After hairdressers and barbers across England were allowed to open their doors on July 4th, two writers share their experiences with going to the barbers. Months without a haircut has meant that many of us are looking forward to feeling more like ‘us’ again. James Palmer and Adam Agowun discuss the positive things that they experienced in their first post-lockdown trips to the barbers.
In England, 4 July will no longer be the day when we look out across the Atlantic and see the USA celebrate their Independence Day. From now on it will be remembered as the day that pubs, restaurants, cinemas, barbers and other places finally reopened for business. Regardless of the political and ethical context of the decisions and whether these places should be open or not, I decided to have an explore of my local area to see how things had changed.
I had booked my haircut in advance, picking up the last available time slot via an online booking to get my wildly long hair cut back to the point where I could finally see again, without the need for a hairband. I didn’t go to my usual barber, for the fact that no such online booking system was offered. Already, I think this shows a turning point reached in lockdown. Now more than ever, businesses big and small have all had to not only accept, but also embrace the digital revolution with both arms wide open.
My father had gone to our usual barber. Due to no online booking, there was a queue which required an hour and a half of waiting before getting your hair cut. Meanwhile, for me, it took only a 10 minute walk at a pre-booked time. Even once I was there, I got asked for the name I booked the appointment under and my barber was ready for me right on time.
Wearing a face mask is nowhere near as apocalyptic a scenario as some would have you believe
There had been no signs of delays due to adapting to the COVID-19 restrictions. My haircut took the half an hour expected and it flew by as I finally managed to have my hair neatened while chatting to my barber about our thoughts regarding lockdown and the current state of various football teams.
Was there a real reduction in the quality of service due to the restrictions? Not particularly. Wearing a face mask is nowhere near as apocalyptic a scenario as some would have you believe. I only ever had to move it slightly for my barber so that he could cut the hair around my ears. My barber wore rubber gloves to make sure to prevent the spread as much as possible and hand sanitiser was available upon entry.
It was raining and from the barbers it is a 10 minute walk home, yet the reopened pub was only two minutes down the street. I decided to pop in and observe whether pubs reopening was the breeding ground for a second wave that so many people had assumed for it to be.
Both in the pub and the barbers I had felt as though I could relax as if things were back to normal
Even at 2:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon, it still looked rather packed. The place seemed to be packed with veteran regulars as well as ‘the lads’ who were happy to be out again. It didn’t seem as though there had been much of an effort to stick to social distancing rules. Customers had to deal with narrow walking spaces by the bar and no one seemed to really be bothered about showing spatial awareness. Someone bumped into me when I was trying to make my way out.
It felt like there was no pandemic on, both in the pub and the barbers I had felt as though I could relax as if things were back to normal. I imagine this will be a feeling shared by many, yet it’s a mentality that could lead to the second wave of infections. While the barbers were doing a much better job at sticking to regulations, standards were already suspect in the middle of the day when the pub was only around half-full.
The NHS had been preparing for Super Saturday in the same way they prepare for New Year’s Eve, hence I sadly imagine standards will only slip more as time goes on and we pretend to ourselves more and more that the virus is gone.
If you speak to any of my friends, they will say that I take great pride in my appearance. Given that I like looking good, it’s been difficult in lockdown as I’ve not been able to get my hair or beard styled. My brother did cut my hair once, and to be fair, he did a decent job. However, I am convinced that it wasn’t growing as fast afterwards, and it did wasn’t up to the same standard that I usually like to go with. So, when I heard that my local barbers were taking bookings again, I jumped at the chance to get a long-overdue trim.
Yet, it wasn’t quite as simple as going to the barbers as soon as they opened their doors. I wanted to get my hair cut, but because of my health conditions, I’ve been a bit anxious when it comes to travelling. I’ve been told by my consultants and GP that I don’t need to shield, but I’ve been a bit paranoid. This has been getting better after I took a trip to the shops the other day and I felt reassured by the fact that the majority of people were following all guidelines, and I certainly was willing to risk it for a haircut.
I could see myself again and it felt like a small victory to get that person back
When I got to the barbers, I felt much better. Given the nature of the appointment, customers don’t need to wear a mask, but all the staff were wearing plastic visors at all times. There was tape on the floor clearly marking where you could walk – a courtesy that was extended to their couch so that people sat apart, and they even put benches outside for additional seating.
Like I said at the beginning of the article, I take great pride in my appearance. The barbers I go to is slightly more expensive than your walk-in barbers but I’m happy to pay for it as they do a decent job and give you a great experience. The experience was much like what I imagine it was like for pub-goers walking back into their regular. The staff were cracking jokes, catching up with their clients, and the atmosphere was buzzing.
I was happy before I even went to the barbers, running around the house showing my booking confirmation email to my mum, and even more so when I came out. Having been bullied for my appearance as a child, I’m now in a position where I like what I see in the mirror. When I popped out of the house for things and put on nice clothes rather than the daily tracksuit bottoms, I realised how much dressing up made me feel good. Seeing my hair cut and beard trimmed properly had the same effect, perhaps even more so. When I looked in that mirror, I could see myself again and it felt like a small victory to get that person back.