would see women with these futuristic styles that one had only seen on TV. Although, where I worked we liked to think we were creative and innovative it rarely hit us to try out these styles on unsuspecting clients. I would notice as I still do today and any stylist does I think, a well cut style and a badly cut style – in the same way that one spots a style which does not suit that person. And what was obvious in many of the styles of that time was how badly cut they were.

The place where I worked back then was a very small shop in Soho next to an Italian Coffee shop. It had previously been a barber’s shop for how long I don’t know. Changed ownership several times until finally it was acquired by then boss. Three of us worked there two guys and a woman. The woman, a coloured girl from up north was really the catalyst in our change of image. Up until then our clientele would be the business type who would come in during their lunch breaks for a trim, both male and female – the punks (m & f) on Saturdays who would come in for their crops – occasionally some woman would come in with short hair to have it cropped shorter (always scissor over comb) although, the top, back & sides would be cropped they always insisted on leaving the “fringes” – side-burns, fringe and tail hair longer.

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Sonya, the coloured stylist had heard that the stylist two roads down had a sign saying “models required – apply within” nothing unusual but they were cutting some really neat styles and word was getting around – so much so that she’d heard this from the coffee shop next door. Bruce (the boss) also from up north (Liverpool) was curious and sent his then girl friend there to see what it was about. He’d known for something like a month – she went to this stylist shop to inquire about the modelling – she came back and said that they wanted models in order to try out styles, take pictures if the styles were good enough and have the pictures printed in various hair magazines. What a good idea we all thought. Bruce’s girl friend went there one evening with her blonde loose permed collar length hair and returned that night to Bruce’s flat with – a shaved nape all the way up to the crown, her hair parted in the middle cut to chin length with the sides rising just beneath her ears. Her hair had been dyed ginger – the poor girl never made it to the magazines. So, here we had a few hairdressers who were establishing the way forward. Bruce thought the whole thing was a good idea and soon after we too displayed the model apply within sign. We started with one night a week – late till nine/ten.

My first model was a rather plump looking lass from the East End who worked in one of the theatres not far from the shop. It was our first night cutting hair for free and we’d briefly talked about what we were aiming to achieve. Quite simply, we would try to cut some “cool” styles as it was put and we’d have back whoever we thought looked “cool” and have photos taken. We knew several photographers (quite well known ones) so photo-shoots would not be a worry. The shop still had these Dickensian barber’s chairs with the foot pump and the lass sat down. The response had been rather good where the sign had been concerned, the first appointments had been penned down for six that evening and we were hoping that we would get at least four models each. Her hair was dark and straight, just touching the jaw line, the back was longer than the sides. I remember asking her when she had last had it cut – she said something or other – I think she was nervous – I asked her if she had done any modelling before – she said no but, her friend had previously cut her hair. I took the hair off her face and noticed that she actually had cheekbones and small ears. Still not quite knowing what I was going to do I asked her how she felt about having her hair cut short. She paused for a while, swallowed dryly and said “yeah I fink I’d like it short”. I thought about the recent styles that I had seen but I still couldn’t envisage a style for this young woman. I put a cape around her and began to dry cut her hair into a bob, starting at cheek length and working my way around. As I finished this slightly uneven cut I lifted one side of her hair with my comb and wondered how the style would look with one side completely shaved. I’d seen this sort of style before – and more severe and garish styles. I said to her – you know I asked how you felt about having your hair cut short – she muttered a yeah – well, I’d like to cut this side really short – I brushed my fingers up through her hair, motioning the way the style would take – while I had been cutting her hair into a bob she had told me where she worked, so assumed that hair style would not be a problem. She didn’t appear to need any convincing and agreed to continue with her hair cut. I think because there two other people also having their hair cut in weird and wonderful ways she decided to go along. I rummaged through my drawer of tools and picked up a No: 3 attachment, which I fixed to the clippers. I tilted her head to one side, her eyes fixed to the clippers – lifting her hair with the comb I began to run the clippers from her side burn up, past the temple although, not over the skull but in an upward motion. Leaving a high and tight effect. I asked how she felt and she it was nice. A No: 3 leaves a slightly fluffy shaved effect – a grade which is seldom used nowadays on short styles unless you’re cropping the top of the head. After shaving the one side I began to run the clippers through the back of her head. I got a few raised eyebrows from Bruce – but Sonya had pretty much the same idea and was cutting someone’s hair almost as short. With the side and back shaved I club cut (clipper and comb) the longer top layers to blend the hair in. I cleaned up the lines around the nape and the ear – V’d the side burn. The finished look was very pleasing – her left side sported a chin length bob, which run above the ear lobe and stopped just after the ear. The top layers met a slight graduation, which faded into her clipped hair. The fringe I also slopped short on the cropped side and left longer towards the bob.

We asked her to come back – and she did – a couple of weeks later on the first floor on Oxford Street – Bruce took along a couple of stylist friends he knew along with six models that had been selected for the shoot. A later few weeks we sat around “Hair” magazine – My first lass had had her hair high-lighted through the top – the long side had remained the same length as I’d cut it – the other side had been cropped even shorter with a slight wedge, Bruce had previously told me he had also cut the back shorter – but the back shot didn’t get to the magazine – one of the stylists had pierced the ear with the short side three times.

The young lass visited the salon a few more times – that first modelling night I cut a further three styles, all pretty much evolutions from the first style. Each one got shorter and better. The last model of hat night – I had cut a bob at the back, just touching the hairline and clipper cut the side burns, which ran up to the temples and just over the ears. Pleased with the result and about to de-cloak the model – she said I thought it was going to be much shorter than that – I asked how short she had expected her hair to be cut and she said – like Annie Lennox – she left the shop with a grade 3 crop.

To be continued

(c) migkil 1999


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