The Only Acceptable Cut

By Jim Morando

My younger brother Gary used to joke that we were the only kids who graduated Junior High School and didn’t know the color of our hair as it was always cut so short. My father kept his hair high and tight and was a firm believer in the one-hairstyle-fits-all for his three sons. In the summer our hair was brown as that was the color of our tan scalps. In the winter, when our tan faded, our heads took on more of a flesh-colored tone.

My father was not above going outside his family to recruit new members for the Show your Scalp Club, whether they knew they were joining or not. He and his good buddy, Mr. Sullivan, coached Little League and took the game of baseball very seriously. That was understandable, as they both spent time pitching for Major League farm teams after WWII.

One spring, a player showed up to the first practice with hair so long his ball cap wouldn’t fit on his head. My father told my older brother to run practice and took him to Joe the Barber and had him shorn. That day his single mom showed up 10 minutes after practice had ended and ran out on the field in a panic looking for her son. My father told her, “You just ran past him,” and shared that the first step to becoming a ball player was looking like one. That boy stayed with the team for years and each season for him began with a trip to get most of his hair removed.

The trips Gary and I took to Joe the Barber always ended in a similar way. We would make a brief request as to how we wanted our hair cut. A quick glance was exchanged between the two conspirators and in a few minutes the longest hair on our body was an eyebrow.

While I am an optimist by nature, I also believe things can always get worse. They did. My grandfather, who went through Ellis Island in the early 1900’s and opened the first barber shop in a nearby town, came out of retirement after two decades off. The hot Florida summers were getting to be too much for him, so he came up to spend what turned out to be his last summer with us on Long Island. He wanted to pay his keep so he brought his small barber bag that contained a comb, clippers, scissors and a razor strap. We got the first three items but we did not understand the fourth. He was a good teacher.

By then Grandpa was well into his 80’s and his hands shook a bit. We tried to sit perfectly still on the hot steel milk crate so we wouldn’t catch a racing stripe from the clippers or get impaled by the scissors. That did not help. One day he cut a small piece of the top of my ear off with his scissors. I couldn’t help squirming around and in his heavily-accented English he told me to sit still or I would get the strap. If you have ever cut your ear, you know it bleeds far out of proportion to its small size. Having to keep track of the duration of my very own hostage crisis by counting the drops of blood that hit my shoulder every two or three seconds is one of those memories that does not soften with the passage of time. After that episode, Gary and I had a real concern that we might bleed out before the summer ended.

We didn’t see him very much before he became our barber and in hindsight, I am glad we got to know him a little better before he passed. I still have the offending pair of scissors he left behind and an original chair from his Cold Spring Harbor barber shop. Today I wear my hair high and tight. In my humble opinion, nothing camouflages gray hair better than a flesh-colored scalp.

Editor’s note: We’re glad Jim has lived through every haircut he’s had so far—and you should be too. He’s the owner of African Sporting Creations, purveyor of hardy, handcrafted goods for the discriminating sportsman. He’s our go-to for everything from Courteney boots to British campaign furniture to authentic Zulu and Maasai weaponry.

From the FE Films Archive

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