Getting a haircut is a therapeutic experience. As you step into the salon, you greet your favourite barber or stylist, get a relaxing wash, and sit while your hair is trimmed to perfection. Often, gossiping with your stylist during the process.
As someone who has been in the chair as a patron, and outside the chair cutting hair, I can attest the profession requires love for the work and immense skill.
However, hairstyling has long been critiqued of falling victim to the pink tax, which is the practice of charging women more than their male counterparts for the same service.
Based off my barbering experience and external research, there are two conclusions to this critique of the industry.
At times, the higher prices women are charged are indeed justified. The price of a haircut is determined by a list of factors, including the maintenance of salon cosmetologist licenses, quality and price of equipment—including shampoos, conditioners, shears, and more—the stylist’s level of expertise, the rental cost associated with the salon, the cost of living in the city the salon is located in, and the time required for any given haircut combined with the length of hair being cut or treated.
Some women face higher haircut costs largely due to their preferences. Often, women frequent salons which are more luxurious, meaning a higher rental cost. Men’s cuts rarely involve a complete wash, condition, and dry styling which are all common practice in salons that cater to a clientele of women. This directly results in increased equipment cost.
Longer hair, which many women have, ensures more time is spent on their cuts, requiring layering, and complex hairstyling techniques, which means a more experienced stylist is needed.
With these considerations, it’s evident there’s several instances where the pink tax appears to be justified not based on gender, but a list of considerations that determine a haircut price for any individual.
However, there are instances where the pink tax is rooted in sexist insensitivity towards women who want shorter haircuts—some of whom identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community—which must be addressed for a more inclusive and equitable industry.
Many women who look for stereotypical ‘men’s cuts’ usually hope to have their hair cut to shorter lengths, sometimes to be accompanied with fades on the side, which are two services that don’t require complex techniques. Cases exist where these individuals might go to a barbershop and ask for a men’s cut, pointing at a picture on the wall, but are denied the service. These women are turned away from barbershops or have their reservations cancelled last minute. When they are served, they often face a higher price-tag.
Fortunately, there are movements aiming to negate such practices, embracing meaningful change in the industry.
Unisex and gender-neutral salons are on the rise and have created an objective means of pricing haircuts. In these shops, the hairstylist and client both discuss exactly what the client wants, without judgment and consideration of gender. Then, based off the length, level of expertise required, and the time taken for the appointment, a price is mutually agreed upon.
Another initiative that’s being spearheaded in other communities— that can be implemented locally—to help increase awareness, openness, and equity can mirror Chicago’s Safe in My Chair program.
Created by transgender barber, Mia Catherine Smith, Safe in My Chair aims to improve equity and inclusivity in all barbershops by training hairstylists on barriers placed around hairstyling based on gender. The program identifies like-minded hairstylists to form a community of barbers and hairstylist ready to serve all clients with acceptance.
From my experience cutting hair, objective and individualized pricing will benefit the industry.
Setting prices purely based on the estimated time and length of hair eliminates the potential inequities and acknowledges the uniqueness of each client’s hair and the time it takes to provide a tailored service. It’s fairer to both the client and barber’s time—especially given a quick trim shouldn’t cost the same as a more intricate style.
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