Four long months after we closed our doors to life as we knew it, the ripple of unified excitement across so many households at the weekend was most definitely palpable as pubs restaurants and hairdressers finally bounced back into business. It was a tough call. Hair versus hospitality. Where to go first? Could we fit in all three? The prospect of sipping a glass of chilled wine with friends in a pub garden (despite the arctic chill blowing through) was as tantalising as restoring our big bushy hair back to its former glory. Quite apart from anything else, there was also an overwhelming curiosity to see for ourselves exactly what these long-awaited openings were going to look like.
Hairdressing salons chose to unlock their doors at midnight on Friday, and unless you’d discovered a miraculous DIY hair-styling super power during lockdown, the salon chairs were already fully occupied, phones endlessly ringing again and long queues for the barbers ran the length of high streets. Our voluminous hair and dodgy roots could finally go back to being nothing more than the stuff that nightmares are made of. And for those of us who resembled Cousin Itt in the Adams Family (only with a lot more grey than he seemed to exhibit) the choice was an easy one – the pub garden could wait – for women and men alike, a hair appointment as soon as we could possibly lay our hands on one was paramount.
It seems so trite, given the scale of misery, loss and devastation throughout this pandemic, but our hair became a huge focus for us during the height of lockdown. Hair clippers and salon scissors were the new toilet roll, and you only had to look at the endless social media videos of botched hairstyles and shaved heads to know that the luxury of a colour, cut and blow-dry were something we had very much taken for granted before any of this began. Self-grooming and an obsession with all things that grew – nails, eyebrows and body hair that seemed to spring up all over the place – became a form of therapy at a time when we couldn’t control the immense reality of what was going on around us. If we hadn’t realised it before, we began to understand just how important the beauty industry is.
Alongside virtually every other industry, it has taken a huge hit during lockdown, with a loss of approximately 1.75bn in turnover. And it’s not just a loss of revenue. The mainstay of the beauty grooming industry is largely run by women for women, many of them small independent businesses that rely solely on a steady flow of daily customers. While hairdressing salons are now open, there is still no date set for the reopening of nail bars, beauty salons, tanning studios, spas and massage therapy, where social distancing is all but impossible for these professional services. Furlough, job losses and business closures in yet another female arena. And we know now that we simply don’t have the skills to successfully carry them out at home.
There are going to be many out there who are still too nervous and unwilling to rush back into the beauty environment, and with such hands-on services it’s not difficult to see why. But you only have to look at the hairdressing salons already open to see that safety is their overriding principle – above and beyond the treatments and therapy they offer. It is a different landscape. Appointments only, perspex screens or two metres between clients, face visors, and a coffee with a magazine while you wait is a thing of the past. Many have had to spend thousands of pounds to comply with these new safety measures, yet their businesses will only see half of the people they did before – unless they open seven days a week and work longer hours to make up their revenue losses. There’s little doubt, this industry needs us back in those chairs – and the rest of the beauty industry needs a date to follow suit before the continuing lack of business dictates they will be unable to reopen at all.
As for me – this is exactly what I did yesterday. Finally – after more than four months – an appointment with my hair dresser. I had considered just letting my hair take its own biological path as we went through lockdown. I’m all for women owning what happens to us naturally and a beautiful head of grey hair looks stunning, but for me the time isn’t yet. So with roots to contend with and a significant showering of silver strands that had most definitely edged in, I sat down in front of that unforgiving spot-lit salon mirror – in a new normal with safety measures in place. Of course it wasn’t a life changing moment, and there are probably many friends who won’t even notice, but it was a fabulous luxury I had previously taken for granted and it felt so good. At long last me and my hair are back in the game!