At the barber’s – then & now


Hair cut time!

Taking my children to the barber’s is very therapeutic for me. I get to watch their antics when they mosey into the barber’s chair. The barber (my children insisted that he be their only barber) never fails to get entertained by them too. For instance – Glen will “plead” with the barber not to slice off his neck or his ear. Ian will patiently wait for the barber to cut his hair and beam with pleasure if his hair is cut the way he likes it!

I remember the time I was back home in Segamat. I must have been 6 years old. My uncle Soon Fatt will fetch me aboard his old Elswick (bicycle) and bring me to the barber’s. It’s not too far away from my maternal grandparents’ house. I think a haircut then costs 50 cents as opposed to RM7.00 now for a child.

The barber, an old stout Chinese man will smoke a cigar while he goes about with his trade. The snip-snip sound of his scissors and a virtually non-existent tool that looks like modified pliers never fail to make me drowsy. My uncle will usually bring me to the barber’s in the mid-afternoons — the time a small boy is most sleepy.

My head will usually sway and nod me into dreamland while the barber patiently props my head into position so he can get a better cut. Amazingly – it is this very sound of snipping scissors that will still send me off to sleep!

The haircut style is standard. No fancy hairstyles. Just a standard “slope” at the back and straight cut all the way on your forehead. Much to my chagrin – I usually end up with a hairstyle looking like a well-trimmed coconut. It’s as if the barber placed a bowl over my hair and cut along the edges of the bowl.

After the haircut, it’s shaving off the sideburns. The barber’s trusty shaving knife (now non-existent too) will be sharpened on a leather belt. Shaving foam (usually soap) will be splattered on the sideburns and the nape of the neck at the back before the shave.

To wake you up from your afternoon siesta, the barber will wickedly splash some aftershave (Old Spice brand I suspect) onto the back of your neck & sideburns. The stinging sensation is the key to waking you up, short of making you yell in pain!

I miss those times. Indeed I do. I still patronize the traditional barber. I detest the modern hairstylists not only because of the exorbitant price they charge but because of the ridiculously long time they take to cut your hair.

Sigh – there are some things you just cannot replace in life.

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