Recently I went to a hairsylist and got a haircut. I wanted to keep my hair a little longer than usual and asked the lady who was to cut my hair to make it so. In other words, I wanted it to grow long decently and in order.
The result was that as my hair grew longer, I ended up looking as if I had had a perm. My wife likes to call it a bouffant, but in reality it is more a “flapper” look from the 20s.
So, I went back to letting my wife cut my hair to a somehat military-looking style. No more “girlie-man” look for me.
Women are known to love going to the hairstylists, but we men have our own barber subculture. I began my haircutting experience as a toddler, when my father took me to the barber for the first time. As the story goes, I had a tantrum and threw up.
The old family pictures reveal that I had a crew cut as a boy. I am standing there with my other sibling, including my brother, who had a flat top.
The teenagers of my generation kept their hair long. One of my best friends had hair down his back. I could never quite manage that. The best I ever did was in my freshman year university photo, where the hair (almost) reached my shoulders.
As the 70s progressed, men’s hair began to recede. I don’t mean in the hairline, or in terms of baldness. What I mean is that it began to move back toward the earline as a wave does when it is leaving the shore.
By the late 70s, I was wearing a semi-flapper style. Then in 1981 I became involved in a program on a naval base. I was a civilian, but my longer hair stuck out like a sore thumb there. So off the hair came.
It was a revelation. I never knew short hair could be so manageable and feel so cool when it was hot. I was sold. Plus, when I got married in 1983, my wife preferred it to long hair anyway.
But back to the barber subculture. Everywhere I have gone, one of the important things I do is to find a good barber. When I was living in Columbia, South Carolina in the early 1990s, I recall I had a really good one.
When I moved away to a more rural southern town, I found a barber shop that was a little like Floyd’s in the Andy Griffith show. The talk as I got my hair cut was of cutting wood on the north forty and the latest livestock prices. (Not mine, the other customers. I was teaching at a local college.)
Once the TV was on in that place and an all-white team from Utah was playing against another school in the NCAA tournament. The barber said he was rooting for the team from Utah. “Gotta stick with your own kind”, he said. I began to wonder if I had gone back to the future with Michael J. Fox. This was the 1990s for Pete’s sake. I went to that barber for years. Then I moved to a larger city nearby.
Going to the barber in this new city was like attending barber boot camp. My first time there I told the fellow, “Cut it short. Taper it on the sides and in the back.”
“Look here”, he said. Let’ save ourselves some time. What you want is called a Johson, a short Johnson. Next time you come in here, ask for that.” I thought, “Sir, yes Sir!”. He was good though, albeit a might expensive. I’ve looked high and low for a short Johnson haircut image on the Internet, but the hairstyle doesn’t seem to exist. Maybe my generalissimo barber meant a Dwayne Johnson cut.
My haircut education continued when I moved to Finland. While living in the Helsinki region, I tried to get the female barbers to duplicate the haircut I had received in the States. These ladies used scissors mostly, and I wanted an electric cutter to be used. It tapers better than scissors. My wife talked to one of these ladies, and we learned that what I wanted was called a “German cut”. When in Rome…
Speaking of cities on the Mediterannean, or at least near it, I once had a luxurious haircut in Cairo. I was paying next to nothing for a four or five star hotel on the Nile, so I figured I would splurge. I went to the salon in the basement and the barber there gave me a first class shave and a haircut. I think it was the only time in my life I have had a barber shave me.
Which reminds me of a haircut I received in Saudi Arabia once during the same period. My colleague and neighbor from Turkey raved about a Turkish barber in town and recommended that I go there. The man spoke little English, so we had to use sign language to communicate about the type of haircut I wanted.
We resorted to using our fingers to discuss what setting I wanted him to put the razor on. When I held up only one digit, meaning the highest setting, he was nonplussed. However, he went ahead and did it. I ended up with basically a crew cut.
My Turkish friend went nuts. He said,”You could have gotten that haircut anywhere! He could have made you really handsome.”
I went on vacation to Finland with my number 1 Turkish cut. My mother-in-law casually asked me one day while we were visting some horse stables, “Why did you get your hair cut so short?”. I guess it was pretty noticeable.
Since then, my wife has generally cut my hair. She does a good job, and we save money, so it works out fine. Besides, I don’t have to deal with my bad hair days. My hair is generally unruly when it gets long, full of spikes and split ends. I guess I could wear a men’s bouffant like Tommy Sands, but you need hair gel and that went out with Vitalis
I recall now what made me think of this topic. I read a news article about how young men in India have stopped growing mustaches. In their country, facial hair has been a symbol of manliness. Apparently the culture is changing.
I thought of my own facial hair after that standing in the mirror one day. As with the hair on top of my head, the hair on my face refuses to grow long. The best I can do is a goatee of sorts, and the hair from the temple down is shaggy and leaves a lot of gaps on my cheeks. So I shave the sides of my face.
But the facial hair’s for another day, although there’s not much to tell for the reasons mentioned above.