I strolled along the pavements of the mall, searching attentively for signs of the budget salon. These budget salon chains have recently began to expand very quickly due to their unique ‘ten minutes only’ haircuts, and only haircuts at that.
I was probably around thirteen back then, at the start of my adolescence. Back then, I would usually go to the barber a few blocks away, who have been cutting my family’s hair and mine for the past few years, excluding my mother who would visit a full-fledged salon instead. His haircutting skills weren’t top-notched, honestly, but I was forced with no choice because I had to follow my parents’ decision.
However, a chance popped when I was caught for my unkempt hair in school that day. Coincidentally, it was Monday, the rest day of the barber. Concerned that disciplinary measures would be taken against me if I do not cut my hair by that day, my mother suggested me to get my haircut at this budget salon.
And here I am, finding my way to the budget salon. It was both an exhilarating experience, since it is the first time I am getting my haircut outside of a barbershop environment.
At last, I reached my destination. I was right in front of the salon right now, heart thumping rapidly from all the excitement. The entrance was decorated simply, with a signboard explaining about how their system works. Inside, almost everything was in clean white, excluding the wooden floor and the minimal blue adornments.
I took a quick glance at the signboard, and roughly had an idea about how the system worked. I walked over to an automated machine by the side of the entrance, and inserted a $10 note. A card popped out instantaneously. At the other corner of the entrance, there was an L-shaped bench, and pending customers are meant to sit in order of their arrival timings. Luckily, there weren’t any customers on the bench at the moment, sparing me the pain of waiting with all this excitement within me, all about to break loose.
I took a seat, and observed the haircuts going on at the moment. There were three stylists working, one male who was serving along the side of the L-bench. On the other side, two female stylists were working on their customers as well. One of the female stylists caught my eye. Although they were all required to wear an unflattering white uniform jacket, coupled with black pants, she had a great figure underneath.
Unfortunately, the budget salon’s system does not allow customers to choose the stylist who will serve them. Stylists will generally call for the next customer based on the order of the L-bench. When all hope seemed lost, she appeared to be finishing on her customer by using the ‘air washer’. One specialty of the budget salon chains are that at the end of a haircut, they will clean away the loose hairs with an ‘air washer’. The tool worked like a mini vacuum cleaner, cleaning away the hair through a long, flexible tube attached.
Just then, she unfastened the cape of her customer, and began sweeping the pile of hair on the floor into a corner of the station, which has an aperture that when turned on with a switch, will pull in any hair in the vicinity, cleaning up the station floor instantly.
As her customer walked out of the salon, she looked towards the L-bench, and gestured for me to take a seat at her station with a warm smile. All of a sudden, I flushed with so much eagerness that my legs went numb. Ecstatic that I managed to get the female stylist, I stood up quickly and walked over, returning her warm smile with a wide grin. Taking a seat on her chair, she spared no time as she reached for a roll of paper neck tissue, tore a piece and secured it firmly around my neck. Following that, she reached for a cape on the shelf at her station, unfolded it swiftly and draped it over me, fastening it snuggly around my neck over the neck tissue. The cape was clean white as well, with a logo of the budget salon imprinted at the center. The huge cape laid over me, covering my figure entirely, except for my feet which rested on the footrest of the chair.
As she pumped up the chair to match the height of the mirror, she asked. ‘How would you like your hair to be cut today?’ I was unsure of what I wanted, as it was usually my parents who gave the barber instructions on my haircut. Thus, I simply replied, ‘Cut it short.’
‘Alright, so it’s a high & tight slope then?’ she questioned again. Being unfamiliar with the jargon, I took a risk and gave a slight nod, oblivious of what a high & tight slope is. Personally, my natural hair texture was a combination of straight, curly and tight curls, which gave rise to a messy mane often, causing haircuts to not last often. At that time, I probably had around three to four inches of hair at the top, and around two to two and a half at the sides and back. Although it did not seem like much, the school had strict rules and hair is supposed to be off the collar and ears at all times.
With that, she picked up an electric clipper off the shelf, and replaced the guard with a shorter one. Pushing my head gently down to an angle such that my chin almost touched my chest, she turned on the clipper with a thud, sending shivers through me as I worried how short she would cut my hair.
With a quick comb through my back, she pushed the clipper upwards, and only stopped just below the occipital bone. She repeated with a couple more strokes, clipping off all my hair at the back. As she tilted my head upwards again to face the mirror, it seemed to be of no difference as I could not see how much hair was left at my back. However, my shoulders were now piled up with my hair above the cape.
Following that, she adjusted herself to stand by my left side, and drove the clipper up my side. It was then I realized how short she was cropping my hair! As she pushed the clipper up to my temple, only short stubble was left in the path. The sheared hair tumbled down the cape, resting in my lap. She made quick work as she made a few more strokes at my left side, before moving on to crop off the rest on the right.
I looked in the mirror at this time, and find the sight of myself amusing. On the sides, all that was left were short stubble. On the other hand, the top was still left untouched. I secretly prayed that at least the hair on top would be salvaged from the merciless shearing of the clipper.
After finishing off the sides, she immediately replaced the clipper guard again, this time with a longer one. I wondered why she isn’t using her scissors to cut the top. All became clear as she combed through the top towards the back a couple of times, so that she could get a clear view of my hairline at the front. With that, the clipper came to life again, and she placed it at my forehead.
Time seemed to slow down, as I watched her push the clipper ruthlessly through the top, sending a heap of loose hairs falling down onto the cape. I watched in horror, as she repeated the same procedure for what was remaining on top. As she reached the end of the haircut, my lap had a massive pile of my hair lying on it. In the mirror, an unfamiliar face could be seen. Deprived of my mane, my facial features were more accentuated than usual. I checked the haircut thoroughly. At the sides, it was indeed a ‘high & tight slope’, with only short stubble left up to above my temple. Fortuitously, the top still had a little length, about three quarters of an inch all over the top.
With that, she dusted my neck with a brush, and unfastened the cape, sending all the loose hairs to the floor. As I got up, she greeted me farewell, and handed me the comb she used for my haircut, as part of the standard formalities in the budget salon chains. I glanced closely at my reflection in the mirror, and caressed my new head of short hair. I was really shocked at her cropping off all my hair at first, but I didn’t exactly dislike the notion of doing that anyway. It was good to be rid of all that messy hair once in a while. Not just that, it really felt good to the touch, and aroused me, which was rather strange. Adding on to that, upon seeing my fresh new haircut, my parents were so impressed by the female stylist’s work that they promised to send me to the budget salon in the future for my haircuts!