London Tales 6 – LondonHair
I recently attended a dinner party round friends’. During the meal someone asked how business was. I replied that business was steady but if last year was anything to go by – this summer should be a good season for business too. Someone else added, “Yes and you’re quite lucky where you’re situated because you get the office people in during the week from the City and the weekend shoppers from Covent Garden and Oxford Street – don’t you?”
“Yes – quite fortunate,” I replied.
“And a lot of them are regulars,” my wife contributed.
We have known our friends for years, gone on holiday etc., and the same old questions about each other’s jobs always pops up: What’s the weirdest, longest, shortest, worst, youngest, oldest, bluest, pinkest, those sort of questions. We ask the same about their professions, one’s a music publisher and the other is a music teacher – another couple who are at the party are both in television and so on.
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“Sure, I’m very lucky in that respect: no sooner have we finished doing a client’s hair, they’re already booking their next appointment about three or four weeks in advance.”
“I can’t even plan tomorrow, let alone four weeks ahead,” laughed Tom – the host. Tom has his wife cut his hair and she does her own – though I have offered my services. Amanda, who’s in television, asked, “So what’s the quickest appointment anyone’s ever made?”
“Quickest?” I asked.
“Yeah – you’ve done their hair and they book an appointment for the next day.”
“Well, I don’t know about the next day – the following week is about the earliest.”
I knew my wife would bring this up the moment she put down her glass of wine. “What about that woman who comes in every Monday or Tuesday for a cut?”
“What about her?” now I began to laugh.
“You told me that you couldn’t get her hair any shorter.”
I began to think about all those times that clients came back far more regularly than necessary – and still do.
“No, she comes in about twice a month and has the same style re-done – has done for ages.”
“Maybe she’s a bad example – but you’ve had loads of clients who come in really regular.”
Amanda cut in, “Some people love the attention given to them, the pampering – like some people enjoy visiting the dentist or their doctor.”
“A fetish,” burped Tom.
One of the young juniors pokes her head round and tells me that my eleven o’clock is now ready for me. I walk out from the small back room and to the chair. Seated, staring inanely at the mirror, sits a young woman wearing a polar neck, jeans and pumps. Her hair is already very short, about an inch and a half through the top, cropped back and sides. Not what I would call pretty but she has a nice face.
“Morning, how are you?” I ask.
“Very well thanks,” she smiles back.
“OK – what would you like done?”
“I’d like it cut shorter,” she replies – still smiling.
I run my comb through her hair. “OK – well, it’s pretty short already – what do you have in mind?”
She tilts her head slightly to one side. “Quite short on top, really short at the sides and at the back.”
“When did you last have it cut?” I run the comb through her nape.
“About ten or so days ago.” More like two or so days ago, I think to myself – she obviously wants it cut. Oh well.
“Did you have the back done with the clippers?” I ask her.
“Do you know what number you had?”
“Yes, it was a grade 3, but I would like it much shorter and the sides done please.”
“I’ll do a 2 through the sides and back – do you want the top clippered?”
“I do want the top cut really short but I think it might be too short if it’s cut with the clippers,” she says.
“I’ll show you some styles and we can see how short you want to go.” I pull out the styles book.
We flick through the various styles: some that we’ve done in the past, others which have been acquired from a hairdressing supplier.
She scans the eight or so photos of short cuts. “See – I like the back and sides on this one but I don’t like the top. I like the top on this one.”
She settles on a combination of two styles. “This will be short,” I tell her.
“No that’s fine.”
While her hair is washed, I prepare for her cut. I have a thick blue comb with a handle, which is near on a centimetre in depth – just right for top crops. I attach a grade 2 to the clippers and add a tiny drop of oil.
She returns to the chair. I secure her cape, place a rubber neck mat over her shoulders and I brush her short hair back away from her face.
“OK?” I ask
“Yes, sure.” No expression.
Placing the thick comb flat against her forehead, and lifting her already short dark fringe, I begin to work the scissors almost mechanically – as the comb and scissors run through her hair in unison.
I haven’t kept the scissors flat against the comb; there is a minute distance between them to give her hair a little length. I crop the top and as much of the sides and back as the comb will now allow.
I’m very happy with the top and even though the sides and back have yet to be taken shorter with the clippers – she looks fantastic.
She is covered in small particles of hair, over her face, nose, and ears. She asks, “Sorry, if I had the top cut with the clippers would it be shorter?”
“Well, it depends what grade. A number 4 would still be a lot shorter and the cut would all be the same length.” I showed her a photo from the book – about the only one we had – of a model whose hair had been cropped through the top with a grade 4.
I asked, “Have you had your hair cropped before?”
“No – not that short.”
“There’s a bit of a difference. I’ve cut your hair very short – but if I clipper the top it’ll be at least half the length.”
“Hmm, you’re right – OK.”
“Do still want me to take the back and sides shorter?”
“Oh yes, definitely.”
I entered her nape from the base with the clippers. Running the unit high up her nape just short of the crown, I continued through her sides. Finishing, by blow-drying her hair, she fired an “I love it” before I had asked.
Later that day I was busy tending somebody’s hair when one of the juniors asked softly, “Dan will you be able to fit a trim in?”
“Who for?” I asked – all I had to do was look over my shoulder.
“A lady from this morning?”
I looked over my shoulder; it was our cropped beauty. “Please tell her I’ll be right over.”
I excused myself and went over to the front. “Hi – anything wrong?”
“You’re going to think I’m mad. I want to get it cut shorter.”
“Are you sure? You said you liked it as it was this morning.”
“Yes I know – but I’ve been thinking…”
“Why don’t you give it a week or so, then come back if you still want it cut or trimmed through.”
“No, I’m pretty sure”
“You’re definitely sure?”
This would just be a five-minute job so no need to shuffle anything around. “Well, please give me ten or so minutes while I finish the other client and we’ll fit you in.” I could see my two juniors have a chortle together over our beauty.
She sat at the chair, caped.
If I’ve cut one crop I’ve probably cut a thousand so I knew that determined look. Having said this I have been wrong in the past and also seen determination walk out the door in tears rubbing its prickly head.
“I can do it a little shorter over the top…”
“No, it’s alright – cut it like the picture.”
The neck mat back on. The grade 4 looked like a tractor scoop attached to the clippers.
CLACK! The clippers awoke.
With hardly any hair for me to hold back, the clippers entered her cropped fringe – decimating it in length. She swallowed dryly as the first grey lane appeared. Continuing over the crown, I carved the second lane, then the third.
“It’s a great sensation – it feels so different from what I expected,” she almost whispered.
“Does it compare to how it felt when you had the back and sides done?”
“No, much different.”
Retracing the clippers path a couple of times I switched the unit off. I quickly blended any lines around her well-formed head.
“I’ll probably have it cut even shorter now,” she said, looking very pleased with herself.
“Not tonight, I hope.”
“No – give it a few days.”
She didn’t return in a few days but came back a couple of weeks later and continues coming back every two weeks or so for a trim.
“No, I wouldn’t say that young woman has a fetish about hair – she just likes having it cut,” I said, replying to Amanda and my wife.
“Alright…” my wife said. “What about all them years back when you were in the little shop and that woman told you all she was doing some course or other and she sat in your shop for a week – and just sat there and stared at everyone – and you never bothered to ask her who or what course she was doing.”
“Now – she was scary.”