My hairdresser, let’s call her ‘Helen’, is a lovely lady. I talk to her and my nail technician more than I do some friends and members of my family. But we’ve only spoken twice in recent months. Once when she called me to cancel my haircut booked in for the week we went into lockdown. The second was the day hairdressers received the news they could open doors again.
Helen phoned. Anxious. Nervous. Relieved. Excited. Exhausted. You could hear it all in her voice. If we are honest, we will both tell you we even got a bit emotional. Just the small act of being able to visit a hairdresser is important for a lot of women and should never be underestimated – it’s almost a form of therapy. But if you ask, we’d insist our wobbly voices and teary eye were down to hay fever and peri-menopause!
We laughed on the phone about the lockdown trims that had been attempted by many and resulted in disaster by most. Then there I was, all booked in for a much-needed trim and colour. Oddly my un-dyed roots upset me far more than the usually hidden grey hairs.
We spoke at great length about all the COVID procedures she was going to put in place. Helen is a proud woman and has worked hard to build up a successful business, but even she admitted that this situation made her think about what else she could do better.
She was worried about the cost of it all. As a customer, we don’t think about the day-to-day costs for the business owner to provide their services – all we think about is the damage that a full head of foils, cut and blow-dry will do to our bank balance. Helen was faced with a real dilemma here. She runs a small salon, employing one junior stylist and renting out a couple of chairs to self-employed stylists.
Between them all and a few carefully managed shifts, they all earn a decent wage. COVID-19 changed all that. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this means her capacity means a big drop in clients each day. Add to this the extra cost for PPE both for staff and customers so we all remain safe.
The smallest price increase she felt she could add was £3. She was dreading telling me. I had to remind her that she was providing a service not a charity and that any reasonable person would understand.
So, what does a post-COVID-19 hair do feel like? It’s no different really. OK, so not exactly the same. I admit that when I arrived and she came to the door with sanitiser in one hand and a temperature gun in the other, I did burst out laughing and proclaim ‘Fuck me Helen! You look like a stormtrooper!”. She was wearing a head visor with a face mask under that, like you see on medical staff in hospitals. Her body was covered in a disposable gown.
I had to wear a face mask too, along with a disposable gown and towel. She wipes down all surfaces and touch points between customers. We can’t touch anything in the salon. No drinks. No magazines. No blow-drys. She won’t even answer the phone while she is working to keep contact to a minimum.
Once we got over the giggles and started talking about the colour I wanted, it was just like before. But quieter. Just me, Helen and a radio. Paying was done carefully and safely. No appointment card for the next visit – the date just went straight into my phone. And that was it. A little bit of normality back in my life and green shoots of a much-loved business back in hers.