Why do old bald people go to the barbers?

Picture an old man, a few grey hairs clinging for dear life, bushy eyebrows and an unkempt beard. Let’s call him Jim for the sake of it.

Heading to the barbers has been one of the highlights of Jim’s week for over 60 years. He remembers getting his hair quiffed up like James Dean, in a pompadour like Elvis and a mop top like Paul McCartney. He always wanted the latest style to look well for the dance at the parish hall on a Saturday night. He didn’t want to be out of step and get overlooked on the dancefloor by a trendier fellow from the neighbouring parish.

Smith’s Barbershop on the edge of town was where Jim frequented on a Saturday morning. John Smith cut Jim’s hair in his heyday. John’s son Jack took up the razors after his father’s death. There was always a bit of craic to be had at Smith’s Barbershop. Old boys with barely a hair on their head would stagger in on the Saturday morning. Jim always wondered why they didn’t just cut their hair with a pair of scissors in the mirror. It was less of a barbers and more of a meeting place for the hardworking men of the town. Like a pub without any alcohol.

Butchers and bakers, Catholics and Quakers made their way through the swishing doors of Smith’s. Men from all walks of life visited Smith’s religiously for their weekly trim. There was no room for discrimination here. Just a haircut and a yarn about the week gone by.

Styles changed and the culture of the day was beginning to leave Jim behind. He didn’t go to the dances anymore. He was married with two children. He felt it wasn’t appropriate to start rocking a mullet like he was Jon Bon Jovi as a middle aged man. Despite the changes to the world and his personal life, Jim still went to Smith’s every Saturday. A 3 all over is what he asked for now. His youthful days of rockstar hairstyles were consigned to the dustbin of history. Jack Smith swept up the greying hair that once made Jim the talk of the dancehall.

The decades passed on for Jim and change continued to come his way. His children grew up and his wife passed away. He swapped the two story townhouse for a bungalow in the countryside. The world became a lonelier place for Jim. The friends from his dancehall days were either dead or not far away from it. He couldn’t believe how fast the time had went. It only seemed like yesterday when he met his wife to be on the dancefloor after one of John Smith’s famous haircuts.

Jim always prided himself on his hair. In a world of uncertainty it was something that was always in his favour. He used to laugh at his mates who had gone bald at an early age. He used to laugh even more at the old codgers who seemed to only go to the barbers for a chat. They’d ask to get their eyebrows trimmed just so they could chat to someone for an extra minute.

When Jim looks in the mirror now, he doesn’t recognise the face that looks back at him. The strands of hair are few and the wrinkles are plentiful. Despite this Jim still makes his way into Smith’s on a Saturday morning. Jack Smith is since deceased and his son Jason runs the shop now. Three generations of Smiths have came and gone but Jim has remained.

Nowadays he is there less for the haircut and more for the chat and the company. He asks Jason to trim his eyebrows just so he can squeeze an extra minute of conversation in. When Jim sat waiting for his turn in his days as a child of the swinging Sixties he used to laugh at the old men. As Jason trimmed the final few hairs off Jim’s head, he began to realise why those old boys came in every Saturday. The haircut was secondary, the company was primary. Across from Jim sits a young boy getting his hair cut in the style of the rockstar of the day. He wonders why someone with as little hair as Jim is even at the barbers.

A few months ago, like the rest of the world Jim began to hear about a disease called the coronavirus. At first he didn’t give too much thought to it, he hoped it would blow over like the other diseases he’d encountered in his time. This one didn’t seem like the rest though. The man on news said that there was going to be a global pandemic and non-essential shops would need to close. Smith’s was going to be closed. It was the first place Jim thought of. He could barely a recall missing Smith’s on a Saturday on many occasions in his life.

Saturday morning came. Jim stuck an old vinyl on the record player. Aided by his Zimmer frame he made his way to the bathroom. He opened the cabinet and pulled out the scissors. With tears flooding his eyes and memories flooding his brain, Jim realised, he was going to have to get used to this.

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