Culture

On Getting Your Hair Cut In These Times

By Bernie Bell

It all started with me posting a comment to this article in TON…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/01/09/covid-cases-on-the-rise-in-orkney/ , and, like my hair, it grew, as someone suggested simply cutting my hair with scissors. A reasonable enough suggestion – but he hasn’t seen my hair!

We know someone who recently agreed to let her friend cut her hair – the idea was to just cut it, in a straight line  – how hard could that be?  It was a disaster!  At least at this time of year she can wear an all-concealing woolly hat.

And that reminded me of when I was a very small child, and my big sister was due to be taken to the pantomime. I wanted to go too, but wasn’t allowed – too young and too noisy.  So, I poured a tin of Golden Syrup down the back of my sister’s head!  She had much the same kind of hair as me, thick, curly, long.  There was no time to wash and dry it – there was no hair dryer in the house – so Dad tried to cut the messy bits away. Oh dear – a terribly mess.  My sister went to the pantomime wearing a Pixie Hood – does anyone remember Pixie Hoods?  It hid the mess which was her hair – but it can’t have been comfortable.

And what happened to me?  I was put sitting in the space between the end of the sofa and the wall. I wasn’t to speak, I wasn’t to move – the worst punishment imaginable for me – until bedtime. No pantomime, no anything, then early to bed.

I’d like to say it taught me a lesson, but I’m afraid it didn’t  – sisters – families – it’s what we do.

It really isn’t that easy to cut and shape hair – that’s why we entrust the job to people who know what they’re doing.

In these times, I have a go at Mike’s head with his beard trimmer on a short setting – he can manage his beard himself.  Though I have to admit, the first time I did this, I didn’t get the setting right, and went  ‘off piste’ a bit from his neck, cutting a swathe very close to his scalp, up behind his ear.  Fortunately, in these times, there’s no one to see it!

It’s easier for people who started off with short, tidy hair. I suppose we hairies will just have to tie it back, with increasingly stronger hair ties – maybe I’ll end up using industrial strength bungee-ropes?

To quote Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young……”Almost cut my hair………..”

This got me thinking ……there have been people to cut, style and dress hair for a very long time, possibly for as long as people have come together in groups. 

I’m thinking of the complicated coiffures to be seen on statues and in paintings from Ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle East. 

And, in the Far East, those to be  seen on Chinese and Japanese ladies….

It would be very hard to manage to construct that, yourself.

And there are the complex weavings and plaitings of hair practised in African nations in the past, and still fashionable today – often worked by a friend or family member. It’s an intimate, trusting thing to do, to style a friend’s hair, or have your hair styled by a friend, maybe for a special occasion.  Even then, the friend would need to know what they were doing. 

It wasn’t just the ladies  who needed a sure hand to shape their hair.  In ‘The Bog People’ by P.V. Glob  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/589141.The_Bog_People , there are images of ‘bog people’ with styled hair, including this one……

….where the man’s hair is carefully tied in what’s known as a ‘Swabian knot’.

Moving forward in time, the remains of a ‘Barber-surgeon’, dating from the 14th Century, were found under one of the stones at Avebury –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barber_surgeon_of_Avebury 

Moving  further forward in time, I can remember the ‘Beehive’ hairstyles and back-combing of the 1960’s……

Mary Wells 1964

It’s a difficult thing to do, to successfully cut or style our own hair, especially at the back, as we can’t see the back, until the hairdresser holds up the mirror behind us, so we can see in the mirror in front, and they ask “Is it OK?”  And it is – when Sandra or Val cut and layer my hair, it’s then light and airy and looks like a lion’s mane again. Or Robert Plant, circa 1973/4.  Sigh.

One day……..Sandra or Val will put some shape into it again.  One day……

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2 replies »

  1. In Edinburgh folk would have said you were jammy to get away with that without getting yer backside skelpt!!!!

    • I’ll tell you what is was…….Mum and Dad didn’t smack us – they had innate authority, and The Voice. Dad had a voice he used for training dogs, and he used the same voice on his children, and it worked. He reckoned that, if you shouted or lashed out, you’d lost your grip on the situation.
      You might say it didn’t work too well, as I did such a naughty thing. I was a willful, wayward child. Smacking would have made me more defiant. They knew that. Being made to sit still and quiet, was more of a punishment, to me. Seriously, it was!
      They knew what they were doing, especially by the time they had me – the fifth child.
      My mum had left school, aged 11, to look after other people’s children, so she’d had plenty of practice anyway!

      I used the same principle when looking after the nieces and nevvies – The Voice. And a deal – you behave right by me, and I’ll behave right by you.

      People who know me now, know that it still applies. No point pushing me – I don’t even push back, I just ….defy.

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