“Your/their hair need a right good cut!”
An adage frequently delivered in my mother’s rich Yorkshire dialect since my 1970’s childhood. Mater’s way of opining that as a consequence of neglectful grooming the individual she refers to looked a”Right scruffy bleeder.”…… Whether it be a messy mullet, unkempt curtain hair, poorly groomed bouffant or a tousled chignon.
Deeming that man is defined by first impressions, tidy hair was not only drummed into my brother and me – In the late 1980’s/early 1990’s it also became an essential requirement for our sister Helen’s boyfriends.
Should our youngest sibling bring home a “Right nice lad” with freshly shorn locks, newly shined shoes and a gift of M&S vouchers it was always looked on favourably by our parents. Especially mum, who wouldn’t be far from dashing to the phone with a view to book the church, order the flowers and arrange for the banns to be read.
If his hair was a mess, or/and the shoes were dirty our Helen had a job on her hands talking mum (Maggie) around to accepting her choice of beau. If he forgot the M&S vouchers my sister sent him packing – Safe in the knowledge the poor lad had burnt his bridge; no hope of redemption at securing mum’s acceptance.
My brother Ian, the maverick of Maggie’s three children, rebelled against mum’s haircut smartness regime, deliberately going bald before he was 30 years old. Not before our kid’s misguided decisions to perm his blond locks, though, along with sporting a cut which looked like his massed white hair was trying to escape his pate.
Some may say he cut off his nose to spite his face, but I disagree…… He did, though, cut off his hair to spite his mum. With her disapproving of skinhead haircuts as vehemently as long haired scruffs, it worked a treat at antagonising her.
Ian and I were never allowed long hair when it was fashionable in the 1970’s. As soon as it reached collar length we were dragged for a trim at Thows Barber Shop on Low Fell, in Gateshead.
Always seeking problem solutions in childhood, on one occasion Ian mentioned we try buy our locks extra growing time by donning a low neckline tortoise shell instead of higher necked sweaters. After a very short debate, though, it was decided the old lady was too smart to fall for the hair brained ruse.
Thows barbers sat opposite newsagents and jewellers shop on Durham Road. From memory, a diminutive shop that somehow managed to house four barber’s chairs, along with numerous what the Yorkshire lady labelled “Bleeding scruffy customers.”
Once I took the barber’s chair, mater ordinarily barked “His hair needs a right good cut!“ at the young long haired barber. Thankfully she spared Ian and my blushes by not adding “And here’s 50p to get yourself one, you untidy sod!”…… A putdown unspoken; however there’s little doubt she itched to convey it to the man with the scissors.
In the 1970’s having your haircut shorter than the most of the other lads was frustrating for our kid and me. It’s not that we didn’t fit in, we mixed well with lots of kids, but being called Kojak (after errrr… Kojak) was hurtful…… We weren’t bald like the fictional US cop; in fact our cut was only slightly shorter than most. However, the way it stood out from the majority we may as well have been hairless.
After a trim of our barnets, it wasn’t unusual to be subject to sneers of “Who loves you baby?” (Kojak’s catch phrase) “Where’s the lollipop, Theo?” (Kojak’s first name) and “Where’s your tash, you fat b*****d?” (idiots who mistook Kojak for rotund TV cop Frank Cannon).
“Ignore them.” mum would say to try placate my brother and I. She’d then add something inexplicable like “They wouldn’t be saying that if Kojak had long hair!” or “You’ll thank me for this when you get older!”…….. We didn’t!