I couldn’t believe what I was doing, here I am sitting in the very barbershop I swore I would never enter. My usual stylist was busy with a wedding party and I was left with no option. I was one of her only male clients which didn’t seem to bother her, but today she had a full calendar
The Town Barber Shop sits below street level almost a whole story so you can’t see into it from the street, you just know it’s there which makes it more intimidating. Every now and then you see a freshly shorn client walking up the steps eagerly trying to get away from what has already happened.
As I walked down the steps I knew I was desperate and figured if I feel to out of place I can always get up and leave.
” Sit right down and someone will take care of you in a bit.” The old barber closest to the door called out as I walked into the shop, so I did. I immediately noticed the white and black checkered floor that had 3 large red leather barber chairs sitting on top. They were all occupied by clients getting haircuts who were covered in huge silky red capes.
All 3 barbers were older men who wore white barber coats with scissors and combs in front pockets. The barber closest to the door who greeted me also dawned a black leather cutting apron which I though seemed a little overkill.
The barbers worked intently on their clients as I sat next to the only other person waiting in the reception area, it was young boy who seemed to be squirming in his seat and twirling his shaggy locks in his fingers. He seemd as nervous as me.
In the large chair in front of us was another young fella getting what can only be described as a summer cut. The old barber was using the clippers all over his head and not really creating any shape, just mowing. ” why would anyone want that haircut?, I wondered.
The young client himself didn’t seem to pleased about it either, he glared up disapprovingly with his eyeballs at the transformation happening. And from the look of the pile of hair on the floor it had been a drastic transformation.
Suddenly the barber said” and were all done.” The blow dryer was used to blow the tiny hairs from his neck and face and the chair was lowered slowly to the ground. The barber ripped the large silky cape off of him and ushered him up and out of his large chair.
The boy payed the barber and with his head hanging low walked out if the shop and up the stairs to street level. I was brought back to reality when the old barber called out, ” hop up young man your next.” I looked over to see the scene and he had spun the red chair to face both of us with the cape hanging off the back rest. He stood behind it and patted the cushion on the back and quipped again, ” let’s go, now.”
The young boy beside me stood slowly and headed to the large red leather chair. He turned around and hesitantly lowered himself into it, looking quite frightened as if he had been here and knew what was about to happen
The barber spun the chair quickly to face the mirror and said, ” sit tight now, I’ll be right back.” Then he turned and walked to the back of the shop and lit a cigarette and poured a coffee. The young victim just sat still and stared at himself in the mirror, the hugeness of the barbers chair seemed to engulf him.
The barber reappeared back behind him with his cigarette hanging from his mouth, he pulled the silky red cape from behind the boys back and threw it out in front of him. It hung in the air for a moment and then settled over the boys frame, only leaving his shoes hanging out below. He left it loose under his neck laying on him while he fetched a neck strip.
The strip was wrapped around the neck tightly and then the barber grabbed the ends of the red cape and pulled them up around his neck, fastening it shut with a snap. ” Almost there aren’t we,” the barber said with a straight face. At this point I couldn’t think of one reason to stay but my legs wouldn’t let me leave.
The old barber standing behind the large chair, took a drag of his cigarette and placed the hand holding it on the boys caped shoulder. He then while holding him in place, stomped the chairs hydraulic pedal and started to pump the client higher into the air. Up he went looking more and more timid with every jolt of the chair.
Once the barber had him sufficiently in place, he threw the cigarette on the floor into the pile of hair and stepped on it while blowing the smoke into the young boys direction. I couldn’t understand how this could be pleasurable for anyone, haircuts were suppose to brighten your day but this seemed like a waking nightmare.
With his victim prepped and ready to begin he pulled the comb from his front pocket and started straightening out the long shaggy mop. ” this is gonna be my favorite kind of clipping,” the barber said as he glanced over at me and almost caught me with a fearful expression.
I was genuinely scared for the boy, he seemed to have given in, the squirming had ceased and a frown had set in. The barber sprayed him down and his hair hung there ready for cutting. Then the unthinkable happened, the large red chair was spun away from the mirror with it now pointing directly at me, taunting it’s next occupant.
The old barber pulled a pair of shiny scissors from the pocket of his black leather cutting apron and began chopping off bulk wherever he could grab it. He fingered the hair firmly and snipped long chunks with no hesitation.
Hair slid down the cape and hit the floor joining the pile that grew higher by the second. The young boy made eye contact with me, almost as trying to tell me to get up and leave while I had a chance. He sniffled and held back tears as his hair was reduced to nothing longer that the thickness of the old barbers index finger.
” Now we’re getting somewhere.” the old barber said as he made his final snips. Before his last chop with the scissors he opened and closed them furiously beside the boys ear seemingly proud of his work.
The large red chair was then spun back to face the mirror, the barber raked his fingers through the boys head and walked to the counter where he snapped a 2 guard onto a set of clippers. The silky red cape was covered in the boys long clippings.
The old barber returned behind the young boy and placed his hand on top of his head, he pushed it forwards so his chin touched the red cape and flicked on the clippers. The loud hum sent a shiver up my spine and I realized this wasn’t a place to get haircuts, it was a place to get punishment whether you were guilty or not.
The old barber pumped the large red chair a couple time higher into the air and them mowed up the back of his neck sending little short hairs to the floor.
There was no way I was gonna allow this to happen to me but then again I had not gotten up to leave yet, I looked around to see if any other of the the barbers were near finished. Maybe I would get another chair, none of these other barbers could be as bad as this one. I noticed that they all seemed mid haircut, not exactly moving efficiently and one was even tilting a chair back to start a shave.
This was it, I was gonna be in this chair whether I like it or not. I looked back to see the old barber running the clippers up around the ears and cleaning up his neckline, ” NO, he almost finished!” I thought as I sat there paralyzed.
He placed the clippers back on the counter and with a few snips here and there with the shears he shaped what was left on top of the caped boys head. ” much better.” He assumed out loud.
The haircut was almost finished and I was next, how did I let this happen?
Then the sound of the hairdryer turning on awakened me to my impending doom. The barber blew the warm air into the boys face and I felt it travel all the way over to me, he finished by blowing all of the cut hair off the shiny red cape and blew his neck off as well. It would soon be my time.
The barber slammed his foot on the large red chairs lever and it descended to the floor slowly with its victim in tow. He unfastened the cape and swoosh, it was pulled from the boys body and shaken out a couple times. The sound of the cape flapping gave me chills.
The young boy climbed out of the large chair and rubbed the top of his head dissaprovingly
He payed and walked slowly to the door and back up to the street. Was the time really here for, had I actually sat here and allowed myself to end up in this barbers chair.
I looked back to the barber and he was staring at me, the chair was empty and pointing in my direction when he called out ” and now it’s your turn.”
I sat still in disbelief until he called out again, ” come on, up you go ain’t got all day.” As I rose slowly, he ripped the cape from the back of the chair and opened it out in the air like a matador and flicked it a couple times motioning for me to get in the large chair.
My legs were jello as I approached the big red leather barber chair, I turned and sat back into it. I must of been moving to slow for his liking because half way into it he grabbed my shoulders and pulled me firmly back into the cushiony back rest.
The barber spun the chair furiously with me in it now to face the mirror. With one more shake of the shiny red cape he billowed it out in front of me and dropped it onto my frame. He allowed it to settle without snapping it shut.
It was all happening so fast as if he knew he couldn’t waste anytime or I might just change my mind. I looked in the mirror and saw defeat on my face. ” Sit tight young man, I’ll be back” he said as he turned and walked away to the back of the shop.
” what’s he doing, just get it over with already.” I thought. ” please don’t prolong this anymore than we have too.”
Through the mirror I saw him pull a cigarette from his apron and light it, he took a couple drags and turned to head back to his fresh victim. As I stared at myself in the mirror trapped in this barber chair I realized this was his ritual. The barber wanted me to marinate in fear of what was to come, and it worked.
He was back behind me now, smirking. “Almost there,” he said again but to me this time. With his cigarette hanging from his mouth he wrapped a neck strip around me and pulled the ends of the silky cape tight shut and snapped them closed. It was official, my fait was sealed with the cape.
The barber took a drag of his cigarette and placed the hand holding it on my caped shoulder too. I had seen this scene before but somehow it was me in the red chair now. I jumped when I felt him pump the chair up, he did it slowly. He watched my face through the mirror as he sent me higher and higher to working level. I hadn’t said one word the whole time, I just sat there growing more anxious about this haircut. The chair seemed to never stop going up into the air, I was way higher than anyone else getting there haircut here. I felt vulnerable now like never before.
The barber finally stopped the upwards motion, he dropped the smoking cigarette to the floor and stepped on it. He pulled my overgrown hair from my head with his fingers and said” this has got to go.” I stammered out, just a light trim please sir.” ” Does this look like the kind of place that gives light trims?” He asked sarcastically. I knew the answer.
He tossed my hair down and pulled the comb from his white tunic pocket.
I was seconds away from something I swore I would never let happen. I liked having a little length in my hair and my normal a stylist knew this. She would have dropped her jaw if she saw what I had gotten myself into.
And she would have never wanted anyone to feel this uncomfortable in her styling chair.
The comb was in my hair now, the barber worked vigorously to untangle it and seemed happy he would be cutting it all off here shortly. He combed it straight down and left it dangling in perfect position for removal by fast snip.
As he placed the comb back into his pocket I stared at myself in the mirror. The huge silky red cape covered me entirely also leaving only my shoes hanging out below.
The barber spun the big leather chair with me in it around from the mirror and pulled the shears from his apron front pocket. He placed them beside my ear and opened and closed them several times briskly. The sound solidified what was coming. Then I felt him grab what was way too much length off the top of my head and I heard , SHNICK…SHNICK…SHNICK.
It had begun, I felt my hair fall down my face and it hit the cape where it started to collect in a pile.
” You didn’t need that.” He said. The barber pulled hair from my scalp and snipped away again at any bulk he could find. The long hairs were now sliding down the red silky cape and joining the others on the checkered floor. I held back tears, It felt like I was being castrated, how did this come to be? My head already felt bald and he hadn’t even gotten to the clippers.
I cringed as he reduced my bangs to nothin with a straight cut right across my forehead. Like the victim before me, my hair was no longer than the the thickness of the index finger he positioned his snips with.
The barber spun the captive like leather chair to back face the mirror and I saw myself in it, petrified. He walked to the counter and pulled another cigarette from his apron, he lit it with his back to me and ignored me for what felt like an enternity while he smoked it and fiddled with tools on the counter.
“What is he up to now! I thought nervously. ” Please just let it end”
He snubbed the cigarette out in a ashtray this time and turned back to face me holding his clippers with the 2 guard on them. His black leather apron had ashes on it and the smoke filled the air around me.
The barber walked to the back of the chair and pumped it up several times. I was knew it was coming so I closed my eyes. The hum of the clippers roared loudly by my ear as he pushed my head forward sending my chin into the silky cape.
The vibrations of the clippers sent shivers through my body as they mowed up the back of my neck. He grabbed my jaw and tilted my head sideways as he worked from my ear line up. Short hairs fell to the red cape and rested on my shoulders and lap. He put his free hand on my shoulder and spun the chair around, back and forth. Working my hair on my sides and back down to nothing.
“Fellas come in here all the time with pitiful haircuts from hair salons .” He said confidently. ” These clippers know how to make that all go away” I didn’t respond. There was nothing to say.
It felt like I had been sitting in his barbers chair for an hour when he finally put the clippers down and pulled the shears up out of his tunic pocket again
Snip snip snip on the top of my head, pulling what was left taunt with his fingers sending more hairs to the silky capes surface. He raked the top of my head with his hand and placed the shears back in his pocket. The old barber slammed his foot on the big chairs lever and I dropped to the floor.
He walked to the counter and picked up the hairdryer, he aimed it at my face and sent warm air and little hair clippings everywhere. He blew them away from the large red cape and placed it back on the counter.
“Finally it was over.” I said to myself with relief. The barber walked behind me and dusted my neck line with a soft brush. I was lower to the ground and almost free when he blurted out” gonna need to shave this messy neckline” “What,” I thought to myself.
As if this shearing wasn’t enough, now he was gonna straight razor my neck. And then he placed both his hands on my caped shoulders and started to pump the chair up…up…up. Even slower this time, he was happy to see he was going to be able to hold me his chair a little longer.
Once the pumping stopped and I was back where he had me before, he walked to the counter and lit another cigarette. He left it in his mouth while he filled his hand with warm lather from the dispenser. The barber threw a towel over his shoulder and walked back behind the red leather barber chair holding me in it. With the cigarette still in his mouth he took the towel from his shoulder and tossed it over mine.
The barber took a drag from his cigarette and left it in his hand, he pulled a silver shiny straight razor from his leather apron and again pushed my shorn head forward, my chin on the silky cape.
I had completely given up by now, he had done the worst of it and with ease. He placed the razor on my neck and scraped it upwards. He worked slow, taking his time and missing not one neck hair. I peered my eyeballs sideways and saw the barber next to us prepping a victim himself. Same shiny red cape being thrown over a young boy sitting in the larger red leather chair. He was watching me and I could see he was equally scared for himself.
The barber placed his foot on the chairs lever and pumped it with speed, ascending his new victim jolt by jolt up into the air. Why anyone would ever sit in any of these barber chairs twice was a mystery to me.
The old barber next to us proceeded to snip the boys hair clean away with fury just like mine, hairs fell over the cape and to the floor into his pile of trophys.
“Nice and clean” my barber said to me as he pulled my head back up straight. The chair again dropped slowly to the floor and it finally was coming to an end. He wiped my neck with the towel and applied a smelly aftershave. He undid the silky cape and ripped it from my body, giving it a good shake . He tossed it over his shoulder while he removed the neckstrip and tossed it to the floor.
The barber slapped the back of my head and said” get up young lady, it’s over”. I rose from the huge leather chair and looked down at the floor, my hair layed there in piles lifeless. I turned and looked at the other chairs where hair was being chopped to nothing by busy barbers and saw that no one in here got an easy break. My barber plopped down in his empty chair and pulled another cigarette from his leather apron, he lit it and looked pleased with his work. I payed him and headed to the door when I noticed a mother dragging her poor young daughter down the steps.
I exited the barbershop as they entered and I could see the look on the poor girls face when she saw the atmosphere. Her eyes widened and a tear ran down her face. The old barber jumped out of his chair and with one last drag of the cigarette, threw it down into my pile of hair and stepped on it.
With the large red leather chair aimed right at her, he stood behind it and patted the back of it. ” hop up young lady, just in time.” He pulled the cape from the armrest and snapped it wide open in the air. She approached the red chair slowly at her mothers instruction while he held the cape out in the air ready to cover her in it.
The old barber pulled her, like me, back into the chair as she sat in it. It swallowed her. I began to feel sorry for her, poor thing had no idea what was about to happen to her and her blonde shoulder length locks.
She was in full on tears as he spun her to face the mirror and threw his silky red cape out in front of her. This time fastening it right away. No neckstrip for her apparently. I decided I had to get out while I could as he pumped the chair with her nestled in it up into the air. The sound of her sniffles were drowned out by the sound of the hydraulic pump inching her to the barbers working height.
She was now in place and as he turned away and left her there to go to the back of shop. I headed out the door and up the steps to the street.
I saw the same look on the faces of those around me on the street that I had given out before to those leaving that barber shop.
The looks said” why in the hell did you ever go in there!?”