The World of Hairdressing in a COVID Existence
From face mask fashion to hair salon etiquette, our industry needs to change rapidly.
No one on the frontlines of the hair industry really wants to talk about a pandemic. I don't mean influencers like Brad Mondo who have the luxury of being able to stay at home and review TikTok hair tutorials for income. I mean your regular shmegular hair dressers at Fantastic Sam's who have to service 10 clients a day to make a livable wage.
We're not super thrilled to about talking about an airborne virus while we stand approximately 10 inches away from your face trying to get your bangs cut evenly. But we have to, otherwise there's a good chance basic common sense and human decency fly out the door.
Yet, even with all our explanation as to why we can't wash your hair in the bowl for your appointment or even why you need to wear a basic dollar store mask, there's still a stunning lack of respect on all fronts. Everyone saw clients on the streets begging for haircuts again and hoped maybe, just maybe, we would finally get treated like the professionals that we are. That hope was crushed like 9 year old me when I found out Raven Symone wasn't actually psychic in real life. Except, you know, this time it has deadly implications.
Cosmetologist friends I've made across the country through subreddits and Instagram have been pleading with their clients, too. A friend from Texas who wants to remain anonymous wrote, "I love my clients. I don't love that I've been going from work and home exclusively....just to hear a lot of y'all are not social distancing and going out to parties unmasked...I'm respectful to you by not taking new clients, not taking walk-ins, only taking half the appointments I normally would just for you to come in my chair after you just had a lil kiki with 200 of your best friends? And you don't want me to be mad? You want me to keep servicing you?"
The fact of the matter is, many of your hairdressers don't have health insurance. A lot of beauty professionals are glad to be back at work, but we're all too aware of the risk. And many of our clients are all too aware that doing hair is a valuable skill, because a lot of you are looking extremely brassy after your lockdown box dye adventures. It just seems like we're not valuable enough for you to slap on your mask for a Target run or skip out on mimosas with the girls.
What's important, though, is normalization of the mask. Which sounds like a tagline for a low budget A24 sci-fi thriller, but it's true. Widely followed hairdressers like @pinkdagger have consistently posted before and after photos with masks! Which doesn't seem like a big deal but there are far too many stylists having clients pull the mask down or only shooting from the back, where the mask is out of view. It sounds dumb but....monkey see monkey do. If our clients see amazing cuts and color on clients with masks, they'll start to envision their own hair with a mask as an accessory.
I think that's our best bet: employing masks as accessories. Incorporating peek-a-boo bangs and face frames that help frame face masks. Working with colors that compliment masks if your client is wearing black masks only, or has a certain color theme of masks they wear. For the first time in the history of hairdressing in America, everyone (well, hopefully everyone) has a piece of fabric on their face. Instead of viewing it as a nuisance to your typical style or routine, view it as a challenging advantage.
Masks have to now become a part of salon etiquette. It needs to become as part of the routine as asking about hair history. Some salons and artists are taking it as far as providing masks for clients so there is no excuse for anyone to be mask-less. Obviously, not all of us can do that, especially if we rent booths or freelance, but that opens the door to the bigger conversation of how to say no.
It's not always something we learn in cosmetology school. We basically know that if a client comes in with sores or lice we can't service them, but does lack of a mask constitute the same biohazard as open wounds and little parasites? Yes! Yes! Most absolutely yes! Even if it's a friend, or a loved one, or a client you've serviced for years, turn them away at the door with a smile and assure that you'd love to work with them when they have a mask available.
Don't be afraid to lose clients right now. I know money and lack thereof is terrifying to consider right now, but before you work on someone without a mask, think about how much you'll make from the service. Say $100 max. One day on a ventilator is $400, and rarely if ever is someone on a ventilator for just one day. Especially if you're not protected by a salon, it can be scary to turn someone down, now that masks are somehow a political statement. No one wants their Yelp and Instagram covered in hate messages and fake bad reviews. It's a potential loss of income much greater than $100, but it's also a potential loss of life.
This can't fall entirely on us. Clients, before you book your appointment, be honest with yourself and your stylist about your activities. Have you been to indoor restaurants? What did you do this 4th of July? How many times a week are you leaving the house? Most importantly, ask yourself if you really need a haircut right now. Is it so dire that you need 2 inches taken off and your bangs reshaped? Is getting your roots touched up worth possibly taking a life?
There's no easy way to talk about this, honestly. No one wants to be so grim all the time, no one wants to tell clients that they're a safety hazard when many clients are friends and family. The needs of every single client and hairdresser vary. But no one forgets everyone who was begging on Twitter for haircuts. You really couldn't do this without us, so treat us like it.
And no, a mask like this does not count.