While attending high school in Germany, during the late 80’s, I became mesmerized by New Wave and Goth culture. I felt a strong desire to look like every member of the bands I listened to. Especially my favorites, Depeche Mode and The Cure. This led to my inevitable experimentation with cutting and coloring my hair.
Ruining the bathroom rugs in my parent’s house became a rite of passage for me. A couple of bottles of medicinal hydrogen peroxide and two hours of blow-drying gave me the best shade of orange marmalade anyone had ever seen. Looking back at how hideous a color that actually was, I can laugh at myself now. At the time I was pretty proud of my pumpkin spice latte locks…
The Barber Shop
One fateful day, I headed to the military barber shop with five dollars in my hand. It was time to have my artwork trimmed up. As I sat in the chair, a German woman zipped and snipped around my head with a combination of scissors and clippers. She worked so fast…
With all the gyrations around my head and the manipulations of the strands, I was sure she would transform my home dye job into a salon-prepared pièce de résistance.
Because she had the chair turned away from the mirror, I had to trust that my awesome new look would be revealed to me at home. I don’t even think I peeked at her handiwork before I left.
As soon as I got home, I looked into the mirror to check it out. Nothing could prepare me for the devastation.
It had been about a month since I’d colored it and the roots had grown out quite a bit. All around the top of my head where the barber pinched my hair together, I found massive potholes in the “blonde” parts. This exposed the near black natural color at the roots.
It could only be described as a chainsaw hair massacre. I really wasn’t sure what to do about it, and I definitely was not going back to the barbershop.
For my summer job, I did some yard work including clipping hedges. It dawned on me that I might be able to apply my hedge clipping skills to my own head. So, I had my dad take me on to the Air Force base to buy a set of hair clippers.
Somehow, I was able to shave and shape my way into a decent haircut. It only took three hours due to my OCD (Obsessive Cutting Disorder), but it was worth it. Being able to salvage the lighter color in the front was a bonus.
After that, I vowed never to pay for another haircut again.
My hair got some attention in school. When I explained what happened, my friends were amazed that I fixed it myself. When others began to ask me to do their hair as well, a light bulb came on.
Maybe, this was my passion.
Maybe, this is what I was born to do.
After I graduated high school, I spent the next five years in the Army. They shaved my head in basic training, but it was free. So I feel like I didn’t break my vow. Once I got to my unit, haircuts were mandatory. There was a choice to go to the Post Barber Shop or continue with my decision of cutting my own hair.
One of the infamous barbers had been named “Hatchet Addie” because of how terrible she was. Guys were coming back describing their cuts, using phrases like; butchered, slaughtered and mangled. These comments made the choice easy for me.
When others found out that I was able to do my own hair, the word spread quickly that if you wanted a better haircut than “Hatchet Addie,” I was the guy to see. Making my fellow soldiers look professional was something I really enjoyed.
Of course, there were a few times when some soldiers got into a bind.
One night before an inspection, some of the medics tried to shorten their hair with surgical scissors. It didn’t help that they were drunk. A knock on my door followed by a slurred, “I heard you could fix this..?” greeted me when I opened the door. It didn’t matter though, I thoroughly enjoyed cutting hair regardless of the circumstances.
After leaving the Army, I decided to pursue my dream of being a professional hairdresser.
My original plan upon attending cosmetology school in 1993 was to blow everyone away with my self-taught skills, and then become famous. I would charge $500 for each haircut, like they do in Hollywood, and have everyone name-drop me like I was a pair of bedazzled designer jeans or one of those overpriced purses.
Isn’t that everyone’s plan?
Because I loved what I was learning, I excelled in all my classes. At times I found myself helping others when they were struggling with certain things. Students teaching other students wasn’t something they condoned, and I was quickly told to let the instructors do the teaching. However, this did not go unnoticed.
Halfway through my training, I was approached by the owner of Capitol, the late Lyal McCaig. His exact words to me were, “I want to see you take the Instructor Program.” In my head I thought, No way, that will derail my plan to be famous. Of course, I didn’t say this to him. My response was, “I’ll think about it.”
The Cosmetology program was forty-hours a week and about a year long. In order to pay for school and make sure I had all my bills covered, I worked in the evenings and weekends at a retail job as well as a food service job. More schooling after all of that did not seem enticing.
As I thought about it some more, I realized that Lyal McCaig was internationally known, well respected in this industry for his skill and considered a legend in his own right. If he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, then I needed to go with his recommendation.
Being famous could wait…
Stay tuned for parts two and three…