It was Tuesday December 24th 1996.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It all started off well enough; I’d finished work the Friday before, done all my Christmas shopping and had an appointment to get my hair done for Christmas and New Year. It was an opportunity to relax and be pampered for a couple of hours after a fairly hectic time.
I walked into the salon and said to the receptionist, “Hi, it’s Lindsey, I have a 10 o’clock appointment with Mark and Linda.” (Mark cuts it and Linda does my streaks.)
The receptionist shuffled the pages of the book around a little and then said, “I’m really sorry but Mark has not turned in today, he’s called in ill and he’s not going to be able to do your hair but I can book you in with Bev.” She looked up at me and almost pleaded, ” She’s very good”
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I was about the make the worst mistake of the year but my hair needed doing badly so I said OK. She took my coat and I went to sit in the waiting area. After a couple of minutes Linda came up to me and said, “Come on through, let’s see what we are going to be doing for you today.”
I looked at Linda and almost didn’t recognise her. The sleek bob had been replaced with a short, almost butchered crop in a most unnatural red. As I sat down I said to her, “I almost didn’t recognise you.”
“No – a change was long overdue,” she replied too quickly so as if to say she was not all that sure about it. “So what are we doing for you today?”
I sighed and said, “I quite like the blonde streaks but it’s only about 5 weeks and all I see is the regrowth line.”
She held up a section with the comb and said, “You have so many streaks in it’s almost a full head out at the ends. I think you need to darken it down quite a lot or go for a full head”
“I don’t really want to go darker, I was hoping to brighten…”
“Do you fancy a full head? Get rid of these ends?” Linda interrupted.
“What do you mean?”
“New colour, new style – go on, it will really suit you.”
At this point, someone who I assumed was Bev walked up to us carrying a black gown and Linda immediately said, “I was just trying to persuade her to go for a full head bleach and restyle – something a bit shorter, get rid of all this – what do you think?” as she held up a section of hair like it was unworthy of any more trouble.
Bev took a look at me in the mirror and then scraped all my hair back into a small ponytail at the back with a very practised sweep of her comb. “Yeah, you’d look OK short.”
“How short?” I panicked.
“Just leave it to us,” said Linda.
“Short,” said Bev almost in unison. “Like Linda’s.”
I was fed up with the style, the colour, growing it. I had actually been thinking about a change anyway and thought, “Oh – what the Hell.” I took a deep breath and I said, “OK – but if I hate it, I’ll cry!”
Bev eased me into the black cape and tied it up at the back. She looked in a cupboard down by my legs and found a heavy rubber collar that she placed on my shoulders. She said, “I’m just going to take away all this length we don’t need while Linda is mixing your bleach.”
She combed through my hair and picked up a long strand near the crown toward the back, held it out to about its full length of about 8 or 9 inches between her fingers and the sawed into it with her scissors about an inch or so from the roots. Their was no “Are you sure?” or “Last chance to change your mind”, she just hacked right into it and tossed it away to the side of the chair.
I must have gasped because Bev said, “Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be your final style. It’s just we don’t want to waste good bleach do we?” and grinned as another section was dispatched to the floor in exactly the same way.
I was used to having my hair cut straight across but she was almost hacking into it in a very haphazard way. I could see a whole section of hair on my right hand side in the mirror stood up as it had been relieved of any length to weigh it down.
After about a minute one of the juniors came to watch my shearing and Bev turned to her and said, “Sara, will you go and fetch my clippers and a number 3… no bring all the guards for me please,” and then she continued to deliberately reduce anything longer to about two inches long. Surprisingly this didn’t take very long at all and I was beginning to look like a maniac had attacked me.
The junior reappeared and plugged the clippers in by my knees. Bev combed through the remaining savaged remnants of my previous style and with the odd snip here and there seemed satisfied she had rapidly and systematically removed any trace of my previous style. She grabbed the clippers and switched them on. I felt a bit of pressure on the top of my head from her fingers and immediately bent my head forward. I heard the clippers change note as they bit into the hair at my nape. I bit my lip hard as I felt like I was going to cry.
“You OK? You’ve had it cut with these before?”
“Yes,” I lied, trying to sound convincing.
A few more sweeps with the clippers and she switched them off. I raised my head to look in the mirror and hardly recognised myself. It was my face but with no hair to frame it I looked decidedly different. I wasn’t sure I liked it.
Bev was combing the wispy strands in front of my ear. “What do you think?” she said. “Leave ’em for a bit of softness or whip em off?”
I turned my head slightly and saw the back of my head reflected in the mirror on the other wall of the Salon. Christ, it was short. I must not have answered the question as Bev said, “I think we’ll have ’em off, they will look silly just sitting there when the rest of it’s so short,” and she switched on the clippers again and with a rather swift couple of flicks of her wrist off they came.
“Right,” said Bev, “I think that will do you. I’ll get Linda to bleach it up and I’ll be back later to style it for you.”
Style it? I thought. There was nothing left to style.
I was looking at myself in the mirror when the junior removed the heavy collar and asked me to stand up and shake the hair off the gown so she could brush up the hair that Bev had just so rapidly removed. I stood up and sand noticed the pile of hair she had already brushed.
“Is that all mine?” I asked.
“It was,” she replied. “There’s enough to stuff a pillow. Still it does suit you short.”
I sat down and looked in the mirror again. It hadn’t magically grown out. It was short. Was it too short? Did my face look fat? What makeup do you wear with short hair – more or less? My head felt light and when it moved there was no sensation of hair moving with it. That would take some getting used to. I had a few grey hairs at my temples as well that I had never noticed before.
Linda reappeared and looked genuinely shocked and said, “Well! You’ve had a bit of a change of style. What do you think?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “It feels a bit short.”
“You’ll be fine,” she soothed. “Now let’s get this bleach on and make you look spectacular.”
She started painting on the light blue solution and massaging it around. It was very quick compared to streaks and she was soon placing a plastic bag on my head. “Right, 20 minutes, and then 20 under the steamer for you.”
I sat reading one of those glossy magazines and after about 20 minutes Linda came back and pasted some more blue paste on my head, gave it all a quick massage and then got me to sit under the steamer. This was hot, uncomfortable and my head itched and I was glad when this was over. My hair was washed and wrapped in a towel and I was taken back to a seat, still wrapped in the turban-style towel.
Linda warned, “This is the worst bit, this is not your final colour,” and whipped off the towel.
It was horrific. A total shock. It was yellow, not blonde, a short, tangled mess. The sides and back were so short and blonde it looked like I had no hair left on them. I came back to my senses and Linda was grinning. “I love this bit, the expression on your face. Priceless”
We selected a shade of blonde and this was applied and washed off. I must admit it was a big improvement as all that yellow brassy colour had now gone. Linda combed it all back and away from my face and said, “Well, what do you think?”
“Linda, I don’t know – will it dry any darker?”
“No – lighter if anything,” she said. “Look, if it’s too bright then we can tone it down when Bev’s styled it. It’s just all a bit of a shock for you. I’ll pop back when Bev’s cut it for you and see how you feel then. I’ve just had a cancellation so if you really hate it, it’s no problem.”
She left me alone to look at myself in the mirror. A reflection stared back that looked like my face but with short, bleached hair. I instinctively tried to touch it with my hand and was shocked by how little hair was actually left to touch. I pulled a section of hair down from my forehead and was relieved to see it almost touched my eyebrows. At least I was going to have a bit of fringe to play with. It was short but I’d asked for short. It was too blonde but then I thought of my friend Kerry saying, “You can’t ever be too blonde.”
I could see the back of my head reflected from the mirror opposite. Back of the head was right. Their was precious little of any hair left.
I then noticed my eyebrows. God they were too dark and much too thick and I made a mental note that I’d have to get them pruned up if I was to stay this colour. I was stroking them when Bev appeared again.
“That’s come up really nice,” she said as she combed my hair back again. She sprayed it all with a water spray. She combed a section, about one inch wide at the front, back down again and it almost touched my dark eyebrows, as it was a bit longer than the rest of the top.
“Now it’s so white, I could do with my brows shaping up a bit,” I said to Bev.
She looked at them and said, “They are not that bad. Do you want me to see if the beautician is free after I cut it to shape them up for you?”
“Erm – yes please,” I said.
“Hang on a tick,” and off she went.
I was left sitting in the chair again but within about 30 seconds Bev was back. “You are in luck, she’ll fit you in as soon as I finish. I’ve told her it’s just a quick reshape – that alright?”
She had moved in front of me to talk to me and at the same time blocked my view in the mirror. I felt her comb my fringe straight once more and then felt the scissors snipping at my fringe but impossibly high at the top of my forehead. Again she used a sort of hacking, sawing action and I began to panic. “You’re not cutting it too short are you?” I asked.
A long pause and more cutting and then the reply, “Well, you don’t have a fringe anymore.”
She sheepishly moved slightly out of the way and I saw the damage. Where my fringe had been was just nubs of hair. It looked like it had been chewed by a rat rather than cut.
I could have cried and then died. My whole face was exposed right up to my hairline. Bev moved in again and took the next section back and began the hacking again. I thought of stopping her and calling the manager. What could she do – you can’t glue it back on. It was on the cape, my lap the floor. I just had to sit there as more and more hair was haphazardly and ruthlessly shorn.
Bev clearly realised I hated it as her inane chatter ceased and she concentrated on the rest of the top. She soon finished and pulled her comb back through the hacked stubble she had left, occasionally snipping off a rogue longer hair that had missed her earlier attempts. It was amazing as my hair was just about dry already. She put down the scissors and picked up the clippers again and removed the plastic guard comb. She found another one and fixed it to the clippers and switched them on again and pushed them right up in front of my left ear. She swept them from behind the ear again and I could see a shower of little white hairs coming off. She moved to the back and began running the clippers up the back and I noticed just how little hair was left. It was a little more than a shadow. She must have seen the look on my face and said, “Next time just ask me to run up the back with a number two!”
She finished with the clippers and made some final snips with the scissors and then grabbed the dryer. She switched it on and for about 10 seconds whisked it over me. She put it down and pronounced, “All done. What do you think?”
“It’s too short.”
“Well, it’s short alright but it really needed doing and it so suits you. You look so much younger.”
“There’s nothing left.” I stood up to get a closer look in the mirror.
“It is quite short but I had to get rid of all those streaked ends. You’ll get used to it. It does suit you that short.” She must have seen the look on my face. “You are not going to cry are you?”
Before I had a chance to answer she undid the cape and said, “Just wait there. I’ll go and get Linda to check your colour and get a mirror to show you the back.”
“Yeah, the bit you left,” I thought.
Linda appeared and even she looked shocked. “Big change for you today,” she said. “It really does suit you short.”
“Do you think so?”
“Yeah, I love that cut and colour on you. It’s short but everyone’s going short this season. Look at mine. Look, it’s not worth toning it any more – there’s not much left to tone anyway.”
“It’s not as short as this, she’s basically left me with no hair at all,” I complained.
“Yeah, but I’ve had nearly 3 weeks growth. I had nearly an inch of re-growth when I coloured it. It needs cutting again.”
“Don’t let Bev do it then!” I said, only half jokingly
Bev must have overheard and said, “Look, if you want it trimming up I can squeeze you in now. Sharon (the manager) has nipped out for lunch so if we are quick we’ll fit you in now.” She looked at me and said, “If you just sit down here,” pulling out another chair, “I’ll go and tell the Beauty Therapist you are ready for your brows,” and then said to Linda, “Get that cape on and sit down where she was and I’ll soon sort it out for you,” and off she went.
She soon came back and said to me, “She’ll be with you in a minute.” In the meantime Linda had put her arms into the gown and sat down. Bev tied the strings at the neck and placed the rubber collar on Linda’s shoulders. “We’ll need to be quick. Sharon will be back soon, she’s only popped out for a sandwich.” She grabbed the clippers off the counter where she had left them after scalping me and blew away a small clump of my bleached cuttings from the blades and looked to see the size of guard. Linda began to protest. “Look, I can easily wait…” Bev just drove the clippers up the back left hand side and they pushed up a wedge of her red hair that eventually became over-heavy and balanced off the clippers and fell to the ground to mingle with my blonde. She took about 4 or 5 deliberate sweeps up the back of Linda’s head and then carried on from the back up the side, over her ear and right up to the temple.
Linda gasped audibly and Bev said, “It’s no shorter than last time.”
“Oh it is,” said Linda. “Some of these bits are nearly two inches long!” she exclaimed, looking at the chewed up remains sitting in her lap.
“I’m just taking it a bit higher up the sides this time!” grinned Bev and carried on. She switched the clippers off and removed the guard and replaced it with another one and obviously hid what she was doing from Linda. She turned round and stood in front of the mirror, blocking her view exactly as she had done to me and quickly but deliberately inserted the clippers under the short red fringe. The clippers caught the overhang and removed it back to the uniform length specified by the plastic guard. With what was obviously a very practiced hand Bev sort of flicked the clippers through the rest of the fringe area and left Linda with a similar amount of forehead showing as I had.
“I take it short fringes are in this year,” sighed Linda.
“They are now,” laughed Bev and continued to pull the clippers back over the crown of Linda’s red hair that was coming off rather rapidly.
The back and sides were very short and you could see skin underneath the red shadow of hair but the top was a little longer – maybe an inch or so, she’d obviously used quite a long guard on the top. Bev finished with the clippers and put them down and then started to attack the top with her scissors in the same haphazard way she had done me a few moments before.
At this stage the beautician came up and looking at my hair and then at Linda, she burst out, “I didn’t know the Army was recruiting today!” Then at me she said, “Well you’re not going to use much shampoo for the next few weeks are you?”
She looked at Bev, who was still hacking away and said, “Don’t even think about coming near me with those scissors. I’d kill you if you did this to me,” and then looked at me. “No offence meant, it really suits you but she hasn’t left you with too much, girl, has she? Now lets have a look at these brows.”
She studied them and then asked, “How much effort do you want them to be?”
“Well, I can get them into a really good shape with your face and hair but you will have to work a bit to keep them in shape if I do. Though having said that you’ll be back here at least once a month to keep this hair looking this good so I can always tidy them up for you.”
“That’s if I don’t decide to grow it out,” I said.
“It’ll take some growing out, girl,” she joked.
After a few minutes of waxing and plucking I was done. My brows had been reduced from their former natural shape to a much more contrived high tapered arch. She thought I should wear some makeup but my eyes were watering so much from the final plucks it would have been a waste of time. She did give me some bright red lippy to try which was a lot brighter than I ever wore but after I tried it on, I liked the image.
In the time I had been plucked Bev had obviously finished Linda’s hair as the junior was sweeping up a pile of deep red hair and a few flecks of my white around the chair where we had both sat to be scalped only a few minutes earlier.
I got to reception, put on my coat and went to pay. Linda was stood next to reception with her hyper-short red crop. The receptionist looked at me and said, “Wow! You look like a model! It’s stunning. It SO suits you short. You are SO brave.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” I replied. “Still, Linda is as short so I’m not on my own.”
“I think Bev got some new clippers for an early Christmas present,” said Linda.
I paid, made an appointment for three weeks (Three weeks? I’d be living at the salon if I had to go back every three weeks but Linda said it would soon look scruffy and I’d only be in the shop for about an hour max – being 40 minutes bleach and 10 minutess to cut it.)
I left feeling quite good about myself. The first thing I noticed was how cold it was around my ears and neck and then when I moved my head no hair followed. I also caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window and did not recognise the reflection. I was really unsure and kept thinking, “What have I done? I must be totally mad.”
I called in at the local department store and bought some new makeup, including the reddest lippy they had. As I drove home I kept getting a glance of myself in the driver’s mirror. It just wasn’t me. I got home, dashed to the mirror and got my first good look. I’d been scalped. I was unsure, angry, upset and had a headache but I was pleasantly surprised about how good it looked. I picked up the telephone and dialled my boyfriend.
“Hey, something I have been meaning to ask you. What do you think about girls with ultra short, bleached hair, wear loads of makeup and eyebrows so red and swollen they look like they have been fighting?”