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Ross O’Carroll Kelly: ‘You are not giving me a combover – I’m a quiff goy’ – The Irish Times

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Illustration: Alan Clarke
Collie “Blinky” Foran has been cutting the hair of the O’Carroll-Kelly men for, I don’t know, generations? My old man first took me there when I was, like, three years old – just like his old man took him? And when it was time for Brian, Johnny and Leo to have their very first haircuts – blade one at the back and sides and a quiff at the front, as is traditional – it was in Blinky’s chair, in Hair Apparent, above the chandlery and marine supplies store on Monkstown Crescent, that the boys sat.
The dude is, like, ancient and he got his name from – obviously – his habit of, like, fully shutting his eyes when he blinks, which is every two seconds, so it’s like he’s trying to tell you something in Morse code. Blinky is an absolute ortist with a scissors and an electric shaver, which is saying something given that he spends half of his time cutting your hair in literally dorkness.
But Christmases, birthdays and Leinster Schools Senior Cup finals – he cut my hair for them all. He even did it on the morning of my wedding day.
Anyway, I’m in there with Brian, Johnny and Leo and there’s something I need to say to him, except I want to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the dude’s feelings.
“The last time I was in here,” I go, “you made a complete and utter balls of my hair.”
Okay, so much for that.
He goes, “What do you mean?” on the big-time defensive.
I’m there, “Don’t take this the wrong way. It’s the first time you’ve ever cut my hair and I haven’t been happy with it?”
He’s cutting Leo’s at the time and he looks genuinely crushed.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he goes.
Brian picks up the open razor and tries to slash Johnny’s orm with it. Boys being boys.
I’m there, “I don’t want to be – I think it’s a word – insensitive? But I’m wondering is it the blinking. It’s definitely getting worse.”
He goes, “What blinking?”
He, like, literally says that.
I’m there, “Er, you have, like, a nervous habit of blinking?”
He looks at me like he hasn’t got a Hazel Chu what I’m on about.
I’m there, “Dude, everyone calls you Blinky.”
“Do they?” he goes. “I’ve never heard that.”
Of course, now I feel like a total dick for mentioning it. I change the subject back to the mess he made of my hair the last day.
“I’m just making the point,” I go, “that a few days later, I noticed there were, like, humungous bald patches in it.”
He’s like, “That has nothing to do with me,” and he goes back to shaving the back of Leo’s head. “It’s because you’re losing your hair.”
“Are you only saying that because I told you your nickname was Blinky?”
“No, I’m saying it because it’s true. I’ve been watching it happen for about a year now. You’re going bald. Same as your father went bald. And your grandfather. Same as these three will go bald as well.”
“Fock you!” Leo goes, taking the words right out of my mouth.
I’m there, “So, what, you’re saying that’s your expert view – that I’m losing my hair?”
“It’s not the end of the world,” he goes.
I’m there, “That’s easy for you to say,” because the dude has hair like Elvis.
He goes, “I think it’s time I showed you… The Book.”
I’m like, “The Book?” and he opens the drawer in front of me and whips out – like he said – a book, a leather-bound one with, like, pages and pages of photographs in it.
He goes, “These are all styles I recommend to people who are going through what you’re going through.”
I’m there, “Does Jude Law come here?”
“No, it’s just an example of how you can hide a receding hairline by keeping your hair short and teasing the front of it upwards.”
“No, definitely not.”
He turns the page and goes, “What about this one?”
I’m like, “You don’t cut Caprio’s hair, do you?”
“No, all of these were printed off the internet by my daughter. See the way it’s slicked-back on top? Although you’d probably need to grow it out a bit first.”
“Not for me, Dude. What else?”
“Okay, what about this one?”
Matt Damon. ”
“Like you, he’s got the receding crown to hide, so he’s gone for what the yanks call the buzz cut. It’s a blade two all over. It would help minimize your baldness and draw attention to some of your, em, other features.”
“Why are you staring at my nose when you say that?”
“Well, I was thinking this style goes very well with a moustache or a beard. It’s a good way to draw the eye away from the area of, you know, concern.”
“What else have you got?”
“Okay,” he goes, turning the page again, “this is someone who does come in here,” and he shows me a picture of – yeah, no – my old man, except when he was younger? “This was the famous Charles when he was around the same age as you.”
I’m like, “You are not giving me a combover.”
“It’s not a combover,” he tries to go. “It’s just a case of, you know, making less do more.”
I’m like, “That is a focking combover. I should know. I spent my teenage years slagging him about it. I don’t want these three dickheads doing the same to me.”
“Please yourself. What about this one? Spikes are a good way to make your scalp less, em, visible.”
“Yeah, no, I’m too old to carry off the boyband look.”
He’s like, “What about a ponytail?” and that’s when I end up losing it. I stand up from the chair.
I’m there, “I’m sad to say it, Blinky, but this is the end of the road for us. A focking ponytail?
“That’s Orlando Bloom. ”
“I don’t care who it is. I’m a quiff goy – that’s what people expect when they look at me.”
“You don’t have it anymore, Ross. It’s gone.”
“Do you know who said that to me once? Declan Kidney. He said it about my rugby talent. I looked him in the eye and I went, ‘I am going to prove you wrong!’ And even though I didn’t, I’m saying the same thing to you. Brian, give Blinky his open razor back. We’re going somewhere else.”
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