Slice of Life Story Challenge March 29 -Escaping The Clip Joint

Vicki always claims that a haircut makes me look like a boy again.  That would be a remarkable transformation if it were true. It’s not. I know the truth. But, gee it’s nice of her to boost me like that.  Still, yesterday’s haircut did in a strange way reinvigorate me. I always feel a bit perkier following a haircut.  Her comments do however thrust my mind back through my haircut history. I have hurtled back to my childhood when haircuts were not associated with positive outcomes... 

I grew up in a small town in the hills outside Melbourne. Among a small assortment of shops in the main street, there was a men’s hairdresser. It was the kind with the traditional striped barber’s pole outside, and the smell of Californian Poppy wafting out the door. The shop was quite small, with a single barber’s chair smack bang in the middle of the floor. A few tired sporting and fishing magazines were piled in a corner where you sat waiting for your turn in the massive chair.  A calendar and a tired mirror adorned the wall. George Bollan, was the barber. He was a small man, always seen wearing thin rimmed spectacles and a white coat. George's hair was slicked and parted down the middle and his voice had that raspy edge that long term smokers often acquire.  George never asked, ‘How would you like your hair styled today?’ He would merely invite you to sit in the chair and swathe you in a white sheet, clipped at the neck with a peg and begin snipping. With scissors, shears and a cut throat razor George worked towards providing all his customers with exactly the same haircut. On occasions, I watched in horror as George wielded his razor and applied it to the wrinkled necks of the old men when they came in for a shave. To a small boy, it looked such a threatening action. -An action fraught with danger.

I often used to go to the barber’s shop with my father. Dad would go to the great chair first and as George did what barbers do, they would talk about the weather, the problem with young people, the state of the nation and then football or cricket, depending on the season. Dad paid $5 and walked out looking more or less like every other customer George had served that day, or any other day. George would offer to put some Brylcream in Dad’s hair for ‘added control’ which my father would politely decline. Dad didn’t need a little dab. Dad was never one for adding what he considered foreign substances to his hair. The only beauty aid my Dad believed in was a good night’s sleep.  I would sit watching all this unfold and dreading being the next to be ‘Bollanized’ as the local kids called it.  I hated ending up with what I considered was an old man’s haircut.

I stayed in the grip of George's clippers until I was thirteen. Then I broke free. I unlocked my locks! It meant I had to travel on the bus to the next town to get haircut satisfaction. I was looking for freedom for my hair. I figured George and I had reached a point of ‘conscious uncoupling.’ We were experiencing a major breakdown in communication. George was clearly deaf to my words. For him it was all about rituals and routines. I understand now, but as a callow youth, I had no such vision.  I would ask him for a college cut or a square cut and he would deliver a short back and sides- his stock standard cut. George stubbornly refused to pander to individual whims of style. That word style was not in George’s vocabulary. So I moved on, never to return. My Dad remained loyal to dear old George until the day he shut up shop and retired. That was Dad’s style. Vanity motivated me to move in search of the elusive perfect haircut.


  1. I always think guys have it easier when it comes to hair and styling, but this slice certainly captures some of the same feelings I have about hair. Which cut makes me look younger or older? Do I continue to go to the person who delivers the predictable style, or look for someone who can do something new, and hopefully, exciting? Although, you didn't say anything about tears, and that has happened to me before. This is a great piece connecting the now with your childhood memories.

  2. I love this vignette - especially because it is seen as though through the rear view mirror. You are in the present, conscious of moving forward, but you are also aware of what is behind. As for the "elusive perfect haircut" - we are ever in search of this, and even if we find it, we are aware that it may not be achieved again . Another lovely post, Alan.


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