Why Do Women Pay More For A Short Haircut

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Why Do Women Pay More For A Short Haircut

It’s accepted as a fact of life that women pay more for their haircuts than men. But why are women who want a simple, short cut being turned away by barbers – and is this even lawful?

Actor Georgia Frost says she was recently refused service by two consecutive barbers in west London, something she found humiliating.

“I was working on a show at the Lyric Hammersmith and needed just the back and sides doing, partly for the show,” she says. “When I asked to have my hair cut, the barber just laughed in my face and said ‘no’ and made some remark about me being a woman.”

She tried again at a near-empty establishment a short distance away only to be told, “we don’t do women here”.

“I pointed to the client and said, ‘I’m literally asking for this haircut that you’re doing now’ and he just said ‘no’. I think for a long time people have seen the barber’s as a male sanctuary where they don’t have to deal with women. I also think it ties in with what people believe a woman should look like.

“Hair is a huge part of queer culture and lesbian identity as well, so I can’t help but feel there is some homophobia wrapped up in all these refusals I’ve had.”

If being denied a haircut based on gender seems clearly discriminatory, there’s also the issue that at salons that do offer a unisex service, there’s still often a price list that shows one fee for women and a much cheaper one for men.

The National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) points out that women usually have more complicated haircuts than men, and so are charged more.

Chief executive Hilary Hall says: “This is because men tend to have shorter hair, require haircuts which are technically quicker to deliver, do not typically include the range of products used for women and require less time for finishing. For example, a bob may be viewed as a short style, but it is more technically challenging than a short back and sides.”

She insists the price difference is not based on gender. “A salon or barber-shop will set its prices taking the following into consideration: the length and texture of the client’s hair, the time the service takes, the type of service requested, the products the salon or barber-shop will use, and the skills, training and level of experience required by the stylist or barber.”

While some men do want complex and time-consuming haircuts, the rise of barber-shops – the NHBF says there’s been a 64% increase in five years – suggests that a straightforward and cheap haircut is a popular option. However, this is an option that can be closed off to women, as Trish Greenhalgh has experienced.

The University of Oxford academic says for years she was charged £37 by the same salon stylist and “found it irritating” as the short, dry cut, with no shampooing or gelling, took about five minutes.

“Last time I went in, the woman stylist had left but the man said he’d do me as the new lady hadn’t started yet,” she says. “He charged me £15. Same cut, took the same amount of time and looked exactly the same. I showed him a photo and he copied it.”

Prof Greenhalgh says her experience highlights a sexist issue. “For the tomboys among us who really do just want a quick cut, we should be able to ask for an identical service to men. What’s currently happening is all women are being charged for the average haircut for a woman.”

There are salons that do offer gender-neutral pricing, such as Butchers in Hackney, east London.

Battlefield Jordin Sparks

“Historically, in our industry there has been a gap between the price charged for men and women,” co-founder Susannah Jones says. “This was based on the belief that men have short hair, which is quick and simple to style, and women have long hair, which takes more time and skill. This is simply not the case.

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“Short haircuts can actually be more technical and often take longer, so time wasn’t even a factor when we used to charge less for men – it was purely because they were male, which felt morally wrong.”

She says she hopes other salons will “see the value of removing gender from their services” and help “reduce the perception that prices vary according to gender” by being “more transparent to clients that time is a key factor when setting prices”.

 

Why Do Women Pay More For A Short Haircut

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