Updated: May 4, 2020
The Coronavirus is the clear front runner for biggest story in 2020. It has affected barbershops across the world. Barbershops are known for being staples in our communities. They are the indoor neighborhood campfire that young and old gather around to joke, discuss relationships, sports, current events and life itself.
Slowly, state by state began to limit the amount of people allowed to be near each other. They call it social distancing. Barbers slowly adjusted to the new Government recommendations. Crowded barbershops on a Saturday morning changed to clients waiting in their cars for a text from their barber giving them the "all clear," to enter the shop. The only community conversation allowed was between the barber and client. Camaraderie between clients as they waited for their name to be called vanished. Instead of hearing clients use number like "let me get a number 3 on the sides," and other clients saying "I want a skin or bald fade with a number 1 on top." The dominate number in the shop became 6. Everyone has to stay 6 feet apart. The barber chairs have to be 6 feet apart. Clients have to stay 6 feet apart from other clients.
As the days passed, some barbers began to realize that they cannot stay 6 feet away from their client. It is impossible. Our profession demands hands on attention to detail. Our profession can only excel within close proximity to our clients. Except for doctors, maybe no one comes as physically close to their clients as a barber. Unless you have stretchy arms like Dhalism from Street Fighter, you are violating the recommendation to stay at least 6 feet way from anybody. We can't do our job from 6 feet away. Barbers cannot phone it in, or do a conference call on Zoom. So as a result many barbers closed up their business temporarily and voluntarily stayed home to help stop the spread of the virus. Not every barber who stayed at home had money saved or other jobs on the side. Some quit to help their community and some quit to make sure they didn't unknowingly spread the virus to those in their own home. For many it was a very hard financial and professional decision.
Barbers who voluntarily shut down their business, were quickly joined by the other barbers who declined the voluntary recommendations. State after state gave stay at home orders and forced business to close. What started out as a suggestion, turned into an order. Many continued to defy the government's order and continued to cut Prohibition style. Barbers began cutting hair on patios, porches, inside of garages, backyards, dining rooms and even flat bed trailers. The barber community is split on this new development.
On one side of the argument, barbers that continue to cut say they are doing so to provide for their family and pay their bills. Most recognize the risk of their decision and a minority of the barbers still cutting believe that the coronavirus is not as big of a deal as the media is making it out to be. In most states barbers are facing a hefty fine of at least $1,000 and risking disciplinary action from their state barber board. They argue the reward is worth the risk. Many of these barbers are charging double and triple their regular price of haircuts. They say that it is adequate payment for the risk that they are taking and for the travel expense that they are accruing from going to client's houses. To each his own. However there has been some videos posted from barbers who had the same hustler mentality and contracted the Coronavirus. One man posted a live video from his Facebook as he laid in a hospital bed after he believed he contracted the Coronavirus. He urged people to stay home. His sister recently posted a comment on the video saying he is sick but recovering. Many fervently disagree with this group of barbers who are going against the current orders to stay at home. Others are not condemning them or praising them for their hustler mentality.
The majority of barbers have temporarily turned off their clippers and shut the door to their shop. The way most barbers get paid, is per service rendered. When a barber renders a service to the client, the are paid by that client. The barber then pays a flat rate to the barbershop owner for the chair rental that they used to perform that service or they pay a commission to the barbershop owner. The impact from this head on collision with the Coronavirus has many layers to it. If there are no clients, the barber doesn't get paid and in turn the barber is unable to pay the barbershop owner their fees. The barbershop owner is then put in a position to pay the overhead expenses of the barbershop on their own. No clients, no money. However, business expenses do not stop because of the Coronavirus. The barbers that work at a shop have no income and no way of paying their bills and the shop owner is without income and is in the same predicament but usually on a larger financial scale.
The government reached a deal to help small business and increase unemployment to industries that traditionally are ineligible for unemployment. The two types of loans that were offered included the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) & The PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) Unfortunately most barbers and barbershops have not been given any of these loans that were intended for small business like theirs. In states like California, Unemployment to barbers is expected to be rolled out by the end of April. Despite the funds being approved by the federal government, most states have yet to process and pay unemployment to barbers. The main reason for this delay is an outdated system in those states.
The economic fallout from the coronavirus is hitting the barber industry hard. Sadly many barbershops will close for good. Barbershops come in many different sizes and have a large financial imprint on the community surrounding them. If barbers are hurting, then our community is hurting. From something as simple as feeling confident after you leave the barber chair to a groom getting his wedding haircut on the biggest day of his life. Barbers are important. Barbers come from every type of economic and social background. Some do it for the love of the art. Some do it because they like making their client look good and others do it because they needed a change of direction in their lives. Barbering saved some men and women from a destructive path. It helped turn there life around. Barbers are people. They are artist. They are entrepreneurs and needed pillars in our community. Support your local barber. Leave them a review, follow and share their social media. Buy their products. If the barbershops die then a very integral part of our community dies. To my barber brothers and sisters out there, we will get through this.
About The Author- Joe is the owner of Joe The Barber Studio. Joe The Barber Studio is a one-chair barbershop that offers traditional and modern barber services. His past work includes barber, barbershop manager and barber instructor in Arizona and the Southern California area.
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