With the many variations of hair that exist, is a one-size fits all approach truly the best in our modern era that includes choices in many aspects of our lives? I recently had an experience that brought this question to mind.
The experience began when I walked into Supercuts, expecting to get a deep condition and haircut. This was after I was turned away from a West Hollywood salon with an appointment because there was “not enough time before the next appointment,” according to the stylist.
At this point, I was even more desperate to get my hair taken care of so why not trust a chain? They promote universal service, expedience and availability. Little did I know that they would also hinder my hair-style goals.
I called and made an appointment at a Supercuts location in West Hollywood and gave full details of my concerns. I called and the first thing I asked after introducing myself was how they handle ethnic hair. The receptionist said, “Of course, we do ethnic hair here. When do you want to come by and what would you like done?”
My response was “ASAP; I have pretty thick natural black hair, even though I am mixed. I would like a deep condition, blow-dry, flat iron press and cut.” This was a pretty simple procedure, I thought. While walking to Supercuts, I wondered if maybe the other salon just couldn’t handle black hair and the stylist was overwhelmed when I was there.
I arrived to get seated in a hair stylist’s chair, where I inform her of my hair desires: a simple deep condition, blow dry, flat iron and cut. Nothing too fancy: no need for a style. Cut all of the dead hair. She reassures me and we get started. She began with a nice shampoo and deep condition.
At this point, I was excited because I thought I was finally going to get proper service. I was quickly disappointed, however. After sitting under the dryer for nearly half an hour, the stylist said she would not be able to provide the rest of the service and let me leave without paying for the services she had already provided.
Then I began to wonder: are services not supposed to be easier when they are provided by a chain? Like in many industries, locally owned salons are giving way to larger corporate unisex salons that are supposed to provide inexpensive and timely service.
For men a bad haircut does not necessarily affect them as much as a bad haircut does for a woman. Since their hairstyles are not typically as long, a poor haircut does not affect them for quite as long. The biggest change they face is lost tradition and quality.
Many men I talked to reminisced of the day when they went to the local barbershop and got a shave and haircut. They recalled going to the barber with their grandfather and engaging in conversation where the barber was a friend of the family who provided quality service and quality conversation.
Due to the rise in popularity of unisex hair salons, traditions like the barbershop are all but disappearing and now hair is done quickly and they often leave with a haircut that is rushed and lacking old-fashioned quality service. While there are several in our region, national trends indicate this is fading (Ganga, 2014).
Additionally, the shops, like with any large business, are ultimately profit driven and have less motivation to satisfy customers. After all, this is a $20 billion industry in the US and $160 billion globally with trends showing job gains occurring at a more rapid pace than the overall job growth rate in the US (Professional Beauty Association, 2012). A good haircut may take several hours, especially for women, but the services rendered at these places are done in an expedient manner to have the highest number of haircuts in a limited timeframe.
Returning to my situation, ethnic hair becomes even more problematic because many of the stylists are not as experienced at handling it and they try to rush the customer through in order to get to the next one and increase their numbers and tip count. For people like me, hair becomes a significantly greater cost to budget and salon options become limited.
What is behind the growth of these styles? These companies attract potential franchisees by providing a uniform training method and an easy business model to implement with built-in name recognition (Locke, 2014).
While convenience is typically something that our society enjoys, hair care is one area that is best left alone. I feel that at the end of the day, the convenience we gain from these chain hair salons is offset by the loss in tradition and personal service.
Hair is not something that should be treated like a consumer good due to its many different variations: and I feel like that is a good thing. The competition for hair styling is best when it reflects the diversity of hairstyles on the street.
I think that Small Business Saturday is a great event because it pushes consumers into local businesses and allows them to receive specialized service from people who know their industry better than anyone else. It doesn’t have to be a holiday: the next time you need a haircut, find a local salon or (if you’re a man) barbershop.
Ganga, Elizabeth. (2014, October 2). “Old-fashioned barbershops see a slow decline.” The
Journal News. Retrieved from: http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/2014/10/02/ old-fashioned-barber-shops-decline/16550833/
Locke, Annie. (2014, September). “Great Clips: A Franchising Journey.” Peoria Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2014/sep/great-clips
Professional Beauty Association. (2012, June). “Economic Snapshot of the Salon and Spa Industry.” Retrieved from: https://probeauty.org/docs/blueprints/ 2012_Economic_Snapshot_Salon_Industry.pdf