My Expensive Hair Cut

Last Friday, I picked up a scissor and shaved my head. After two months of letting the hair grow wild, until it looked like a terraced hillside, for it curled and formed rows on my head like tracks of a strange rodent. I feared to go to the barbers, or rather, I was fed up with visiting those barber shops.

A kinyozi, barber shop, in Kisumu, Kenya
A kinyozi, barber shop, in Kisumu, Kenya. The kind I normally go to.

I did try to go and get a proper shave on Tuesday, but that’s the day the barbers go on holiday. Or is it their superstition that they are not allowed to cut hair on a Tuesday? I know in some places, shops close on Mondays because it is bad luck to buy or try on a new cloth on a Monday, therefore the shopkeepers, foreseeing bad business, take a day off on that day. I forget which day is not good for travelling – Tuesday? Or visiting, or showing up at work for the first time. But Tuesdays you’ll never find a barber shop open. So last Tuesday when I found it locked, I lost whatever courage I had to get a proper shave.

And it takes a lot of courage for me, for the moment I sit on the barber’s stool, a crowd gathers, curious to see my hair. The barber will take his time, studying the hair, because this is like nothing he has ever seen before. And the crowd will touch my hair, a million fingers fondling my head to feel the texture of the hair. On more than two occasions, I have seen people pick up and take them home as souvenirs. Hopefully, they only use them for souvenirs and not for evil purpose, like witchcraft, or worshiping their gods, or something else I don’t know.

Getting my haircut in Iowa.
For the second time in my life, I encountered a female barber. This was at the University of Iowa, USA. The first I met in my home town, Tororo, around early 2000s, but she was working with her brothers in the shop, and she seemed to know how to actually shave a man. This lady in Iowa was a trainee student, at a beauty school, and it was the cheapest I could afford during my time there. It still cost me $14, and it was only a trim. Cutting hair in the US was stupidly expensive, the proper barber shops charging as much as $70 per cut. Insane, just. So I go to the student, and she does not even know where to cut, and keeps asking me what parts of my head to shave.

Well, by Friday, I was fed up of the way my hair looked. Not that these people care – they think it’s very cute hair. The girls especially love the way it curls, and the way the cornrows form themselves. Some boys asked me how much it costs me to make my hair like that, and for a minute I was tempted to make money out of them. Yet it amused me, that I leave my hair uncombed, and poorly kept, and uncut, for two whole months, and these people think it’s a fashion!

But the hair really bothered me, had started to itch, and while taking showers it consumed a lot of soap.

So I picked a pair of scissors and cut it off myself. A tedious task. I was sort of pleased with my work. No one mentioned anything to me. They wouldn’t tell the difference between badly cut hair, uncombed hair and poorly kept hair. To them, whatever is on my head is a very unique hairstyle that must have cost me a pretty good sum of money.

But then we come to this volunteer conference, and a fellow Ugandan asks me, ‘You man, did you use a knife to cut off your hair?’

That’s how bad it looks. I smiled and whispered to him to hush it, ‘You are the only one who knows that my haircut is awful. No one else does, so don’t tell them anything!’ He roared with laughter, but still kept mum.
Never in my life had I thought i would ever shave myself. Of course I shave in certain private areas :-)) but not the head. And not with a pair of scissors. My friends could not believe when I insisted I used scissors.
Maybe next time I will buy a shaving machine, for they say it cuts smooth and really nicely, so my head won’t look like I shaved it with a knife.

A kinyozi, barber shop, in Nairobi Kenya
A kinyozi, hair salon, in Nairobi. I was tempted to go inside, for it looked fancy, the fanciest and most romantic hair saloon I’ve ever seen, but I was in a hurry and never got the chance to cut my hair from here.

Note: This post was updated on 19 November 2018 with photos.

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