Barnet Fair

I’ve had a long-short relationship with my hair for many years, since the mid-1970s, since a point when my parents decided that asking and then telling me to get my hair cut was no use and I was going to wear my hair how I wanted it and that was on the long side. I was born too late to really connect with the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, but I knew of it and flared jeans and long hair were things to be coveted.

I like a short haircut, I look neat and tidy and it’s so much easier to deal with in the shower, but, when I have long hair I feel, somehow comfortable in that long-hairdyness. My dad of course hated it that his eldest son looked like a girl from the back; mom, as ever, was far more relaxed about it but I knew that she too preferred the short haired Tony.

The people I aspired to look like, not be like you’ll note but look like, were all long-haired types. Rock Musicians, quasi-Arthurian knights and questers, Pernese dragonriders, Vikings, American Indians, Saxons and Angles… Actually, the dragonriders of Pern were mostly women, weren’t they? It’s been many a year since I read the books, but I always imagined both female and male dragonriders as long-haired types.

In my mind’s eye I had an image of myself with raven black, straight hair, parted in the middle and falling to my waist. The reality was that I was strawberry blond/ginger with wavy hair that naturally parted to one side and no matter for how long I grew it, it stopped about 6 to 8 inches below my shoulders. I was, shall we say, a bit jealous of my younger brother who in the late 1980s grew his hair and it was very nearly down to his waist. Luck of the draw with the old genetic mix there I suppose.

I got my hair cut and got a job. Having short hair at work was a definite bonus, part of my work was polishing metal with spinning mops and polishing rouge, it got everywhere that rouge and the water would run rouge red when I washed my hair.

But still, after a year or so I started to grow my hair long again eliciting warnings about tying it back when operating machinery which I was only too willing to do because even teenage me could see that getting your hair caught in a polishing mop would not be a good thing.

So, I settled into a cycle of having my hair cut short, not stubble-headed, bovver boot wearing short but neatly above the ears, and then just letting it grow again until I fancied a haircut and that wasn’t very often.

In all this hairiness I was always, bar the occasional couple of days growth, clean-shaven because I didn’t like to have a hairy face; my beard growth when it appeared after a couple of days wasn’t always easy to see, not because it was very slight, the opposite is true as I’m a very hairy person, but when my beard grew it was light in colour so a couple of days growth could be ‘got away with’ before a shave became necessary but as I say, I liked to be clean-shaven.

During the late 1980s into the 1990s I had kept my hair shortish but from the mid-1990s onwards I just let it grow again. Then about 10 or 12 years ago when just for devilment, I let my beard grow. It was odd, I didn’t really like it. I thought it looked quite cool, very Viking like but it wasn’t long before I shaved the beard of and went back to just having long hair.

Then in the early twenty-teens I walked into a hairdressers with my hair as long as it ever gets and said, ‘Top of the ears please.’ and kept it short until the obligations of life in 2020 suggested that I let it grow again and quite frankly, I was happy with that. Also in 2020 the beard made a short-lived reappearance.

Now, in 2021, my hair is well on its way to being at its extreme length and once again I’ve let my beard grow so I’m going for the full-on rock star/Viking look. And some may say that I’m just being lazy and that not caring about how you look is the thin end of the wedge and before long I’ll stop washing…
Others may say that you can become obsessed with self-image and it’s damaging.

Well, I have no intention of stopping my daily washing, and hair care has become an even more involved procedure; but for the present, hairy-beardy man is here and I have to say that I’m growing quite fond of him.

And talking of genetics, well, I did touch upon it earlier, I still – obviously – have hair on my head. My dad, now in his 88th year, bless him, still has a lot of hair on his head and some of it is still dark. Dad had very dark hair, mom was a redhead.

There are five of us siblings, I’m the eldest, then there’s my brother Michael, and three sisters, Elizabeth, Alison and Jacqueline. All of us, apart from my middle sister Alison, had ginger hair. I say ‘had’, over the years colours have faded… Alison had dark hair, not jet black but darker than any of us other children, she also had a different skin-tone, not very different, but different. With Alison, my father’s genes had won the battle. With the rest of us, my mother’s genes had won and something in that genetic mix has allowed us two boys to keep our hair.

Several years ago, I went to a school reunion at Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted, where I met a lot of grey-haired old men with various stage of hair loss – boys I’d been at school with, in the same year. Given that I was one of the two eldest children in the ‘year’ by virtue of having a birthday in September, did I just get lucky with my youthful, good looks and flowing locks?
Even now I look at blokes who I know are contemporaries of mine and wonder how hard a paper round they must have had to be looking so… old.

Obviously, now I’m all beardy again I too am looking older but I never seem (to myself at least) to look as old as other blokes my age – with the exception of a few people I could mention, but won’t.
Oh, alright, a guy I’ve known since I was 5 years old and he too still has a fine head of long hair.)

I can’t ever remember worrying or even thinking about that one day I might be bald, it just never played on my mind. Maybe deep down inside at some basic but unconscious level, I knew I wouldn’t be.
Hirsute, what a word…
I’ve been hirsute since puberty, and since my mid thirties or so I’ve seemed to get even more hirsute. When I have short hair, I have to shave the back of my neck as hair from my back grows up my neck and merges into the hair on the back of my head – almost.

Nose hair, again, since puberty I’ve always done battle with stray protuberances from my nostrils but in the past ten years or so another joy has come to visit me. Wild eyebrows, which thankfully are also very light in colour, but they have begun to morph into ‘old man’ eyebrows, wild and uncontained. The left one seems to be trying to mimic one of Mister Spock’s eyebrows, albeit in the lighter colour and both have developed bands of darker hair which makes it look like I’ve been dabbling with eyebrow pencil.

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen…


Hairy, beardy bloke

One thought on “Barnet Fair

  1. Hallo Blondie
    Lucky you. I have never had long hair – as a child my mother made me have it really short – pudding bowl style and only when i was eighteen was I allowed to grow it a bit – and then it never came below my shoulders. when I lived in Spain EVERYONE had long hair in 1974 -of the girls that is. my landlady’s daughter was a hairdresser, and one day, when I was upset about something – I can’t remember what, I asked her to cut my hair. and she did. All of it. I had to wear a headscarf for the next three months as it looked worse than ever!
    Now in my old age, when I am at liberty to have it as I like -it’s great. its pure white but I dye it blue black. it’s quite fine and begun to be curly. i wash it every day but I can’t be bothered to brush it so I look like the wild man of Borneo mostof the time. Or, as the resident of the care home which I run once put it “who is that scarecrow that has just arrived?”

    Liked by 1 person

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