“Short on top and a number three on the back and sides.”
Instructions to the barber have not changed in more than a decade. No more than six weeks could pass without risking an appearance of unruliness. Cowlicks and random waves would quickly make appearances. Lank greyness would become dominant.
Long hair was never an option, certainly not the 1970s standard of what constituted long hair. As soon as my hair reached my ears, it would turn east and west instead of continuing its journey south.
At school, long hair was not permitted. A barber would be brought in once a term. It was suggested that he was no more a barber than anyone in the school, it was just that he was cheap. His termly achievement was to complete sixty haircuts in a five hour stint, each person emerging with the standard pudding bowl haircut. The fact that my mother, a trained and experienced hairdresser, might have cut and layered my hair the previous week was not sufficient to dissuade him from his hacking. Photographs from those times at school remain from those days when, in the normal world, the hairstyles of Rod Stewart and Noddy Holder were in vogue – boys with haircuts for which no sane person would ever have paid.
Sixth form college and university offered the opportunity to whatever I wished with my hair, but there were things more important than hairstyles that demanded attention. Sometimes I wore my hair shorter than the length that had been permitted in the days of the school barber. Time spent on hair seemed to be time wasted.
Once training for ordination had begun, a short back and sides had become the norm. There were trainees who wore long hair, but it was the sort of thing that might have attracted adverse comment from disgruntled church members.
Reaching the age of fifty, a decade ago, there was a relief at still having hair that demanded a regular thorough cut, but also a feeling that the shorter it was, the less trouble it might cause.
Teacher training and the first teaching appointment meant early mornings and a wish not to have to worry about spending much time either washing, drying or brushing my hair. Shortness was pragmatism.
The current times, with the closure of all those businesses deemed to be “non-essential” means there is no barber to whom to turn to address five weeks’ growth.
Perhaps there are clippers for sale online. What number is “short on top”?