CHAPTER 4:

PROMOTED TO JUNIOR STYLIST…..MID 1963

In those days a junior stylist was the polite way of saying dogsbody. Is it the same today? Probably. We knew how the salon worked, we could cut, set, colour & perm but weren’t trusted to do any paying customers’ hair unless all the senior stylists were busy.

The worse thing from my perspective was that a lot of the hairdressers who worked for us at the time were journeymen; that is, they’d finished their basic training somewhere else, worked around a bit & then came to Robert Fielding because they knew that it was such a busy salon that new staff were needed all the time.

We were doing at least 100 new clients every week, mostly tourists, & therefore a continuous supply of new stylists was needed. They’d stay around for six or nine months & then move on with West End experience on their CV’s which then, as now, really meant something.

So by mid-end 1963 I was feeling a bit un-loved. I was earning around £5 per week, living at home & spending my wages on fares & anything that was left I spent in Carnaby Street. The only clients that I was allowed to do were those either no one wanted to do, or direct recommendations. Usually we were given the odd new client late in the evening when the established stylists were either too busy or they simply refused to take them.This indirectly led me to the next stage of my infamous hairdressing career.

Two things stick in my mind. The first was that great day when Franz, my mentor & the first senior stylist I worked with, went on holiday & recommended me to one of his clients. On that fateful day, Mrs. X came into the salon, showed me a picture of the new haircut she wanted & then it happened! I just couldn’t help myself! My only response was “I’m only a simple hairdresser, not a bloody magician”! Crikey, she was ugly!

The following day I was told to see the manager to discuss a phone call he’d taken earlier. A client had phoned to complain about something her stylist had said to her, wouldn’t say who the hairdresser was, but because I was always cheeky, the manager knew exactly who’d said it. Let’s face it, I only spoke the truth!

The second thing that influenced my career at that time I referred to earlier. Time after time I was thrown the clients no one else would do because it was too late or they were going out to do some shopping. You know how it is. Anyway, one evening, late 1963, I was downstairs in the salon combing out one of my clients whilst I still had 2 more under the drier, when one of the juniors came down to tell me I had a request client sitting in reception & could I do her hair now? I excused myself from the client, ran upstairs, took one look at the person waiting, turned round to the receptionist & said “sorry, but I’ve still got 3 people to finish & I’ve got something special to do this evening”.

I actually had two good reasons for refusing the client; I was going to ask my girlfriends’ father if I could marry his daughter & didn’t want to leave the salon too late, but the real reason was that I’d done this ladies’ hair the previous week & she tipped me 6d. That was probably the equivalent of 50p today. My ego wouldn’t stand for that! Would yours?

I ran downstairs quickly followed by my boss Mr. Fielding, & as I picked up my brush to finish my comb-out he yelled at me “your clients’ being shampooed & she’ll be down in a few minutes”. Oh yeah! With that I chucked my brush down, marched into the staffroom, picked up my coat & walked out. The lady I was combing-out sat there like she’d just been electrocuted, a mass of back-combed hair & no one to finish her. It didn’t bother me however, I had more important things on my mind!

What I’ve failed to mention is that I’d just bought my first car, a Fiat 500, on HP (now referred to as leasing), now had no job & my future father-in-law, whose daughter I wanted to marry, wasn’t going to be very impressed. Still, nothing gets in the way of true love & Bonnie & I celebrate our 49th Wedding Anniversary this June. The lesson I learned that day was don’t throw away dirty water until you’ve got clean.

Now the serious stuff begins!

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