Aug 2, 2012 - General    3 Comments

How to cut hair

Will requires a haircut once a month. If he waits any longer than that, he ends up with clumps of hair sticking out in the wrong directions. I can always tell when he has breached 4 weeks because he permanently wears a baseball cap, even at dinner.

For the past two weeks, Will has not been seen without his baseball cap. However, on this occasion, the delay has been my fault.

We have been waiting until I finished work so I could go with Will to Tony’s Barbers to watch and learn. You see, in Zambia, I will be Will’s barber.

We explained the situation to Tony and asked if I could watch. It turns out Tony has not been taught the medical school adage “See one, do one, teach one” and is better acquainted with Nike’s “Just do it”. He thrust his trusty clippers into my hands and told me to get on with it!

I held the clippers nervously, but Tony barked encouraging words at me: “Don’t be scared of the clippers… Try, try… you can’t hurt him”. Tony had misunderstood, I was not worried about hurting Will at all. I was worried how bad his hair was going to look!

Learning to cut hair was not dissimilar to learning practical medical/surgical skills. This is not surprising when you consider the history of surgery. The medieval barber-surgeons did everything from cutting hair to extracting teeth, blood-letting and wound closure. It was not until 1745 that acts were passed to distinguish surgeons from barbers. So, all I was really doing was adding a new surgical skill to my logbook.

As you can see from the amount of focus on my face, I took the lesson very seriously.

My main learning points were as follows:

1) You can’t cut someone’s skin with the clippers if a guard is on,

2) Only use clippers on dry hair (otherwise the blades will rust),

3) Work against the direction of hair growth, otherwise it won’t cut,

4) Be firm and use consistent pressure, otherwise the finish will be uneven,

5) Cutting hair is very messy

Tony was a patient and kind teacher, and I want to say a big thank you to him for taking the time to do this. After my slow and careful attempt, I believed I had given Will a fairly decent haircut, and was pleased that I had learnt how to use clippers to give Will his 8 on the top and 4 on the sides.

Tony was very complimentary when I finished… but that didn’t stop him from going over it again and tidying it up (as seen in the photo below).

Not to worry, I hear that practice makes perfect, and if that’s not true, I’ve packed Will’s baseball cap just in case!




  • Hope you experience nothing more serious than
    a lack of a Barber shop.

  • Funny! The odd things one has to add to a To-Do List when going to some place like rural Africa. But at least “learning to cut Will’s hair” was officially checked off. (I’m a few days late in catching up with your blog.)

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