There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has put a pause on everyday activities. Weeks ago, hair stylists and barbers across the region had packed schedules, and local residents went about getting their new fades, highlights and more.
But all of that changed on March 24, when Gov. Ralph Northam closed all nonessential businesses in Virginia, including hair salons and barber shops. Being just short of a month-long closure, you might be getting antsy about cutting your bangs, or your partner might have mentioned shaving their head.
Well, we called up the local experts for help. John Hall, the founder of The Ultimate Barber in Alexandria, and Tommy Cheung (owner and barber) and Alina Sananikone (manager) of The Standard Barbershop in Fairfax, offered their own bits of advice during these unprecedented times. Find highlights from our conversations below.
When did you close the shop and what has that experience been like for you so far?
The Ultimate Barber: We were mandated to close our doors Tuesday, March 24, by 11:59 p.m. We took our last client at 6:45 p.m. that day. Now, this actually feels more like a movie. It feels surreal. Being told you have to close your doors for a certain period of time and you don’t have any say in when you can reopen is somewhat disheartening. We have employees that have families they need to support. Also, many clients treat their haircut appointments as therapy sessions. There’s something about a haircut that makes you feel like a completely new person.
The Standard: On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, is when we closed the shop. Originally, we were going to close temporarily for a week at a time, but conditions worsened and now lockdown date to reopen isn’t until May or June. It has been an odd and scary feeling since we went from completely booked for two months out to not having any control of what happens to our shop, crew or community. We started a GoFundMe to take care of our staff and we not only exceeded that goal but truly realized we had a great support group of patrons and neighbors.
Now that local residents aren’t able to go to local hair salons and barber shops, a lot of haircuts are happening at home. For those who have never cut their own hair, or their partner/roommate’s hair before, what would be your first suggestion?
The Ultimate Barber: Keep it simple. Either just do a cleanup or light-maintenance procedure. Clean up around the ears and around the neck area. Many people are utilizing this time to grow out the beard as well as the hair on their heads. There really isn’t a requirement to be clean-shaven while working from home. People understand if you aren’t as tightly groomed as you normally would be. We are all in this together.
The Standard: Try to wait for us, of course! But either grow it out or buzz it now and it will hopefully be properly grown out for when we reopen. If you feel yourself reaching for those clippers or convincing your significant other that “you just need a trim,” watch lots of videos and read about what you’re doing—don’t go in blind.
But if you have to cut at home, start with baby steps. First, just clean up the neck, the edge around your ears and sideburns. I only recommend this much since this can help blend what has grown out and get you by for at least a few more weeks.
The basic act of cutting hair off of your head is not hard, but properly blending the hair from one section to the other is “the craft.” From there you have to take the head shape into account and change the ratios so it doesn’t look like there’s a helmet on top of someone’s head.
What products should people be trying to get to make sure an at-home haircut is done correctly?
The Ultimate Barber: Trimmers and some basic haircutting scissors will suffice. Walmart, CVS Pharmacy or Target clippers and scissors will do the trick. Home use is different from professional use. There’s no need to go out and pick up professional equipment. At the same time, it may be difficult getting hold of professional trimmers and haircutting scissors because the beauty supply stores are closed as well. You may have some luck with Amazon.
Are you all doing any virtual sessions with your clients in order to help with this process?
The Ultimate Barber: We personally aren’t providing any virtual sessions. YouTube is already saturated with home haircutting videos. Also, [hair stylists] make it look easy because we are professionals, but I still have frustrating moments when I attempt to cut my own hair. To an untrained professional, I can imagine how frustrating and discouraging the process would be. Keep it simple and do just enough to get you by.
The Standard: We just posted a series of Instagram videos of how to do a house cut using basic kitchen shears!
If you make a wrong cut (or what feels like a terrible mistake) with you or your partner’s hair, what is your best course of action to make sure it isn’t messed up forever?
The Ultimate Barber: The good thing about making a mistake with hair is it’ll grow back. It’ll just take a little time. With the stay-at-home order in effect until June 10, those people have the time to let it grow back should they make a mistake at home.
The Standard: If you accidentally mess up, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world! Throw on a hat if needed and just remember: Everyone looks a little crazy right now and it will grow back.
What would you want readers and local fans of The Ultimate Barber to know during these times?
The Ultimate Barber: We are going to get through this. The entire barbershop experience will be changed by these current events. It’s going to be different, but at the same time, it’s going to be better. We’ll probably be required to wear masks once we are able to return. Appointments will probably be the standard now. Those walk-in days may be a thing of the past. The amount of clients allowed inside a barbershop at one time may be enforced. Clients may have to wait outside until it’s their turn to be serviced. We are still trying to figure all this out.
The Standard: We miss our shop, our customers and the crazy antics with everyone. When the governor allows us to get back to our shop, we will do our best to get everyone looking normal again. But please be patient with us.
Is there any other advice you have for trimming or cutting hair during the pandemic until barber shops reopen?
The Ultimate Barber: If you just can’t wait it out through these times and a minor trim or touch-up just won’t be enough, some clients have performed a basic buzzcut all over and just let it grow back until shops reopen. With hair, you can always go shorter if things just don’t turn out as you would like trying it at home.
The Standard: Less is more. Start with small sections at a time. You can always go back and cut more. Watch videos, try on your kids or even pets, and practice, practice, practice. Or wait for us!
For more on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses, subscribe to our weekly newsletters.