Monday, August 8, 2011

1983: There are things in life that one can't quite express

There are some things I've never been comfortable with: paying taxi drivers, tipping generally and having my hair cut.

Though over time those things have become a lot easier as you learn how to handle them, I'm still not mad about having my hair cut. It's nice that I've still got hair to cut, but it's the chatting that gets me down. The woman who cuts my hair now is lovely, though I preferred the man who used to do it.

He was one of those wind him up and let him go people. You didn't have to say much, just listen. The new one is more of an effort, and being at least 15 years younger than me makes me feel truly ancient (she'd never heard of David Essex but thought her mum used to like him). But at least I don't have to go through the embarrassment of telling her what I want. That was always my worry.

I'd rarely go to the same place twice as a teenager, after being coiffeurely scarred by childhood visits to Don's World Of Hair in the precint, where I'd come out with a Prince Valiant, until I steadfastly refused to go there anymore aged 14. We had such a row on the way back once my mum stopped the car and made me walk home, which was doubly awful as everyone could see I'd just had my hair cut and were clearly laughing and pointing.

Dad used to go to Mario's, which was a proper something for the weekend joint, and one could only look at the Penthouses on the table but dare not touch. You could buy combs and Brylcreem and nail clippers and Cossack hairspray, proper grown-up man things.

Mum on the other hand used to visit Paul at his high street salon, which was all smoked mirror tiles and pampas basins. My brother had birdshit hightlights there once, but I never went.

As I got older it became even worse. I wanted a trendy haircut and I wasn't going to get one at the barber. So when I went to boarding school we'd go to a buzzy little salon in a dark passageway in the local town. When I first went there I had a bit of a Human League thing going on, but by the end of '82 this look was on the wane. But if anyone could move me into '83 it was them.

So I tore out a picture of Edwyn Collins from Smash Hits and took it with me. I was well into the fey indie band look but lacked the right hair. With some bemusement and probably great internal hysterical laughter, the hairdresser did what she could. But in those days before hair products - for men at least - were widely available, and with my thick but fine hair, there was nothing much that could be done. I came out looking like a beachball that had been punctured on a rocky crag. Oh well. They didn't call me bullethead for nothing, you know.

And then came Morrissey and then came Body Shop coconut hair gel. And I never looked back - until the time I went for the Terry Hall look (See 1982 Fame entry), and then the time I went to the Vidal Sassoon school when I first moved to London to have my hair cut for free, where after five hours I came out looking like Jason Donovan and was forced to dip my head in a lake.


  1. "Mum on the other hand used to visit Paul at his high street salon."

    Obviously, I'm thinking Peter Egan in Ever Decreasing Circles.

  2. Those Edwyn Collins haircuts really could go either way. Just a tad too much off the sides, and you'd come out looking like an extra from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'.

    Body Shop Coconut Hair Gel helped, though. My, a sniff of that would bring on the most enormous Proustian rush...

  3. Intriguing outro, J-P. Could we have an Epilogue on the Dipping of Hair in a Lake styling emergency please.
    Take it no public loos with taps to hand. Or were you 'forced' by roaming style police / street-dolts?

  4. I was in such a rush to dampen it down, OP, that any water would do, and that happened to be the nearest. When I say lake, it was more of a puddle. But it did the trick.

    And yes Chris, of course Paul was like Peter Egan, only with curly dark hair. Beige open-necked cheesecloth shirt and green flares his uniform.

  5. Ah that's ok then, no forced dunking. I was a S-S-S-Studioline man myself. Nothing moved after applying that foamy glue.

  6. I once went in to a barber's asking to look like the spiky-haired 1984 edition of Paul Weller, and then lost my bottle as the barber got started.

    My brother, for his part, went into a barber's in 1982 asking to look like Tony Knowles.

  7. You could have pulled it off, Matt.

    But Tony Knowles. Oh.