How would you like it Sir?


My almost 3 year old twin grandsons dislike having their hair cut. I was reminded of this when this drawing popped out of the archives. It’s from the book Some Missing Persons writen by my late friend Gordon Thorburn, with added contributions from myself as the drawer and the provider of inspiration. This particular chapter bewailed the passing of the traditional barber. It’s well worth a re-read from this link.

I know I’m not supposed to like my own drawings but this is a favourite, not least as it was done years before the twins popped out, and the small boy looks quite like both of them. I like too the barber himself. I drew him from memory. I was uncarcerated in a boarding school for some years and they employed what appeared to be ex servicemen with a cruel streak to drive clippers over our heads so that we looked like corn fields just harvested by a rusty combine harvester. I think we all hated it. As they were also probably on piece work there was no inane barber chat, just the smell of hair, DNA and barber’s bad tobacco breath. So none of that “What’s on for you today?” or “Something for the weekend?” ( Not that we had any idea at the time what the last phrase meant but heard it now and again when we had proper haircuts at home, down the local barber.) Local barber was, of course, quite different to the scissor brothers at school. My own described himself as an “Entreprenewer” and he drove an e-type jag, a car of sublime beauty. He planned to open a nightclub in Skemersdale just outside Liverpool ( an area at the time of such poverty and desolation that a night club seemed odd even to me ), and as far as I know he may well have done. He specialised in beatle haircuts popular at the time, something the Scissor brothers at school would have had a minor turn if they had been asked to perform one.

I was reminded by the drawing too of the inside of a barber shop, with the faux leather banquette seats where were seated in line with the other males wanting haircuts. No female ever entered this area and my drawing is a tad inaccurate as the seats would have been in almost constant use, and as polished as a brilliantine salesman’s suit. Haircuts were all that was on offer, although there were basins, I can recall no one having their hair washed.

I had my own sparse locks trimmed just the other day, by a local woman barber. I got the ‘haircut chat’, but no mention of the weekend thank goodness. There were still tins and bottles of pale green liquid trying to be like the old days, but it just was n’t the same, again thank goodness!



2 thoughts on “How would you like it Sir?

  1. My barber was Alf Gleaves who looked much like your lovely drawing. At 14?I was told to get an haircut after school when it was getting longer and starting to look like Bill Wyman, early Stones. I’d got a date coming up at the local Nevada and wasn’t best pleased so told Alf just a slight trim. He muttered something under his breath and did just that. Later, at home my dad asked when was I having my haircut and made me go back when I told him I had. A few hours had passed since the original cut and when I meekly strode through through the barbershop door it was a totally different atmosphere with working men, fag smoke and guaranteed something for the weekend. I ended up looking like Shaun the Sheep. …. you forgot the almost constant football fixture poster beautifully engraved on the barbershop wall.

  2. Thanks for your kind comment John. I think the fag smoke is missing from the drawing here too. There were also photos of men like Colin Cowdray with shiny brylceem hair on the wall. One barber I knew in later years had images of all the sixties pop groups on his wall with comments like ” Great haircut Tim, Thanks Paul McCartney”, all his own work of course.

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