While most of us can agree that hair is hair, many salons still define haircuts as “women” or “men”. Why? Specifically: beyond the gender language itself, why do women’s haircuts also tend to cost more than men’s? While the answer is nuanced, it is partly rooted in stylist training and societal conditioning. But it’s also a reflection of outdated thinking – and an opportunity for change.
However gender-neutral fairs and non-binary cuts do exist, “If you go to the site of most salons, they always refer to cuts by gender”, explains Tommy Bucket, a famous hairstylist at the Marie Robinson salon, who sees discriminatory labeling as a ripple effect. “We have become much more aware and sensitive to gender fluidity, but there is still a long way to go. Why do we still have women’s and men’s sections in department stores?”
Some argue that the reason cuts are priced by gender isn’t necessarily ill-intentioned, but rather a product of another era. “There’s a lot of history in this discussion,” says Tatum Neilartistic director of Aveda Institutes of Arts and Sciences. “Going to a barbershop as a man wasn’t really a thing until the ’90s. Men would go to the barber. There were just different expectations for service, not blow-drying.”
Yet, even though salons today offer the same services to all genders, why is there still a price difference?
“To be honest, no one has ever explained to me why we’ve always had gender-specific haircuts in the professional beauty industry.”
“If you ask me, it has everything to do with patriarchy burdening women more, and there’s no justification for that,” says Christine Rankinfounder of Draft dress code, which, along with Pantene, calls for more real and authentic representation of the LGBTQ+ community in marketing and advertising. “To be honest, no one has ever given me an answer that explains why we’ve always had gendered haircuts in the professional beauty industry. What I do know is that we learn in school of cosmetology that there is a cut for men and a cut for women.
The answer can be gendered coaching. “There are two licensing streams in New York City,” Buckett says. There is a barber license and a cosmetology license – and the former takes less time than the latter. “For the barber, you learn with a clipper and a bit of scissors. For cosmetology, you also learn color, relaxer, etc.” Also to blame may be the underlying (and outdated) assumption that “masculine” haircuts involve less hair to cut than a woman’s.
Fortunately, there have been advancements in the training that stylists receive at some salons, which could influence the prices of haircuts. In fact, at the time POPSUGAR spoke to him, Neill was preparing the syllabus for a class called “Fluid Shapes,” which he will be teaching at the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute in Austin, TX, this fall. “We won’t talk about genre – we’ll talk about technique and time.”
Time seems to be the factor that can, in part, solve the problem of gender haircut prices. “Some of my longer haircuts are done in 10 minutes, while some of my shorter haircuts take longer to deflate and build shape,” Buckett explains.
Which leads to the concept of billing by time increments: “I bill by the half hour at the salon,” says Adam Reed, of Adam Reed salon in London and founder of Arkive Headcare. Reed’s pricing structure is only influenced by the level of the stylist performing the cut. For example, a half-hour session with a seasoned stylist costs a bit more than with a beginner. Many other stylists are also starting to take this approach. “If a woman wants a trendy cut made with clippers, I charge less than one man with long diapers and wants a blow-dry,” says Nunzio Saviano, of the Nunzio Saviano salon in New York. “It’s just a matter of time.
The same can be said at Dresscode Project. “We talk about haircuts and rate them by time or length,” Rankin explains. “So we could say a short, medium, or long haircut, or we could say a 45, 60, or 90 minute haircut. Because that makes sense.”
As is often the case, awareness is key. “Sometimes, unless someone brings it to your attention, change may not happen,” says Neill. “I mean it’s benign in a lot of ways. Like in, salons have always done it that way, and unless someone makes the owner aware of it, they might not think of remove sexist terms from its menu.” Especially in more remote areas, with less dense populations, there’s a chance a salon owner just won’t know any different.
Fortunately, today’s young adults have surpassed many salon owners in their understanding of the genre. But until everyone else is this evolved, consider this a plea to ask your salon owner to remove discriminatory labels from their service offerings.
“I believe when you bring two humans together across the face of each other — not on social media but face to face — and they talk about these issues, they want to do the right thing,” says Neill. .