The Snapper and the Clipper by Sabrina S.
This is for my photographer friend who accompanied me to Global Hair Expo. The only thing common between this work of fiction and fictional characters, and our visit, is that a lot of film got used! Thanks for a great day!
I counted the rolls of film and threw them into the pocket of my camera bag. Ten rolls. That should be enough. I had no idea how many I’d use, having never been to a Hair Show before.
“Hurry up, Allie!” Joe urged, fishing her car keys out of her pocket. Joe is definitely a Joe, not a Jo and absolutely not the Josephine she was baptised. Joe is tall, thin, likes to date women and wears her hair in a crewcut so sharp you could cut your fingers on it. She’s a professional photographer, and has been one of my closest friends since high school. We used to go on double dates when we were younger, mainly for the shock value. The guys I used to date would never know quite what to make of Joe and her female partners.
I hurriedly tied my shoulder-length hair back in a ponytail. I didn’t want any stray hairs in front of the lens, or to waste time brushing it away from my face. Unlike Joe, I’m not a professional. Photography is a hobby for me, although I’ve sold some prints of pretty sunsets over beaches and the like. Today would be experience for me in people photography.
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We jumped into Joe’s car – she had a sticker on the back saying I’m Clean, I Have A Woman In Three Times A Week – and hurtled to the exhibition centre.
Standing in the queue to get in – and I was amazed just how many people were queuing – I felt very unfashionable, despite the three different coloured red and blonde foils I wore in my hair. Everyone around me had cuts and colours to die for, and they were only the visitors!
Joe jiggled up and down beside me, craning to see how long the queue was. Her eyes were out on stalks, surveying the women around her. Needless to say women outnumbered men two to one, and Joe, currently single, was probably on the prowl. She ran her hands over her freshly mown head and licked her lips, eyeing a neatly trimmed nape in front of us.
I had the sudden realisation that Joe, for some inexplicable and to me totally incomprehensible, reason, was getting turned on by the myriad of fresh haircuts around us. This was a new side to my oldest friend, and one I’d never even glimpsed before.
Not knowing if or how to bring the subject up, I said nothing, and the queue shuffled forwards quicker than we thought it would. In ten minutes we’d made our way into the hall.
“Good grief!” I exclaimed. In front of me, a female stylist was busily plowing her scissors into the long mane of a blonde girl. The podium at the girl’s feet was already covered in hair clippings, despite the show only having opened half an hour before. Surrounding the podium people six deep watched intently as lavish chunks of hair hit the deck. The back had been cropped and as far as I could see the far side of her head had been snipped too, with the stylist working on the remaining ripples of hair that hung over her left ear.
Joe whipped her camera out quicker than John Wayne could draw a six-gun. “Look at that!” she whispered, her eyes huge and excited.
Unthinkingly I pulled out my Pentax and attached the long zoom, then honed in on the scissors at work. With the extra magnification, it was like watching a haircut through a pair of binoculars. Voyeuristic, shameless. I’d never considered haircuts to be particularly interesting. We all get them every six weeks or so. We go to a stylist and say what style we want, read a magazine for a bit, watch nervously in the mirror in case too much is chopped off, but that’s about it as far as emotion goes. Unless you’re Joe I suppose. And watching this haircut in minute detail, with nothing else in my view, I was suddenly finding it interesting: the swift pull of the comb, the hair held firmly, and the scissors slicing into it, lopping off at least fifteen inches of hair in front of her ears.
I moved the camera slightly so that I could see the model’s face. It was totally impassive. The back and sides of her head had been decimated, with the long hair being reduced to about 2 to 3 inches long, and – even worse! – she didn’t have a mirror so she couldn’t see what havoc was being wreaked on her locks.
“We’re going to take the top a lot shorter,” the stylist informed us all through her microphone. “We want a rather disconnected look here, so I’ll be taking the top down to almost an inch.”
The model’s eyes widened slightly and I saw her swallow. I’m sure she crossed herself under the black cape. Around us, hairdressing students – for that’s what they must have been – scribbled in their notebooks or ran video cameras.
By instinct I pressed the shutter button as the model considered the fate of her hair, and her tense look as the stylist lifted a lock at her crown was captured forever.
Beside me Joe had switched to continuous shoot. Her large flash gun popped maniacally as comb and scissors got to work.
My fingers of their own accord flicked my camera into continuous mode too. I was barely aware I was taking photos as I watched the girl’s hair get reduced to almost half an inch at the crown, working to longer lengths towards the front. I caught the moment when a chunk of hair landed on her ski-jump nose, and her eyes crossed to look at it in amazement. I caught the scissors in mid-flight, with cut hair falling away and the rest of the selected hair taut in the stylist’s fingers.
I kept clicking and clicking, oblivious to everything around me. The stylist combed down her model’s fringe and slipped the scissors into it, and I kept my finger on the shutter button as her fringe was obliterated to a mere half inch, and her face covered in fine blonde clippings.
My camera beeped and me and started to whirr. Stunned, I realised I’d shot an entire roll of film just like that.
Joe grinned. “Easy to do, isn’t it? I’ve just about finished my first roll too.”
I changed the film with fingers that were fumbling and shaking. What had got into me? Why on earth was I finding a haircut – a mere haircut! – so exciting that I would blow an entire roll of film on it?
I clicked a few more shots as the stylist dried the girl’s hair and spiked up the top with wax. The look on the girl’s face as the cape was removed and she brought a hand up to her denuded head was priceless, and I caught that on film too. I thought she was going to cry as she looked at her long hair carpeting the floor, but around her the crowd was clapping and she managed a smile. Actually she looked very attractive with her new short hair. The tiny fringe did far more for her face than the long, eyebrow-length hair she’d had five minutes before.
“Let’s move on,” Joe suggested. “Toni & Guy’s over there.”
Even a mere mortal like I – visitor to the suburban salon and paying basic prices for all my haircare – had heard of Toni & Guy.
The wizards of the scissors had secured the best stand in the place. Marvellously lit, I assessed it great for photography. I crept in at the side of the crowd and my finger itched towards the shutter button again.
To tell the truth I was a bit embarrassed. I mean, some of the students had their little compact cameras out, but I looked serious. I had good gear and a lens that could home in on a model’s eyeball. Clicking away on the last stand like a woman possessed was not really my scene. After I’d blown the roll of film I’d been aware of the students’ heads swivelling towards me for a brief moment, wondering who I was and what my interest was in the haircut. No, I definitely wouldn’t do that at this stand. Or for the rest of the show. I’d be restrained. Let Joe take as many photos as she liked! Not I, I’d stick to taking the models on the catwalk.
Twenty minutes later I’d blown another roll, caught up entirely in the transformation of a girl with shoulder-length hair like mine. She’d been cropped into a discreetly multi-coloured pixie style, her hair dressed to stick out and look fashionably untidy. I’d barely listened to the commentary on the style, I’d been transfixed by the hair falling onto the swish black cape.
“You’re beating me,” Joe murmured in my ear. “I’m still halfway through my roll.” Her eyes were still wide and excited. I had a feeling she was using her lens – even more powerful than mine – as a telescope, just watching every move. I should do the same. No more helpless clicking on the shutter button with the flash gun going off at a rate that would send an epileptic into a fit.
Two hours later we’d toured most of the show and I’d taken eight rolls of film. I’d seen dry haircutting, wet haircutting, cutting on the catwalk, colouring, you name it.
“Here’s one to watch,” Joe said, with renewed interest in her voice. She’d been a bit bored with watching models parade up and down the catwalk. The show we’d seen featured long, healthy, rippling hair and I’d figured by then Joe only enjoyed long hair if it was being hacked to within extinction.
I followed Joe’s gaze. A very nervous model sat caped on a stool, biting her lips. Her hair was almost as long as mine, and a lovely shade of deep red.
The stylist, a waspish little man in his late twenties with a bleached crew cut only marginally sharper than Joe’s and trendy heavy black rimmed glasses, was chattering away to the notebook-wielding students who sat cross-legged on the floor as if in front of a guru.
“Clippers aren’t just for use on men’s hair. I cut nearly all my clients, both men and women, with clippers, as they’re so versatile.” He wielded the object of his passion, a pair of clippers coloured bright purple, in his right hand, and flicked them into life with a theatrical flourish.
Oh God! I checked I had a new roll of film in place. The look on the model’s face was one of terror – just what had she let herself in for, she wondered. My flash gun popped and Joe and I were off in a race to see who could shoot the fastest.
“I’m going to take the nape to a quarter inch,” informed the stylist in a thin, high-pitched voice. “And graduate to longer lengths at the occipital bone. Watch.” We watched. I got a magnificent view of the clippers sinking into the girl’s hair and shearing it off. With my camera shooting at full speed, the decimation of her nape was captured forever – severed hair falling to her cape, the red velvet left in its path. I switched to the girl’s face momentarily. Her eyes were screwed up and her mouth tense; she was obviously holding back tears.
“Great haircut,” muttered Joe, moving even closer to the stylist. “God, look how short it is at the hairline!”
Obediently I looked. The contrast between the clippered part of her nape and the remaining long lock than hung behind her right ear made me catch my breath. I managed to keep clicking as the clippers bit into the long hair and crept up the girl’s nape like a hungry little lawnmower, flicking outwards half way up the back of her head.
“Now the sides,” chattered Crewcut. “This length has GOT to go! It does nothing for her. Again, I’m taking the bottom short and leaving longer lengths on top.”
Mesmerised I kept my finger on the shutter button as he buzzed off the hair around her ears (which had turned bright red to match her hair).
Joe and I shuffled around the back of the crowd to capture the transformation of the other side of her head. We were now shooting into a spotlight and I doubted the photos would turn out very well. But I got a lovely silhouette of the stylist’s hand coming closer and closer to the girl’s head, the little blades vibrating merrily.
“Already you can see the basis of the style. I’m going to add a few layers into the top, and cut her an undercut short fringe with some longer strands over the top of it. It’s so easy with the clippers. Watch.”
It was a command, not an invitation. He brushed her hair over her sad red face, drew some of it to either side, and turned the clippers upside down. Pushing them into her hair, he cut her fringe off almost at the hairline, angling it in a curve around her forehead. Bzzz! Bzzz! Bzzz! There, a micro fringe, just like that! The remaining fringe hair, a fine curtain, was clipper cut to hang above her eyebrows.
Beside me Joe was breathing heavily. I’d never seen this side of her before and didn’t know what to make of it.
I changed rolls as the top of the model’s hair was lightly layered with the clippers. Joe caught every bit of the action.
The model was set free, her face dusted of fine red clippings, and the cape whisked from her shoulders. She felt the back of her neck and her face turned from red to white in almost a second.
“Looks beautiful,” the stylist assured her. “And it’s a look that I’m really recommending. In fact I’m probably ahead of my time here. At the moment we’re seeing disconnected styles, many of them with short layers on top and longer length at the bottom, with the longer hair heavily layered and quite thin at the ends. I’m predicting an end to that. I think we’ll see a different look with short hair – clippered napes will definitely rule the roost. Even clippered short all over like our photographer friend there.”
He pointed to Joe, who smiled graciously and – hussy! – patted her hair and waggled her bum in a very un-Joe like way.
“And how would our other photographer like a haircut?” He pointed to me, and I shook my head, feeling my heart miss a beat.
“No thanks,” I said shakily, terrified at the thought of this clipper-happy fiend being let loose on my hair.
“Oh, come on,” he wheedled, “You’ve taken a lot of photos there. Give something back. Come and sit down up here and we’ll see what we can do with you.”
“Go on,” hissed Joe. “Do it! I would!”
“You LIKE short hair,” I hissed back. “I DON’T.”
The crowd around the stand was looking at me expectantly. Suddenly Joe pushed me forward, and people began to clap.
“Come on up,” Crewcut invited, and reached out a cold, fishlike hand to drag me up onto the stand.
Joe took my camera from me with a grin that could only be described as evil.
Before I knew what was happening Crewcut had pushed me onto the stool and was fastening a bright purple cape around my neck. He lifted up my ponytail and it hung, very vulnerable, over the back of the cape. I felt fingers tugging at it, and realised he’d removed the band holding it in place. My hair swung warmly around my ears and shoulders.
“Hmm, well, here we have a riot of colours growing out of some rather inexpert foils. Just what IS your natural colour, sweetie?”
My face was turning as scarlet as my predecessor’s. Now I knew exactly how she felt. Especially since Joe had her megazoom pointed directly at me. “Mid brown. I think. It’s been years since I’ve had it natural.”
The crowd giggled.
“Well, it’s a good time to find out,” Crewcut said cheerfully, tilting my face towards him. “Yes, you’ve got good cheekbones there. Let’s expose them to the world. This hair hides them far too much.”
With one restraining hand on my shoulder, he began to talk to the crowd. “Remember I was saying short, clippered styles will be in? Well, I’d like to demonstrate a style for beautiful women like this one. What’s your name, by the way?”
“Allie,” I mumbled.
“Allie. Allie could wear her hair any way she likes, especially if it’s not long and dragging her face down like it is at the moment. I’m going to cut Allie’s hair VERY short at the back and sides, and leave the top a bit longer. Watch.”
“What’s VERY short?” I squealed, my heart pounding as I heard a CLICK and then a BZZZZZZ that was all too close to my ears.
“You’ll find out when I’m done,” promised Crewcut, and held the top of my head firmly so I couldn’t squirm and run away.
Then the buzzing was right next to my ear. I felt something tugging at my hair, and gasped in horror as most of the hair near my ear fell onto my purple cape. The foils – all three lovely colours of them – had been sheared off in one fell swoop. A tickling, vibrating pulse rode up the side of my head to my temple, shaving my head. At least that’s what it felt like.
The crowd as one went “Oooh!” so I assumed I was getting the haircut from hell. I was aware of Joe’s flashgun working overtime as the clippers buzzed close to my ear again.
I couldn’t believe how quickly my hair was being cut off. The purple clippers tickled as they nuzzled the side of my head. I had no choice but to sit numbly on legs that suddenly wouldn’t move as my hair fell around my legs and shoulders.
The spotlight was bright in my eyes as Crewcut swung the stool around so I faced the back of the stand instead of the dozens of pairs of eyes watching me get shorn as efficiently as a sheep.
“Head forward,” ordered Crewcut, and pushed my chin towards my chest. I had a feeling the man was a sadist. My poor little neck felt very vulnerable as the whizzing blades crept up to my hairline.
Then – bbbzzzzzzzzzz! – they were into my hair, chewing it up and spitting it out. I gasped. I never realised the nape of my neck was so sensitive. Did I dare admit it wasn’t an unpleasant experience, sitting in front of many gaping onlookers having clippers cutting my hair VERY short? Two minutes ago I felt suicidal. Now, as the blades ran tantalisingly up the back of my neck, I was actually enjoying the sensation.
Again and again the clippers swept into my hair, their quiet hum changing pitch to a growl as they severed my locks close to my skin. The back of my head felt very cold where my hair had been cut away.
The efficient little machine now clipped behind my left ear. Out of the corner of my eye acres of hair tumbled down my shoulders to the floor. Then my head was pushed upright again, and Crewcut buzzed off all the hair in front of my ear with a satisfied smirk on his face. He swung the chair around so I could face the gazing crowd and Joe’s flashgun.
“Not crying yet, Allie? Good girl. Now, we’re going to change the guide on the clippers to do the top. I’ll cut the top with a 1″ guide and then graduate it shorter towards the crown and clip into it to give it texture. Allie’s foils have grown out to the point where they’ll just show as interesting tips on the top when the cut is complete.”
With that he brought the clippers to my forehead and dragged them back into my hair. The expression on my face as the blades swept through the hair on top of my head must have been indescribable. Joe took at least half a dozen pictures of my wide-eyed, frozen face as the first pass of the clippers ran over the top. It felt very peculiar indeed.
Again and again the top of my head was clipped, with the students down in front scribbling and clicking and running video.
My face was covered in itchy little clippings. I’d never had that with my long hair as all cutting happened well below my jawbone.
Crewcut took the guard off the blades completely, and the look of horror on my face made him laugh out loud.
“Don’t look so frightened, I’m not going to shave your head! I’m going to graduate the top down to the crown….” Holding a comb in my hair, he did just that. It was an incredible sensation, feeling the comb and clippers going over the top of my head time and again.
Then the clippers were held at a different angle and delved lightly into my hair; obviously the promised texturising. Little flecks of hair flew in front of my eyes.
“That’s looking wonderful,” enthused Crewcut, running his hand over my shorn, cropped head and making me shiver. He bent my head forward again and shaved my neck with the bare blades, lifting them from my skin just before the hairline.
“Now do we agree that’s the next look?” he asked his audience, dusting my face and neck with a big purple brush and unfastening the cape.
He was met with wild applause. Joe – damn her! – whistled and took three more photos.
With relief I jumped down from the stand after suffering a peck on the cheek from Crewcut.
Joe rubbed my hair. “That looks great, Allie! You should see it, the sides are SO short!”
I felt my head for the first time and my heart sank. My hair was clipped so short at the back and sides I could barely grab it between my finger and thumb. “OhmyGod!”
One of the students was clambering happily up to the stage. “Can I have that haircut too?” I heard her ask.
Shakily I walked to the café area and numbly ordered a cappuccino. “What happened to me, Joe? I came here today to take a couple of photos. I don’t know how many rolls I’ve taken. I didn’t intend to get a haircut and I got scalped.”
“But you’re having fun,” Joe stated.
“Well, er, apart from the first couple of minutes on that stool, yes,” I admitted.
“Did you like getting your hair cut with the clippers?” Joe was almost salivating.
“Well, er, yes,” I admitted again. We looked at each other and started to giggle.
“There’s a whole new depth to our friendship we can explore,” Joe grinned. “I LOVE getting my hair cut short! It’s good to know a hetero girl can feel the same.”
I slowly relaxed, and, habitually, fed a new roll of film into my camera. Perversely, with my new haircut, I was feeling much more at home in this environment of immaculate haircuts. I finished my cappuccino.
“Back to work,” I suggested. “Let’s see how that first woman stylist is going.”
“You can borrow some of my film,” Joe offered. “I think you’re about to run out. Luckily I brought twenty rolls with me.”
Shaking my head at myself and my newly found interest (and noticing how funny it felt to not have my long, heavy hair shaking with it), I glanced at the mirror near the café entrance.
An attractive woman in her late twenties with brown hair so short it was a miracle her scalp wasn’t visible stared back at me. She looked positive and proud and trendy as hell. And sexy to boot. I smiled at myself and walked back into the melee.
(c) Copyright Sabrina S, 2000 Comments welcome to [email protected]