At-Home Haircuts: A Horror Story.

Illustration for article titled At-Home Haircuts: A Horror Story.

Despite the fact that 90% of the time it is among the world's worst ideas and an inarguably false economy so far as self-respect goes, frugal at-home haircutting is apparently on the rise. I can vouch for it:

I've been cutting and trimming my own hair off and on for years, despite the fact that it's never really worked out. It's usually motivated by finances, tipsiness, interaction with some creative type with an awesome coiffure, or, most often, the influence of some book or movie involving a hairdo which, in that moment, seems imminently necessary to my future happiness and success. Because my hair's curly, I don't need to be anywhere and I don't look in the mirror much, it usually just looks medium-bad, and I can get away with scarves or ponytails for the necessary few months - although there have been a few expensive occasions when I've required professional correction.

But cutting your own hair is one thing. The responsibility of someone else's is quite a different matter, especially when your primary experience is with a grandfather whose hair resembles Andrew Jackson's at the best of times and who crazy-glued his teeth into his mouth for special occasions. For years I've resisted trimming friends' and boyfriends' hair. But in a recent fit of economical zeal that also saw the production of several inedible baguettes, it seemed like the time was nigh for me to assume the duties of household barber. My boyfriend's hair is curlyish, he's not particular, and he survived a childhood of at-home dos of varying quality, so I figured I could handle it. The first trim was a resounding success. Over the course of two hours and a kind of horrible but also compelling miniseries about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, lock by lock, I managed to achieve a trim that looked exactly like his hair pre-trim.

Emboldened by my success, I became ambitious and exhorted him to choose a hairstyle. Inspiration struck not long after. While watching, at my behest, the very bizarre minor Michael Powell film A Canterbury Tale, Slim was enraptured by the hair of one of the central characters. The hair in question was a sort of cross between a GI's crew cut (the character's a GI) and Morrissey's pompadour. I had my doubts, but I was persuaded. We set aside an evening, spread the sheet on the floor and positioned the chair in the middle of the living room. At first I was tentative, but as the hair began to take shape under my fingers, I became drunk with power. My scissors flew faster. The hair grew stranger. And then I reached for the clippers.


There is a moment when a haircut becomes irredeemable. When it goes from "maybe it's supposed to look that way" to "complete fuck-up." If that's a line in the sand, let's say I leapt that line like the best long-jumper in the world. And then I tried to fix it, and everything got worse. I looked down in horror. Bald patches alternated with clumps of Eraserhead-bounty. He looked like Neal Cassady if Kerouac had cut his hair on a bender and then his hair also got caught in a thresher and then there was gum in it and then he had to go in for a partial labotomy circa 1928. He looked horrifying.

"How's it coming?" he asked, cheerfully oblivious.

"It needs a little evening," I said. I snipped ineffectually. I patted. I got the comb. I tried to style it into several elaborate mini-combovers before he saw it. Then I could put the reckoning off no longer. He walked to the bathroom. There was a prolonged silence.

"Well," he said.

"Yes," I replied.

There was more silence.

"Let's get drinks," I said. "On me."

And then a very miraculous thing happened. "Cool haircut," said a guy on the subway. Was said guy ludicrous? Perhaps. Was he sporting knickers, suspenders, and a tee-shirt that had been slashed to the navel? Maybe. But he was just the beginning. It is, apparently, a truth universally acknowledged that if you look aggressively ridiculous and people are insecure enough, they will herald your boldness as confidence. And because we live in world as concerned with superficial relativism as it is actually judgmental, emperor's new clothes are apparently the order of the day. In any event, by evening's end, I had agreed to cut the hair of no fewer than three acquaintances. By night's end, my boyfriend had given himself a buzz cut. And the bread was as leaden and inedible as it had been a few hours before, because there was simply no pretending that that was hip.
I can fuck up a haircut the old-fashioned way, thanks, but for the rest of you, here's how the kids are, allegedly, doing it.


Per Capita Savings: Home Barbering Grows in Recession, With Hairy Results [Wall Street Journal]
Flowbee Gone Wild [Wall Street Journal]

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I cut and color my own hair, and do pretty well with it, if I do say so myself. However, I have given myself some of the worst bangs while in the midst of feeling maudlin and drinking wine. That's my kryptonite.