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Salon vs. Barbershop

November 9, 2017

These are fighting words in some people's minds.  I know there are plenty of barbers who aren't appreciating the new momentum salon's are gaining in the men's hair world.  Men's hair actually outperformed in google searches over women's hair in 2015 which means men's hair is here to stay and there's a battle for the title!  


Let me preface that I'm a licensed cosmetologist, trained by barbers and I have strong love for both.  In the early 60's, men went to barbershops and women went to beauty salons. Then the Beatlemania hit which revolutionized men's hair.  Men started growing it hair out for the first time and the barbershops didn't know what to do so they diverged into "beauty parlor's".  They did what they knew how to do, women's hair on men, which is why a lot of these shapes were very round.  There was an actual law in 1974, in Minnesota where I'm from, that was overturned to allow cosmetologists to cut men's hair, which was previously illegal.  Even today cosmetologists still don't study or test out in men's hair in school.  Rightfully so though, if there is no law where you need to pass a test for men's hair, why would beauty schools invest in it?


With this history, it starts making sense where the shift started happening.  And then to run further with it, there was a huge women's movement after that in the late 70's and early 80's for advanced, premium serviced haircuts with major players like Horst Rechelbacher (Aveda), Vidal Sassoon, and John Paul Digoria (Paul Mitchell) who recreated the game.  These brought expensive, high end haircuts into fashion and restructured the schools to bring higher level students graduating.  


In the midst of all of this, men got left behind.  Barbers never increased their value, education and net worth during this time and remained at lower end pricing.  1981-82 is when we saw low end, non artist run, turn and burn haircutting places pop up, trying to marginalize and systemize haircutting.  Unfortunately, barbershops are now competing with these.  They are a master of their own craft but competing for scraps with young, uneducated hairstylists for the same $15 haircut and I haven't seen much change since then.  Men make more money, they spend more money, and they used to pay more in barbershops than women did in salons, yet we say they're too cheap.  I think we need to start taking responsibility for studying and educating ourselves in men's hair the way we did in the 80's for women and learn why men aren't paying a higher price for hair.  


In today's market you now see this mid range, 30 minute cut, dark wood with a scotch, pool table in the back, and good looking young women straight out of school type men's salon that are catering to everyone but are still weak in education.  It may even be a little presumptuous to assume they desire this cliche environment, as I would be if you decorated a salon with pink flowers and hearts.  


With social media at the height of it's existence, there are some barber stars emerging, with their line art, their extreme fades and their flashy tattoos.  It's a push in the right direction but we still can't forget about the fundamental design and understanding of shapes starting from the schools and moving up through the industry. We need to create quality, real relationships, and a better understanding of men. 


I leave you with this.  If you're a man and you're a CEO of a large company, where would you go to get your hair cut?  


-Amanda Olusanya- 

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