Covert hairdressing in the Time of COVID
One of the most irritating things about Coronavirus Lockdown is not being able to get a haircut. I have a strong family history of baldness, and as I have got older my hair has become pretty thin on top. However, the same can’t be said for the back of my head, my neck, and around my ears. Recently, I have found that the length of the hair at the back of my neck determines when a visit to the local barber is indicated. We have now been in lockdown since 23 March, and I think I probably reached the point when I would normally have gone to the barber’s shop around 23 April. It is now 20 June, and things are getting pretty desperate!
My niece’s partner, Michael, is a hairdresser and he has his own, well established shop. He has not been allowed to cut hair since 23 March. It looks like hairdressers in England may be able to start working again on 4 July, but in Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon is coming out of lockdown more cautiously, it looks like hairdressing salons will not reopen until August. Michael is, understandably, extremely frustrated by this, but as far as I know he is sticking to the rules, and despite my increasingly chaotic hairstyle, it would never cross my mind to ask him if he would consider giving me a clandestine trim. It seems, however, not all hairdressers and their customers in the UK are sticking to the rules.
An article in The Guardian gives a detailed account of the seedy world of the secret lockdown hairdressers. Apparently, it is relatively easy to engage one via Gumtree, Facebook and Instagram. Even the hookup app Grindr includes barbers with a scissor emoji in their bio! Some hairdressers feel they are being forced to operate on an illicit basis for financial reasons, but others, who are better off, just seem to see the situation as an opportunity to make more money. Operating in this way may seem relatively harmless, but apparently a hairstylist in Missouri endangered more than 90 customers and colleagues by working while he had symptoms of infection with the virus. A hairdresser who had an asymptomatic infection could easily spread SARS-CoV-2 to a large number of people without being aware of it.
Hazards of illegal hairdressing in lockdown include not only being stopped by the Police, there is also the ever-present risk of being photographed or videoed and shamed on social media. Despite these risks, there seems to be no shortage of hairstylists or customers. Apparently, one of the factors driving the trend is customers wanting to look good on Zoom calls! One of my favourite lines from the article was the quote from a guy called Tony who says “My hair was awful. It made me look like Robert Peston.” It seems many of these hairdressers, and their clients, justify behaving in this way by saying “Nobody else is sticking strictly to the rules, so why should I?”. It is claimed that Dominic Cummings’ behaviour has helped in this self-justification.
Up till now, my lovely wife Wosog has been helping me out periodically with a trim: initially around my neck, and more recently around my ears. My neck is very close to needing her attention again. I dread to think what my hair will look like if I have to wait till August! Robert Peston may start to look rather stylish by comparison.