Friday, June 10, 2011

Get A Haircut

BSS | Straight Razor from Bruton Stroube Studios on Vimeo.

Karen showed me this video from the same guys that brought you Breakfast Interrupted.

It also got me thinking about that wonderful scene from Gran Torino.

Indeed, it is a shame that we are losing our old ways. There are some shops in Malaysia where you get a number by vending machine, and then a silent hairdresser efficiently snips away your hair in under ten minutes. No idle chatter, no friendship. Just business.

Whenever I am home in Malaysia, I will always visit good ol' Johnny for my haircut. It may be cheap and tellingly so, but at least the trip is interesting.

Random Memories: Haircut through the Years Part 2

I remember when Dad lost his ability to walk, the church were swift and eager to help us through our first few difficult years. A member who owned a music store donated a box full of music cassettes to us, while the church donated a RM400 exercise bicycle to my father for his initial physiotherapy needs.

One of the many helpful aunties in the church decided that she would ease our financial burdens by giving the family a haircut. Her intentions were noble, God bless her soul, but the outcomes were often... interesting.

She would bring her hairdressing gear to our house - a pair of sharp stainless-steel scissors and a somewhat interesting manual razor. This razor was made out of plastic and shaped like a clam. You could separate the two halves of the clam and then insert a razor at either end, depending on whether you wanted a rougher shave or a finer shave.

Instead of a cloth thrown around our necks to keep away stray hairs from our collar, we improvised instead by cutting a hole in the middle of a newspaper foldout, and fitting it around our heads.

Inevitably all our haircuts would end up looking like this:

Minus the funky earrings, of course

One more reason why I have no illusions of having expensive haircuts.


There were always murmurs among married women that you should never let women hairdressers touch your husband's head. Too many stories about how Mrs X's husband ran away with the hairdresser after she 'put a spell' over his head. I suspect that the head was not all they were touching, to be honest.

Fuelled by both raging adolescent hormones and curiosity, I made my way up the stairs to one of the dodgy looking hairdressers in my Taman (suburb) one day, my heart pounding with each step that I took up the stairs.

I got an enticing lady, all right. All fifty-five years of her. Curly grey haired and gruff, her sleeveless underarm dingle-dangles (that's a term I learnt from Karen) wobbling as she snipped away at my hair.

It was an ultimately anti-climatic moment in my teenage life, but hey, it wasn't a half bad haircut.


I think most of my later years before I ended up with Johnny were spent mostly at Indian barbers.

If you wanted old school, this was old school, man. Swivelling barber chairs, chequered floors, candy stripe out the front. The works.

The Indian barbers themselves were pretty adept with the electric razor and scissors. Most of the time, however, everyone who walked in for a haircut (inevitably men) would always walk out with the same hairstyle - a buzz cut to the sides and back, and short at the top.

Haircuts at the Indian barber would set you back by RM10. Added to that value for your money was the wonderful 'head cracking' service at the end of it. The barber suddenly turns amateur chiropractor - steadying your head at the top and at your chin with both his hands, he twists it one way and then the other to give a satisying 'crack' as if you were cracking your knuckles.

Except that, you know, it was the spine of your neck.

That's us Malaysians, living on the edge of danger - walk in for a haircut, and a 5% chance of paraplegia.

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