Why is a haircut such a hair-raising experience?


It’s a well-worn truism, particularly during a recession, but a truism nonetheless that training to being a hairdresser is always a sensible move as everyone will always need their hair cut, Luke Friend seemingly excluded. (You know, Swampy’s tweenybopper spawn off of X Factor.)

But it’s a peculiar thing is having your barnet attended to. It seems to me people are honestly more concerned about who cuts their hair than they are about who they get to give them botox or a tattoo, despite the fact that no matter what someone does to your hair, it’ll always grow out eventually, whereas that My Little Pony tramp stamp you got done in Magaluf by a man with dubious personal hygiene and a poor grasp of English is a hell of a lot more permanent.

And this confuses me, largely because I don’t fully understand the neuroses that surround sitting in the barber’s chair. While everyone’s image is influenced by what their hair looks like, I am definitely more obsessed than most with the coiffed quiff perched upon my head. I have attributed a Samson-esque sense of power to my locks and am constantly fussing with it.

I have been lucky I suppose because in the past 12 years or so I have only had my hair cut by two people, give or take. So far, so control freak. But I’m doubly lucky insofar as the two people happen to be my cousin and a very close friend. As such I can quite easily and candidly talk about what I want before, after and, crucially, during the haircut. I’ve lost count of the times my friend has rolled her eyes at me as I leap from the dining chair and out to the hall to check out how my hair is coming along before returning with areas that need attention.

Obviously she had it all under control all along, but the fact I feel I can pipe up and creatively direct my own hair put me at ease, but, with my friend about to pop out her first child (how inconvenient of her) and my cousin living miles away, I was faced with joining the rest of the world and get my hair cut in an actual salon by a stranger. I chose Blue Tit in Peckham and had a great experience, and I felt comfortable enough to chip in to ensure both I and the stylist had the same result in our heads throughout the cut.

I came out wondering why it’s such a harrowing experience for people. “When someone’s nervous, it often turns out they’ve had a bad experience¬† such as a childhood cut or stylist not listening,” explains Olivia Crighton, owner of Glasshouse Salon in East London, “It’s all about earning a client’s trust.” Naturally this makes perfect sense – the link between a hang-up and a bad bowl cut or hacked at fringe isn’t hard to establish.

But the word ‘client’ should say it all – in any other situation, for better or worse, the client’s word is final. Perhaps we should all start being a little more like clients from hell with our hairdressers…

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