The past few months have been hard on us all, and we have the hair clipper burns to prove it. Some have enlisted their partners as emergency hairdressers, while others have opted for the DIY approach, but we’ve all arrived at the same result: shonky cuts, patchy fades and grisly battle scars.
So when can we expect to be reunited with our beloved barbers? Boris Johnson stated in early May that hairdressers wouldn’t be returning to work until 4 July, but the Telegraph has revealed that they could technically be opening their doors as early as 15 June. A government insider reportedly told the newspaper, “Hairdressers were supposed to be the next thing. Boris has talked about unleashing the great British haircut again. It would be treated under similar rules to dentists.”
(What is the ‘great British haircut’, anyway? A Peaky Blinders undercut? A St George's Cross buzzed into your crown? Any haircut that’s followed by a sad and reluctant “yeah that’s great thanks mate that’s perfect mate cheers”?)
There’s a catch, of course. If salons do open in mid-June, it’ll only be for ‘click and collect' services – the purchase of gels, matte clays and the like. Actual barbering services are still pencilled in for early July as part of Phase 3, as the government reaffirmed this week. No amount of depressingly popular petitions or placards will change that. You might be able to stop by your barbers and ask for some tips on your at-home technique, but we can’t imagine their advice will stray too far from “for the love of God, stop.”
It's not fun looking like a scruff on Zoom, but barbers are the real victims here. Cesar Cardoso, a hairdresser from London, has no idea how the next few months will play out. "We are in limbo at the present. We are hoping the shops will open mid-July, but there are so many talking about the logistics of it," he tells me. "Will we need disposable gowns? How many people will be allowed in the shop? Will walk-ins be taken or just by appointment? We don’t know."
The same is true for barbershop owners. "We think it is very unlikely that we will open before 4 July," says Andrew Cannon, CEO of Ruffians. "Have you seen Boris’s hair, even on a good day? He clearly doesn’t give a shit about barber shops, so we wait."
According to Cannon, industry bodies (like the National Hair and Beauty Federation, and Hair and Barber Council) lobby parliament on behalf of the industry, but business owners generally hear about reopening plans at the same time as the rest of us.
The government has warned that businesses, including hairdressers, “may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections”. Barbers, much like every other business that places people within close proximity to each other, will have to implement safeguards.
So how will that actually look?
What are the health guidelines for barbers and hairdressers?
Barbers haven't yet been given strict guidelines on what precautions to take, but many barbers have been preparing over lockdown.
Qas Ali, of SUĀVE Male Image & Grooming in Peterborough, tells me that he has been taking notes from barbers abroad, implementing temperature checks upon arrival, face masks and shields, gloves, regular work station disinfection and the use of hand sanitiser between each job. Customers will also be expected to wash their hair thoroughly beforehand, wear a mask (before they come into the building), use sanitiser, only bring one child in at a time and socially distance from other customers. "We will not be using the cut throats to do any beard trims either," he tells me.
Meanwhile, Ruffians barbershops have making plans and gathering the necessary PPE equipment. "We’ve made everything touch-less or disposable so our clients feel the safest," Cannon says. "One thing we are very proud of is that it is possible they could walk into their appointment with their hands in their pockets and walk out the same way without ever having removed them because we have a pre-pay app, like Uber."
How can I support my barber?
If they have grooming products on sale, that's one way. Equally, you could buy gift vouchers. If your barbers has a waiting list, join it now (although you might already be too late).
More than 60 per cent of hairdressers in the UK are freelancers, which makes them ineligible for the furlough scheme (extended until October) but allows them to claim self-employed government support. According to Cannon, who put Ruffians' barber on furlough, it's become abundantly clear that full-time contracts are more beneficial.
"There has long been a conversation in the industry which is better for everyone: employed or self-employed. We now know the answer: employed," he says. "The self-employed barbers have had a terrible time, most are on universal credit and sadly some are even already out there cutting hair illegally because they are desperate and need to put food on their tables. It’s a very tough situation for all. The sooner we all open safely, the better."
Qas's Peterborough salon has been hit hard by the lockdown. "The government funding did help but it does not come close to what we or our staff would be earning," he says. "We also had to continue to pay our full rent to our landlord. It's been a testing time, mentally."
Will they be able to fix your terrible barnet?
"Good point – we’ve seen some hilarious videos of DIY hair disasters," says the Ruffians boss. "We know we can fix anything that walks through the door and love a challenge, so we say bring it on."
One interesting aspect to emerge from the lockdown could be a shift to long hairstyles, as people may have grown been accustomed to more length.
"We’d love to see more mid and long length creativity with crops, texture, grunge and Nineties Kurt Cobain styles taking centre stage," says Cannon. "We expect there will be those who embrace the change. But we also can't wait to put those killer fades back where they once belonged."
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