Posted by: haircutsrevisited | December 1, 2008

The Barbershop Tenant

The Barbershop Tenant
By Tammy

Foreword: Every time I go to New York, I always feel inspired to write about it. This one is based on a small town girl who discovers herself in her new life in New York. Her haircut is inspired on the time when Agyness Deyn was cropping her hair at a barbershop.

I moved to New York from my small town in Northern Maine when I was 19 years old, as I really wanted to get out of my small fishing village and make it in New York. I dreamed of one day becoming a model or an actress but with no formal training I had no idea where to begin.

I moved to New York and found a cheap flat above a barbershop in Brooklyn. It was very small with one room, a tiny kitchenette and a bathroom. I was the only tenant in the building. The barber was an older Italian guy named Antonio. He owned the building and was very nice to me about moving in. As long as I kept the place clean and paid the rent on time, and didn’t throw parties, he was happy to leave me be. I liked Antonio and sometimes hung out with him after work to cool off in his air-conditioned shop, as my apartment got really hot in the summer.

I became a waitress at a diner in Manhattan in the Soho district. I loved being in the middle of the fashion district. I would spend my breaks work browsing through all the boutiques in Soho and dreaming of being able to afford the price tags on the clothes.

At the end of my day I would commute back home to Brooklyn. I was one of the many Bridge and Tunnel people who only dreamed of having a successful career in Manhattan and a beautiful apartment to go along with it, but I could only dream of that life for now.

I worked the breakfast shift so I started at 6am every morning and was home around 5pm every evening. The barbershop was open every evening until 6 so I would hang out in there with Antonio after work. He had an interest in how I was settling in to New York and thought I was brave to move here from my small town. He dreamed of retiring and moving to a small fishing village as it reminded him of Sicily. He kept asking me of where I grew up and what it was like.

I had no money in those days as I made barely enough to pay my rent, and the money my parents sent me every month helped with groceries. I bought my clothes from second-hand stores around Brooklyn, as it was all I could afford. The clothes weren’t great so I got creative and would cut them up and mix the different garments together, then sew them back together by hand. By combining them I created a funkier wardrobe and gave myself an edgy new style.

My hair was becoming a problem as well. I couldn’t afford to get it cut in a proper salon in Manhattan and I really wanted to do something with it. It was getting too long and it needed something done. I looked at some of the places in Brooklyn but I was nervous about going into some of them. They were mostly hole-in-the-wall type salons in my area. I thought about asking Antonio to do something but didn’t think he could do girls’ hair as I’d only seen men in his barbershop before. 

I came home one day and Antonio had a customer. I wouldn’t go in when he had a client to let him do his work. I sat on the front steps of the building instead as it was too hot to go up to my flat. The air was nice and I enjoyed people-watching from the steps.

When the customer left I was surprised. I didn’t realize that it was a girl in there getting a haircut. She was around my age and was wearing a beautiful summer dress. I was taken aback by her haircut. It was a really short crop that looked stunning on her. She walked down the steps and on to the street, and I watched as she disappeared down the block in the crowd of people.

I got up and went into Antonio’s shop.

“Hey Antonio,” I said.

“Heya Bella,” he answered (he always called me Bella). “How was your day?”

“Not bad,” I told him. “Hey I didn’t know you did girls haircuts.”

“Oh yeah, I can cut anyone’s hair as long as it’s short” he said. “That was Monica that just left and she comes here every 4 weeks. She likes her hair nice and short.”

“What do you think of my hair?” I asked him.

“Your hair is nice,” he said. “I like the long curls on you but you need a haircut.”

It was obvious it was getting too long.

“Can you cut it for me, I’ve been trying to find a place but I can’t afford any of the places out there.”

“I don’t cut long hair. You’ll be better off going somewhere else as I do short haircuts.”

“What if you cut my hair short then?” I asked him.

“Oh Bella you have the face of an angel and beautiful hair to go along with it. It would break my heart to cut your beautiful hair.”

I was upset. I knew I couldn’t afford to go somewhere else. I didn’t push the issue further. Antonio closed up and I went upstairs to my apartment and took a shower. It was stifling hot in the apartment but the evening air was starting to cool it off. I finished my shower and lay on my mattress looking through magazines.

I was rifling through a copy of the latest Vogue when I came across a photo of Agyness Deyn. I loved her short crop and imagined what it would look like on me. I went back to the bathroom and looked at my reflection. My hair was still wet. I pulled it back and imagined myself with a short crop like the girl I saw leaving Antonio’s shop that evening. I studied my face and liked the idea of shorter hair on me. I am 5’10” and very slim as I diet all the time. I have strong cheekbones and a jaw line that shows better with my hair off of my face. I really wanted to cut my hair but knew I couldn’t afford to pay for a haircut. I decided to sleep on it for now.

I woke up at 4am like I always did and got ready for work. I made my coffee and left for the subway. I got to work before 6am and I could tell it was going to be hot again. My hair was tied up in a bun for my shift as usual and I went to work. On my break I walked around the boutiques again and took notice of some of the girls with shorter haircuts. Short hair seemed like it was the latest trend so I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I took the subway home and played with my hair very nervously. I thought about what I should do. Should I ask Antonio to cut it, or should I try to gather what money I could and go somewhere else? My mind was racing and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I got off the subway and walked back home. I was approaching my flat and the barbershop so I entered the shop.

“Hey Antonio,” I called out.

“Heya Bella,” he called back from the back room. “I’ll be right out.”

I could hear he was on the phone so I sat on one of his waiting chairs and cooled off in the AC. I looked over at his station and all his cutting tools. I got up and walked over to see all of his tools.

I stood in front of his barber’s chair and looked at myself in the mirror. I took my hair out of its ponytail and let it out over my left shoulder.  I reached over for his scissors and held them in front of me, opening them and closing them. I was mesmerized. I grabbed a lock of my hair from the left side of my face and held the scissors up near my jaw line. I thought very hard of closing the scissors on my hair but a wave of nerves passed through me. I took a deep breath, cleared my head and closed the scissors. I held the piece of hair I had cut off and looked at it, feeling a sense of relief. I tossed it to the floor in front of me.

I grabbed another lock and cut it very quickly. I grabbed a larger section of hair above my left ear and started cutting through it. The section was so thick I kept closing the scissors on it, and it took a while to cut through. I held the hair in my hand like a trophy and then tossed it to the floor. I grabbed another section behind my left ear and starting cutting through it as well, tossing it to the floor as I went.

I struggled to grab more hair from the back of my head and tilted my head over to see it better. I held the scissors to the back of my head, cut through the hair and watched as lock after lock was cut from the back of my head and fell to the floor behind me.

“Essere un po’ di fuori!” Antonio yelled out as he came in from the back room. “Oh Bella,” he pleaded in a softer tone.

I froze and put his scissors down.

“What were you thinking?” he said to me.

I was stuck for words. “I, uh….” was all I could get out.

He came over and reached for my hair to inspect what I had just done. “Oh Bella,” he said one more time.

He put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me back into his barber chair. I slid up into it and took a look at the reflection of what I has just done. My hair was still the same on my right side, but was gone on the left side. It was still long on top as well.

“What am I going to do with you?” he asked me as he reached for his cape.

He pinned the cape at my neck and picked up a comb and his scissors. He walked around my left side and started combing out the area I had already cut. He slid his comb into my hair and dove in with his scissors. I watched in awe at how fast he cut away at my hair on my left side, neatening up the area over my left ear with his scissors over his comb.

He came around behind me and started cutting away at the back, cutting off the longer lengths and working his way around to my right side until my hair was taken off to its new short length. He sectioned off locks of hair on top of my head and cut away, reducing it to a couple of inches long on top. He cleaned up the sides and back leaving it short with a nice taper to the longer length on top. He was very fast with the cutting and I was surprised at the image of the new short haircut in front of me. I smiled as I took in my reflection.

He put the comb and scissors down and grabbed a towel and put it over my shoulder. He pushed a button on a machine in front of me and foam came out into his hand. He came around behind me and lathered the foam on my nape and around my ears to my upper cheeks. The foam was very warm and felt amazing.

He grabbed a straight razor and opened it. He slid it up and down on a leather strap attached to the side of the chair I was sitting in. I peered over in curiosity to see what he was doing. He stopped and placed his hand on my head tilting it over and slid his thumb down my cheek sliding the warm foam. The razor followed sliding down my cheek. I shook at the sensation of it. I felt him slide his thumb around my ear and move in quickly after with the razor blade, shaving around my ear towards my nape. He would wipe the razor on the towel he placed on my shoulder and continue with the next part.

He tilted my head straight down towards my chest and I felt his thumb slide across my nape, followed by the razor shaving off my nape area. The sensation had become extremely intoxicating. He wiped the razor on the towel again. He worked over my other ear now and finished at my other cheek.

He grabbed the towel off my shoulder and wiped the areas where he had shaved. I tilted my head up and looked at my reflection. I was smiling cheek to cheek-I was beaming. He slid the cape off of me, grabbed a mirror and showed me the back.

I reached up to feel it and I shivered at the feel of having short hair for the first time. I smiled and said “I LOVE IT” out loud.

I started feeling it everywhere. It had just enough length on top to do something with it and it was so nice and short around my ears and in the back. I felt the skin on my nape where he shaved it and it felt so smooth and soft. I jumped up and hugged Antonio, giving him a big kiss on the cheek.

I ran out of the shop and down the street to go for a walk with my new haircut. I walked with almost a skip in my pace as I felt like I was floating down the sidewalk. It felt so amazing and liberating to have new short hair. 

I woke up the next morning, went to work and loved how little time I had to spend on my hair now. At work everyone really loved it as well. It was a big hit with the regulars and became the buzz for the day. Later in my shift a woman sitting at one of the tables stopped me.

“Excuse me young lady,” she said in a thick English accent. “Can I ask, are you signed with any agencies?”

“Um, no,” I answered back.

“I would like to give you one of my cards and would hope that you would call us, you seem to have the sort of image we are currently looking for.” She handed me a business card.

I stumbled back to the kitchen and had a look at the card. It was from one of the city’s top modeling agencies. I nearly freaked when I saw it. I called them when I finished my shift and they set me up with an interview the next day.

The interview went very well and I met with a number of people. They offered me a contract and invited me to come and work for them. This was the official start to my modeling career in New York. They said I had the look they wanted for their new portfolio and welcomed me to their team.

Antonio was ecstatic when I told him the news. My new contract was enough money to quit the diner and move to Manhattan. I was starting the life I dreamed of. I went back to visit Antonio every 4 weeks to maintain my haircut after that. All of the best stylists in the city wanted to get their hands on my hair, and I wouldn’t let them. I made sure the agency more than took care of Antonio for keeping my image the way it was the day they found me. I kept Antonio my secret from the rest of the fashion world, as he was the man who created my signature look in the first place.

As my career skyrocketed I gave Antonio enough money to ensure he could sell his shop and finally retire to the fishing village he dreamed of. Eventually a Manhattan stylist took over my new signature looks, but it was never the same as Antonio. I kept in touch with Antonio the best I could and he was always happy to hear from me and about my new life. I was happy to hear about his new life as well.

Thanks for reading,



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