When “Albert” first came into my office, he had straight medium brown hair to just past his shoulders. I handed him his briefing papers and his new fake IDs. He was to infiltrate the IT department of a certain large multinational corporation. Long, unkempt, un-styled brown hair worn down or in a poorly executed ponytail, combined with baggy clothes that hid his muscular body would help him look the part. When he finished reading his briefing papers and committed the contents to memory, he gave them back to me for my file on this mission.
He returned to my office two months later, having succeeded in his mission. His next identity would be as “Benjamin”, another IT guy who had long straight blond hair, then he would be “Carl”, with the same hair colored red with temporary dye, then “Dave” with the same hair in black, again temporary color. “Edgar” had the same long black hair, except that he had a curly permanent. Fred’s long curls were allowed to stay the bleached blond color that remained when the temporary black dye had faded, but Greg’s long curls were re-bleached at the roots before being tinted red, while Herbert’s were colored medium brown.
In his incarnation as “Ivan” his hair was chemically straightened again before he came into my office. This time I had instructions to give him a shag haircut a la Owen Wilson. This was far from my favorite look on a man, but it was better than the boring long hair that just hung down limply. The shag haircut was necessary for his mission. This time he would be posing as a series of payroll guys.
I could see that he had a fair amount of damage to his hair from the two permanents and the bleach. It would be nice to cut some of this off. I caped “Ivan” up right there in my office, and picked up the thinning shears. I began slicing haphazardly from the crown with rather more effort made to feather the fringe. As the long hair fell onto the floor “Ivan” was increasingly left with a sort of mullet. It got thinner and thinner as I worked my way down the back of his head with the thinning shears, with wonky holes on the sides. I had to remind myself to leave the neck shaggy and long. If I had my way “Ivan” would leave my office with a clean crewcut. Maybe eventually.
When the temporary brown color faded two months later, “Josh” came in for a trim. This time I had instructions to bleach the new growth. This meant that he would be spending a long time in my office. I gave him his briefing packet to read while we waited for the bleach to work. I realized that I knew next to nothing about him, including his real name, even though I knew every plane of his face and the way his hair grew in a whorl at the crown of his head. His natural growth pattern would be absolutely perfect for a skull-hugging crop.
“Kevin” got a trim and temporary red color, while “Larry” was to be given black temporary color after his trim. I really hated having to maintain the stupid shag haircut.
When “Mason” came in two months later, my instructions were to top up the now-faded black color with temporary brown dye. I also had license to cut the shaggy mess into a 1990s curtain cut suitable for a salesman’s assistant. Poor guy, being stuck with bad , outdated hair for years on end. At least this time I could finally cut the hair clean around his ears and at his neck.
I caped him up as usual, thinned the top as usual, and then switched to regular shears. I held the hair at the back of his head between my fingers, then slid down to where I wanted the weight line to be. This would be a more-or-less straight line from his eye level, right above his ears, and all the way around the back. I snipped in the line all the way around, then thinned the top some more. It was the least I could do to make the cut look less stupid. Maybe on his days off he could style the front into a quiff or move the part to the side so that he wouldn’t have to look goofy all the time.
I attached the number eight guard to the clippers and gently pushed his chin down onto his chest. It did feel good to finally give him a clean nape as I tapered the back. There, all done and suitably dumb.
Later on “Nigel” came in for a trim and temporary red color, then “Oliver” needed his roots bleached. I didn’t know much about the nature of his missions or what exactly we hoped to achieve by sending him undercover like this, but I knew enough to realize that I shouldn’t ask. Next time he came in, I would finally be able to give him a different haircut, hopefully one that actually looked good on him.
“Perry” came in a couple of months later, ready for his executive assistant’s crewcut. This was the cut I had wanted to give him all along. When I caped him up, I put in a neck guard this time. He smiled. “Perry” was clearly looking forward to this cut. He did not need to be told to lower his head, and I could feel his excited anticipation as I attached the number eight guard to the clippers. They sailed up the back of his head easily, but I needed my comb to push down the longer crown and side hair into the teeth of the attachment. He smiled wider when he felt the clippers marching across the top of his head to the front.
I changed the attachment to give him a medium fade, ending with the bare blade for cleaning up his nape and edging around his ears. As a final step I picked up the thinning shears to texturize the very front of the top toward the fringe.
“Quentin” got red color with his trim, “Robert” got black, and “Sylvester” had all of the dyed hair clippered off to reveal his natural medium brown. It was when “Sylvester” came in that he told me that this would be his last mission. He was leaving the spy business and moving abroad. I was never able to convince him to tell me his real name or give me any clues as to where he was going, but he did thank me for a great final haircut. I have always wondered what became of him, whether he lived or was killed, what he thought of me, where he went, what new career he found, but judging by his radiant smile when I showed him his final haircut in the mirror, I have absolutely no doubt that he kept the crewcut.