22 years of home haircuts

Good morning! As a few of you have been asking, here I am sharing my simple and shonky methods of home haircutting – frankly not something I thought I’d ever do.

You may be surprised to learn that the last professional haircut I had was back in 1998. Before that, I’d never really enjoyed having my hair cut (I can’t honestly think of a single relaxing or enjoyable experience I’ve ever had in a hairdresser). Now, this is not because I lack respect for hairdressers, or the craft of hairdressing – far from it. Indeed, I regard the styling of hair as one of the original textile arts (I wrote about this a wee bit in Handywoman). Back then, my issue with having my hair cut was rather that, having always found it difficult to be physically comfortable around people I didn’t know, the whole experience was always for me something of an ordeal. The fact that I didn’t like having my hair cut might suggest to you the undoubtedly rather extreme levels of my introversion, and here’s another indicator: however many years I spent in academic teaching, however good I got at hiding it, I can honestly say that I was never once able to relax or feel physically comfortable in an classroom. It wasn’t until I’d been working for myself for a few years that I realised just how relieved I was to no longer have to teach.

Anyway, I began cutting my own hair in 1998 – which was, coincidentally around the same time that I met Tom.

Here’s a couple of late ’90s attempts with a pair of hair clippers – and evidence of a shortlived and misguided experiment with some bleach.

Since the late ’90s I’ve worn my hair both short and long: when the former, I’ve generally shaved or clipped it, when the latter, I’ve simply trimmed away at it myself, with varying degrees of neatness and success. Occasionally I find myself reflecting on the money I’ve saved on haircuts over the years. But another way of thinking about it is that 22 years of home haircutting probably adds up to my disproportionately large coat collection.

Since embracing my natural grey a couple of years ago (when this photograph of me wearing St Catherines was taken), I’ve regularly shaved my head with a pair of clippers. I tend to get the clippers out every month to six weeks, and my barometer of whether my hair needs seeing to or not is whether I wake up in the morning looking like this.

When my reflection in the mirror resembles that of Father Ted I know it’s time to get the clippers out. You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that I felt like Father Ted this morning, and immediately addressed the situation.

Here are my tools. I’ve not much to say about the clippers except that this is the widely available type that plugs into the wall, and that it seems to be a decent and reliable device, being the same one that Tom’s used for about a decade. The comb-like attachments are guards that determine the length of my cut: I tend to use a number 5 (five-eighths of an inch) on the back of my head and a number 7 (seven-eighths of an inch) on the top. In summer, when I’m swimming a lot, I might go a little shorter with a number 6 (three-quarters of an inch) on the top. In the photograph you also see the bottle of clipper oil (for maintaining the clippers), the red cap to protect the clipper blades, a tiny battery-operated electric razor thing (which is good for getting rid of fluffy bits at the nape of the neck) and a pair of scissors (also good for neatening things up).

I generally just cut my hair myself though occasionally Tom will notice that I’ve fatally ‘missed a bit’ and try to sort me out. No special preparation is necessary: my hair is dry and unwashed and I’m just sitting over a table. I start cutting the back of my head with the number 5 guard and work up the neck.

It’s good to have some knowledge of how your hair likes to lie, and its direction. Getting the swirly bits around the top of the crown with the number 7 guard can take a little time.

But generally the whole process is over in less than 10 minutes. I check things over in the mirror, and have another whizz over any spots where it seems necessary.

Then I wash my hair. I use a purple shampoo every three or four washes (which I think maintains the silvery appearance) and never use any conditioner. Then, when my hair’s dry, the only ‘product’ I ever use on it is, occasionally, this.

And that’s pretty much it!

no more Father Ted – for the next month or so anyway!

I hope this post might have convinced a few of you – currently unable to get out to the hairdresser, and who are unafraid of short hair cuts – to just get hold of a set of clippers and give it a go.