LONDON: I am not altogether sure what the Great British haircut is but apparently there is one. Boris Johnson deployed the phrase while answering questions about when hairdressers might be free to trim the tresses of our increasingly shaggy society.
He hoped it would not be too long before he was able to “unleash the Great British haircut”. This, I have to be honest, is a fairly troubling image, calling to mind Mr Burns in The Simpsons telling his aide to “release the hounds”.
“Unleash the haircut” conjures up images of Britons being chased down the high street by a ferocious mullet. Are there heroes of the haircut? The Coiffeur of Agincourt? The Barber of Blenheim?
WHAT IS THE GREAT BRITISH HAIRCUT?
It is a very Johnsonian tick to stick the phrase “Great British” before almost any noun. I have lived here my whole life and I have literally no idea what a Great British haircut looks like – though, in fairness, I haven’t got that much idea what a great haircut looks like either, British or not.
Is a Great British haircut very expensive and delivered by a Nicky Clarke or a Vidal Sassoon, or is it very cheap and the work of Colin the Barber?
Before we moved house, I used to get my monthly trim at one such establishment in Shepherd’s Bush. I’m not sure it was great, but it was a haircut, it was definitely British and it was done by a man called Colin.
So, all things considered, I ought to have been one of the least troubled by the thought of a home haircut, although the last time I had one it involved my mother, a pudding bowl and a sudden dash to Edgware General Hospital with a small flap of my ear lobe hanging down.
On social media I saw many of my acquaintances making merry with the clippers. Twitter was replete with middle-aged men with buzzcuts.
And yet, still I hesitated. My hair is not my best feature, but the competition is not fierce.
I had, with typical organisational flair, failed to consider the issue ahead of lockdown. It soon began to oppress me.
Some men can rock long hair. I am not among them.
There was the illicit, secret snipper option, but it felt like too significant a breach of lockdown and not something I could easily explain to my wife.
Furthermore, it would be hard to insist on the spawn socially distancing with their friends when their father was engaged in covert crimpery.
READ: Commentary: From ‘stay home’ to ‘stay alert’ – confusion in Britain as COVID-19 lockdown eases
A DIY HAIRCUT
But first I needed a set of clippers, which were suddenly in very short supply.
The boy had one – but only with the shortest settings. I wanted something that would not leave me looking like an extra from This is England.
Finally, last week, a package from China arrived. Naturally, I was nervous.
Conservative MPs have warned of the risks of buying Chinese. What if Beijing was wirelessly monitoring every snip?
After watching tutorials on YouTube, I learnt how to hold another mirror while cutting so I could see the back of my head, though mainly I just saw my ear. And so, with the most forgiving setting, I began to shear.
The clippers buzzed into life and I prepared to join the heroes of the Great British haircut – the Crimper of Crécy, the Stylist of Trafalgar – and take my place among them.
At first, I seemed to struggle; large amounts were coming off but no good shape was emerging through the thickets.
Like the Light Brigade, I charged on. Half a lock, half a lock, half a lock onward.
The girl returned from a walk to declare that I had given myself a “side mullet”. I sensed from her tone that this was not a good thing.
The criticism stung because she had previously clipped the back of her brother’s head in a way that offered a possible explanation for the phenomenon of crop circles.
Nonetheless, I enlisted her help with the back, even though her last grooming effort was to dye the boy’s hair blue.
Through luck and trepidation the thing just about worked out. The fiddly bits were solved through the cunning expedient of combing them behind the ears.
I can’t say it is great, but it will do. My hair is short, boxy and pretty much the same as it has been since I was about 15.
In other words, it’s a Great British haircut.