It was the 1970s when long hair was definitely in. I was around fifteen and in high school. It must have been about 1976. I had dodged another haircut for as long as I could. All my friends had long hair well over the ears. Every other young male did too back then.
I had a dad who thought longer hair was for girls only! He didn’t get it and I suffered through school since grade school. I’d grow my hair just so the tips of my ears were finally covered, then came another one of those white walled haircuts. Kids laughed and teased for days when I’d show up for school looking like a high and tight marine.
It was a Saturday morning and I went to work with my dad to help out. My hair was about the longest it had gotten. It was just about covering my ears and I looked like all the other boys then. My dad managed apartment buildings and I’d hang out with him, helping with repairs, maintenance, etc. He’d pay me and I couldn’t resist the money. It’s hard for a fifteen year old to find ways to earn money. The day was going well until that dreaded line came.
“Nathan, we’re stopping off at Ron’s for a haircut on the way home,” my dad said.
My heart sank! Ron’s Barber Shop was were he’d taken me for years to get sheared up the back and sides nice and tight. It was no use protesting. I did that a few times and he told the barber to cut it extra short. I wound up walking out of there with something real close to a crew cut. In the 70s you looked like some kind of a freak if your hair was that short! I learned to just sit and take it like a man. Kids at school had seen me with short hair for so long it kind of removed some of the shock value of it. I for sure always had the shortest hair at my school.
To make it worse I hated my ears. They were kind of pointy and misshapen. The haircut were so short there would always be at least an inch of white skin shaved close around them. This left them completely exposed for all to see. Back then we called them white walls. It’s a term from the tires in those days that had white walled strips around them. A few times people said you have funny ears, not too much though. Usually they said, “Whoa dude, why did you cut your hair so short.” Or “What happened to your hair?” Sometimes they’d rub it up the back and sides with their hands. “That feels weird they’d say.”
Now that I was in high school it was worse. I wanted to look cool and blend in. I was a decent looking kid and girls liked me. With my head half shaved back then I didn’t have a chance with the girls.
I finished up the days work with my dad that Saturday. I felt anious and annoyed that on the way home I’d have to stop and get another one of those haircuts. Monday at school was going to be horrible. I’d wear a hood or hat sometimes. The teachers would say to take it off. Then it would reveal my white walled skin tight haircut in front of the other kids during class and they’d all laugh. I learned that the hood thing made it worse. The last couple haircuts I didn’t try to cover up.
We headed for the car and I sat quiet as we drove to Ron’s Barber Shop. The haircut itself was bad enough. I hated that thing so tight around my neck and those clippers shearing off most of my hair. I had the usual knots in my stomach feeling this particular Saturday.
Not more then around 15 minutes in the car and we were pulling into the parking lot of the barbershop. I looked inside the shop and saw the usual crew of three or four barbers. All were in their 40’s and old school like my dad. They definitely knew how to cut hair short! I bet some saloons back then wouldn’t even cut your hair so short if you begged them. This place was a real barbershop.
All four chairs were busy, but one one else was waiting. It must have been around 3 o’clock. My dad wasn’t getting a haircut this time. His hair was already real short. I sat looking at the pictures in some magazine.
“Nathan, I’m going to run an errand I’ll be back soon.” said my dad.
“I’m coming back later, cut it clipper short up around the ears,” he told the barbers.
“Will do,” replied one barber.
I sat waiting alone for that moment of dread. Then I heard one of those blowers turn on. I knew from experience this ment a haircut was about done. They’d blow away the little bits of hair around your head and neck with those things. It was Randy that would done with a haircut. He’d be cutting my hair.
I put down the magazine in antisipation I’d be walking over to his barber chair any second. My heart was racing as usual. You’d think I’d be used to getting my haircut by now. It was usually every three months like clock work. The bad thing was I had just gotten use to three months of hair growth each time.
The middle age man stood up from Randy’s chair and headed to the cash register to pay. I never walked over to the chair until they said, “Here we go, or hop on in.”
Randy headed from the cash register and flipped the hair off the barber cape. “You’re up!” he called to me.
I reluctantly walked over to the chair. I had to step through a fair amount of hair to get into the chair. It looked like at least two haircuts worth of hair on the floor. I stepped onto the chromed metal foot rest and sat in the worn red barber chair. Randy put that tissue strip tight around my neck. Any minute now and the moment of no return would come. Randy was the quietest of the barbers. I hated that barber small talk during my haircuts. It was likely because I dreaded being sheared so short and was angry.
“Nice and clipper short up the back and around the ears?” asked Randy.
“Yeah,” I said.
He fiddled with something behind me for awhile. Then on came those Oyster clippers. That little motor whirring up to speed was one of the worst sounds to any 70s teenager! Then came that first cut. It sometimes was at the base of the neck or in front of an ear at the temples. This time it was at the right temlple. I felt the chill of the cold metal blades completely cut away the hair around my ear first. This was that awful moment when the damage had a just be done. I saw chunks of my light brown hair fall onto the white barber cape. I sat like a man as 3 months of hair was being sheared off my head. The clippers vibrating into my brain as the cut away. I immediately felt cool air on my ears that had just had the hair cut away from them. I looked in the wall mirror across from me and saw that familiar cut taking shape. I was soon to be sheared nearly like a marine. I’d only be left with an inch or so on top to part. White walled up the back and sides skin tight. My haircuts were so short people in stores would stair and me for a week or two until it started to fill in. That’s how shockingly short to people at that time in the 70s.
Finally the spray bottle wet the top of my head. Randy combed my hair to the side. Then he snipped away at the top of my head. Darker wet ringlets of hair now fell onto the white barber cape. I wanted this haircut over before my father came back. He may tell him to cut it even shorter. Finally after what seemed like an eternity Randy stops cutting.
One comes more clippers. Little high pitched sharp clippers. They slice around the ears and up the back. It’s going to be real short for sure. Then the shaving cream machine. I soon feel warm shaving cream around my ears and neck. I always held real still with that sharp blade near me cutting. I looked into the mirror. Yep short ad ever ears exposed and white walls. Then off comes the cape. I see my green stripped Hang Ten shirt. The final cut of the stray hairs on my neck.
“Nathan take a look,” Randy says.
He holds the barber mirror at different angles so I can see the haurcut. I’m mad, but how can I blame him. He only followed my dad’s orders. The haircut is really short. I see the white skin and a little part one top. The ears exposed again and all too.
“Good, ok,” he said.
What am I supposed to say, “I love it!”
I nod my head approvingly. Then I stand up and head to a waiting chair. My dad it always late. I can’t leave until he comes back to pay the barber. I contemplate the next week with my new haircut. I now it’s not going to be fun. People in the barbershop shop are already starting to stare!