1976 Xmas Perm. A Family Salon
I was in the 3rd year of secondary school. A 13 year old with a perm and I was not the only one, Footballers and pop stars had made perms for men and boys popular. I was one of the first but I was always curly so people thought they were natural. I got no bother from my school mates for my hair unlike those to turned up for school on a Monday morning with a fresh Curly perm. Some of the geekiest lads turned up with their perms and became overnight some of the most sought after lads with the girls... curls get the girls. Those with “natural” perms and straight hair had to work a bit harder for girls attention.
At school one of the smokers hideaways was at the back of the sports block, with great views of any approaching teachers and a few get away routes. There I had the chance to talk with some of the perm converts. Lads talking about their perms was great stuff to listen to. Some guys just had the one perm, that experience was bad enough. Others took to the new look and took a lot of pride in looking after the curls. They discussed which conditioner was best, which salons to go to and ones to avoid and why ...interesting. I was asked what it was like to have curly hair all the time...they really had no idea. The girls reacted very well to the new hair dos, but some lads just had what it took with or without a perm. David was a perm critic, he was one of those lads who did not need a perm to get girls. He was in the 5th and final year, a prefect, immaculately dressed, perfect straight hair, not a hair out of place (a bit of hairspray I think) and a pick of any of the best girls in the school. They were falling off his arms. At the smokers hideaway all year groups gathered in all weathers with the common purpose of a bad habit and not getting caught. So we all bonded and got on very well.
We broke up for Christmas, and it was perm time for me and mum. Mum had been the previous Saturday 18th Dec for her cut, perm and high hair set. Personally she got scalped, very short for her. My appointment was booked at Ian’s Hairdressing with Ian for the Monday 20th December 1976 at 1.30pm .
My appointment had been booked in for weeks beforehand and I had a long wait until the magical day. I showed up on time and with being near Christmas the shop was very busy, a bit too busy for my liking. Something I was not looking forward to but I never said no to my perm appointments. I took my coat off hung it on the stand and sat near the reception desk waiting my turn. I desperately looked round for anyone I knew, but no one.. great, my secret is safe yet again. The shop had 4 customers in at various stages of perming and setting. My hair was permed at half term and would have lasted into well into January, but every one gets their hair done for Christmas and here I was not complaining.
Ian was very busy and his wife Susan came over and asked me to go into the back for a shampoo. I followed her in and she gowned me, as I turned around she introduced me to David who will wash my hair.... yes David from the smoking hide-out at school. He looked more shocked than me, not his image washing hair in a ladies hairdressers. I said hello, he acknowledged me by nodding. Susan asked him to shampoo me for a perm, he laughed and said “you are having a perm” in a hard voice. I said no ones supposed to know. Susan left, I sat down in the chair and David towelled me and told me to sit back in the chair and put my head back.
We chatted and it turned out that he is their son and helps out in the shop now and then. When ? I had never seen him in there ever and I regarded myself as a regular. He said, “no real hairdressing just a bit of hair washing, mixing chemicals, the teas and coffees”. He said he is working every day till Xmas as they were very busy. I said I can see. David said they had opened very early and had been really busy, but there are only 2 customers to come in this afternoon a cut and perm (me) and a cut, colour and set. He kept saying I can’t believe “this” is a perm, meaning my hair. He said he should have guessed. He asked how long had I had a perm. I said years. He said “really” . While he was washing my hair I asked him what his mum meant by shampoo for a perm, he explained that it was a double shampoo and no conditioner as it affects the perm.
I took the opportunity to ask a few questions I had from my many previous visits. There were two doorways in the shampoo room apart from the one to the shop. I asked what was in there. He said one was a staff area the other was a men’s section. A room for the male clients. He went over to the door way,parted the curtain and put the light on... there was a little room with a styling chair, mirror and a black domed hair-dryer with its own attached padded chair, different to the dryers in the shop. I asked who uses that, he said it is for gents who want dyes and laughing said curly perms. I said I did not know that room was there. He wondered why I did not get my hair done in there. I said I just go in the shop. He said most blokes wont sit in the shop with it being a ladies hairdressers. Ah I see. But I have never seen another male client ! Had there been customers in the gents room all this time and I had not noticed. ?
My hair was washed and he tried to comb through my previous perm. He said oh yes you have straight bits. He went into the shop came back soon after and said they are going to do you in the shop. I walked through and Ian pointed at a chair and I sat down. I waited till he finished his client then he pulled over a trolley of perm rods and started to wind my hair. No haircut ! I saw David at the wash area doorway smoking ! and laughing shaking his head. I laughed, Ian asked me how I know David, I explained we were at the same school.
It took Ian about 40 mins to put all my hair on all brown perm rods. I went in the wash area where David looked surprised seeing me in my curlers. I sat at the backwash. He started laughing and said this just gets better. Ian put towels round me and some cotton wool round the rods and told David what lotion to use … a number one and went back into the shop. David asked are you sure you want this doing. I said get on with it. He have me a towel “for any drips” I heard him laughing as if he was having a good time. I raised my head as he went round the back with the liquid. He said put your head back, I looked up at him, he was grinning and said keep your head back and continued applying the lotion. I was getting a bit annoyed and looked at the ceiling. It was not that funny. I heard the squirting as the last on the solution in the bottle was used. He asked me to stay back over the basin for a bit. He went into the shop. He soon came back and said I think you are going to be put under a dryer. Ian came in and replaced the cotton wool. put a plastic cap over my head and put about 10 hair clips securing the bag to the surrounding cotton wool. David appeared from the beaded curtain and held the curtain open. Ian said you can use the dryer in the gents room if you like. I was not too sure, I like going into the shop. David waved me over and I went in the room. The dryer was already switched on as he lifted the visor. I turned and sat down. The visor was lowered and David put his thumb up, grinned and left. I was in a small gents room and I could not see myself under the dryer. The mirror was in the wrong place. This was not going well and my secret was out. I sat there and the dryer became very hot, much hotter than the shop dryers.
The beaded curtain parted and David gave me a lit cigarette and left. He came back with an ashtray, he pulled the styling chair round and sat opposite me and kept look out..just like school ! His parents were ok with him smoking but not me I don’t think. He must have thought I looked stressed. I was. My perm routine had been wrecked. He brought me a cup of tea as well and sat with me for a while. Neither of us could talk over the noise of the dryer, I think he knew that and did not try. I had no idea how many minutes had passed, all I knew was I was about to pass out under this dryer. I tried to tell him the dryer was really hot. He left and Ian came in and took me out of the dryer. He checked my curls. The stink of the perm lotion was strong and he said oh yes your are done. I thought that was quick. but there was no clock so I was not sure how long I was under for. I went into the wash room and David was there and rinsed me off.
Ian came in and took over from David, who must have gone as I did not see him after that. Ian neutralised the perm and I went back into the shop where there was just one customer having green and white setting rollers put in by Susan. I had a hair cut, my curls styled and was left with a wetter look than usual, just catching a great view of the customer being put under the dryer before paying and leaving. I was a bit envious of that lady thinking that should have been me going under that dryer.
My new curls were a lot firmer than usual, which I thought was better in the end, but I was very worried it would look too different when I went back to school. I did not have to worry, no none noticed my tighter curls anyway.... it was a good perm and lasted till the Easter holidays with two hair cuts in between.
David never let on about my curls, but always gave me a knowing smirk when we passed in the school corridors and chatted more than normal at the smokers hideaway.
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