When asked as part of a job interview if he could type, my grandfather, who had until then never seen a typewriter in his life, replied that of course he could. This is often quoted in my family as an example of what we affectionately call Burgar Bullshit: being able to do anything until proven otherwise. This spirit of bullshitting your way through, also seen in my Oxford interviews, most recently manifested itself in deciding there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t cut my own hair.
Now, on lockdown haircut number five, I can safely say it’s been a learning curve, but not an unsuccessful one.
For years, I’ve been trimming my own fringe instead of getting it done professionally. Why? I’m a cheapskate. I’m famously reluctant to spend money on haircuts, squirm at the idea of a head massage, and already own a pair of hair scissors; so after a YouTube tutorial (couldn’t be bothered with the fifteen-minute version and opted for a shorter three-minute abridged option) there was nothing standing in my way. My sister and I laid out a large sheet, ran our heads under the shower, and got to work.
Hers was easy enough – just a blunt cut an inch up – and she was one happy customer, despite having the Sweeney Todd soundtrack playing as background music. Mine, a short bob with a fringe and some layers, was an altogether different story. The plan was that I was going to cut it myself and gain full hair independence, with her standing behind me to make sure I wasn’t about to make a horrible mistake, and whilst it worked out, we did learn a few valuable lessons.
Perhaps most important of those lessons, don’t cut the front first. You can see the front. You can reach the front. And crucially, your hairline is a lot higher at the front. Trying to get the back to match up to the bit I’d already hacked substantially shorter wasn’t just difficult. It was impossible. If you don’t want to look like the result of cutting a mullet in and coming back to it after six months of growth, learn from my mistakes. Don’t cut the front first. Thankfully when all your socialising is on Zoom, nobody can see the back of your head anyway.
There are lessons you can’t afford to learn through trial and error because they have bigger consequences. Take it from me: don’t cut your hair when it’s dry, and don’t cut your fringe when it’s wet. Tackling a wet fringe will mean you get the tension wrong, every time. Equally, don’t be tempted to pull it about whilst cutting it. I do mine leaning forward over a sink, hands free, and it really works. This also goes for the now long-distant trend of the Lockdown Fringe. Yes, you can successfully cut your own fringe in. I would even – controversially – recommend the #fringelife. But if you’re tempted to try it, cut it long – down to your mouth – and gradually shorten it. Fringes are humbling. Tread carefully.
Giving yourself a haircut is, perhaps surprisingly, a team effort, no matter how many mirrors you set up. Recruiting a family member or friend to make sure you don’t chop an unsightly chunk out or accidentally lop off a finger while sorting out the back is essential. That said, I’ve felt more confident taking the matter of actually cutting the hair itself literally into my own hands. It’s not that I don’t trust my family. It’s just that my mum is famed for cutting off a full head of doll’s hair to try and get it even. Keep them nearby as a spotter and I recommend a family member without a sense of humour.
I guess the real question is if I’ll be sticking with the self-haircut in a post-Covid world. The financial saving has been pretty impressive. Instead of £40 a go, my haircuts this year have cost a one-time purchase of some hair scissors, and a few hours of my time. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to achieve something that made me feel a bit fresher and a bit better about myself. Admittedly it’s nowhere near as good as it would be if it was done by a professional, but it has been good enough for me.
I do however have to do it more frequently. It starts to look scruffy a lot sooner than a professional haircut would, but since I have nothing but time on my hands at the moment, this isn’t really a problem. I don’t think Christmas vac 2019 will have been my last trip to the hairdresser, but it’s safe to say that my most recent lockdown haircut also won’t be the last. All that was missing was the holiday chat.