I have enjoyed some terrible haircuts in my time. From the Damien Thorne-style bowl cut of my youth, to the (then terminally unfashionable) mullet of my headbanging teens, to the Grunge Jesus look of the 1990s, I skipped through any number of weird styles before I learned to embrace and love the short-back-and-sides.
t wasn’t an easy transition; I thought that having long luxuriant hair like Charles Manson made me look artsy and interesting, whereas actually it made me look like Charles Manson. But losing it all was hard, no matter how many nightclubs I was now able to gain access to.
The short-back-and-sides works because it is so simple; tight all round so my big jug ears can catch every Alan Bennettesque conversation around me in the queue for the self-service checkout in Tesco, but with enough length on top that I can attempt to style it or simply run my hands through it while I hold my head in my hands and cry about my diminished expectations in life.
When I get a haircut these days I am guided by one principle — where will do it for the least amount of money. It’s not that I no longer care about my appearance, but I have come to the conclusion that even if you get a great cut from a barber on a given day, a month later the same person may well give you a cut that makes you look like Anne Hathaway’s tragic Fantine in Les Miserables. There is no buyer’s regret when you know you got a bargain.
Obviously my wife has different ideas. When the boys were small, they all had long hair, at her request. If they were to get the slightest trim, she would either do it herself or she would insist on bringing them to the barbers herself. She was also deeply critical of almost every barber in our hometown and still insists on bringing them to one individual barber in one premises, as if somehow she had found Edward Scissorhands and every other haircare professional in the Midleton metropolitan area went at it like Leatherface swinging his chainsaw at the end of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Her insistence on long hair would usually lead to flare-ups around bathtime when the boys would turn into the Kraken as we tried to wash their unruly mops. After the trauma of trying to wash out all the suds from their eyes, ears, noses and scalps, the school-going years were a relief, when the haircut became an important part of looking sharp so that other parents don’t think we are some sort of hillbillies (we are not affluent enough to be mistaken for members of the organic farming set).
I am also pleased to report that now, with the youngest aged eight and his older brother aged 10, I am finally being allowed to bring them to get a haircut. It took much pleading on the boys’ part for it to happen, but once I told them I had found a barbers that not only was the cheapest in town, but also gave out free soft drinks, they fought my corner. So off we went, and this time it was going to be different — no way was I going to stand there and give incredibly detailed instructions to any haircare professional. My wife does it and I always feel like it’s mildly insulting to these highly trained people to give them a 10-minute lecture on phrenology before every cut, and then watch them like a hawk to make sure they execute every instruction to the letter. So I just told the barber to give the boys a short-back-and-sides, with a trim on top, and then I sat down and stared at my phone.
When I looked up, it was a tale of two trims: one son, blessed with a head shaped like a thumb, looked fine. The other son, his mother’s most favourite and adored child and who she dotes on, had a haircut that looked like he lost a bet. I’m not sure what the barber heard when I said short-back-and-sides and a trim on top, but it feels like it was ‘please make my child look like folk troubadour Paul Simon circa 1968’. The child was happy enough with it — he thinks it makes him look like Premier League footballer Phil Foden, when in fact it makes him look like Lloyd Christmas, Jim Carrey’s character from Dumb and Dumber. It is a catastrophically bad haircut and I am now forbidden from ever bringing them to the barbers ever again. More free soft drinks for me then.