I used to give the occasional haircut to small children who didn’t like going to the hairdresser; indeed for years going to the barber with Middle was an ordeal of screaming. My career as a home barber really began in earnest two years ago when the teenager decided to freelance with scissors on his own hair. He came home one day from school and took off his hoodie and I, caught completely unawares, screamed. He had given himself an extremely ragged haircut with unappealing bits of scalp showing. I went out and bought a clipper kit on sale for $19.99. When he got home from school the next day I tidied it as best I could. This was challenging since his hair is very thick and curly and almost as difficult to cut as a slinky. A few weeks later his little brother needed a haircut and I decided to try the clippers on him as well. It was a hot day. I set up a stool in the backyard but I didn’t use a cape because it was so hot. Big mistake. After a few minutes of using the clippers all the little tiny bits of hair clung to his sweaty skin and made him itchy. I managed to calm him briefly but then he lurched off the stool, screamed at me, “You are the worst hairdresser in the world!” and ran around to the front of the house still screaming, clad only in underpants. I coaxed him back, flung a sheet around him and finished the haircut. In my defense I can say that it was not the worst haircut ever given in the world. I do better ones now but still, it was not bad. He had just enough time to take a bath before soccer. I however did not and got to bike children to soccer and enjoy the prickles of hair on my skin until we got home about 3 hours later and I dashed into the shower.
One might think this would put me off doing haircuts at home but no, I pressed on. I continued to give haircuts to the boys and trimming Little’s bangs. I was further inspired by a friend of mine whose hair always looks great. She told me she cut it herself with the help of YouTube.
My hair is thick and wavy to curly depending on the relative humidity and the length of my haircut. I have very rarely had a haircut in a salon that I thought was worth it. It ended up being at least $50 for something that no one ever noticed. No one, that is, unless I gave into the blandishments of the stylist who wanted to blow my hair out. I don’t know what it is about the people who cut hair but the dominant thought is that straight hair is normal and all other hair is weird. Thus when a stylist gets her hands on wavy hair she is overcome by the urge to make it straight and therefore normal. My hair is not straight, it will never be straight and I think I look peculiar and not normal with straight hair. Instead of booking an appointment, I did a search on YouTube For how to cut, really just trim, wavy hair. So now every few months I put my hair in a ponytail, flip it over the top of my head then cut the end of the ponytail off. (There, I have ruined the mystique of my coiffure.) My hair looks exactly the same as it always did and cost me no money, and no time having to make conversation in a salon chair. Many of these conversations involved me explaining why I chose to do a Ph.D., or why I was staying home with my children, or saying again no thank you I don’t want to dye my prematurely gray hair which is in great shape and perhaps not uncoincidentally strangely undamaged by chemicals. Exhausting.
And then just over a year ago I was reading Mr. Money Mustache, a frugality blog I find quite amusing. MMM suggested one might save a lot of money by cutting one’s own hair. He was directing that towards men but I thought we could save money if I cut the spouse’s hair. His initial reaction was horror but I managed to convince him to let me try it once. By this point I was cutting the boys’ hair regularly with no incidents so I thought the risk was low. I got out the clippers one summer day and we haven’t looked back since. I cut it about every 6 weeks. He has received no comment from people at work other than teasing after a recent promotion that he is now getting new executive haircuts.
I enjoy giving my family haircuts. Perhaps it’s a primal grooming thing, but I enjoy feeling the texture of the hair and seeing the adorable necks of the children. I now know where I have to cut a little closer to avoid sticky-uppy bits when the hair is growing. I also enjoy mastering a new skill. I used to have no clue about barbering and now I am deft enough to do it even one-handed as I did last weekend since I just broke my wrist.
I think it’s worth a try for anyone. Clippers and good scissors are not that expensive and as my mother said when my little sister cut off all her bangs, “Oh well, at least it will grow back.” Results can be much better than that, however. My proudest moment was giving Little a wedge cut last summer that kept her neck cool during hours and hours of soccer. I’m also delighted that our hair cutting budget is $0.