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There is a conversation I have about once a month, and it nearly always goes like this:
Woman 1: “Ugh, I need a haircut, do you have any recommendations? I don’t want to spend, like, a ton.”
Woman 2: “Yeah, I’ve been going to this place for years. It’s not crazy expensive; it’s like $85.”
Woman 1: “Hm.”
Woman 2: “Well, plus tip.”
Woman 1: “Oh.”
Woman 2: “...”
Woman 1: “Do you know of anywhere that’s like $50 or $60?”
Woman 2: “Uh ... I know there are some deals on Groupon, but I’ve never used them.”
Woman 1: “Oh.”
Woman 2: “...”
The moral of the story: Being a woman with hair, who sometimes needs it cut, can be incredibly expensive. It’s also a fact of living in New York City, one that is irksome during my annual visit to my hair salon but that I have accepted, mainly because I avoid salons 364 days out of the year.
But it’s a fact that’s tolerable as long as I forget that for the majority of men, this is not the case. This morning, however, the Wall Street Journal reminded me of the stark difference in the costs of being a man with hair and being a woman with hair. Although I firmly agree with the headline, “Your Haircut Is (Probably) Too Cheap,” it might be for a different reason than intended.
The writer begins by describing his experience getting a very fancy haircut in the very fancy city of Milan. The haircut cost more than what he usually paid, but you know what? It was the best haircut of his life, and maybe other guys would do well to try the same.
This is all great! I am all about indulging in small extravagances, but here’s the thing: The author’s very fancy haircut cost him a grand total of thirty-five dollars. This is $10 more than his usual $25 cut in Brooklyn for the best haircut of his life.
The last time I cut and colored my hair, it cost somewhere between $400 and $500. I’m not sure of the exact amount because hearing the salon assistant read out the number was the closest I’ve ever come to blacking out while talking to another person. It was an amount of money that I was neither expecting nor had any real business spending on my hair, but I handed it over anyway because that, apparently, is how self-care works.
Less than a month later, a friend called me, panicked and slightly out of breath, and said she just left one of those cool indie hair salons in Brooklyn having paid nearly $500 for a trim and balayage, and when we met up a few hours later, she looked almost exactly the same as she did before.
This is not me being mean — this particular friend happens to be blessed with very perfect hair — but it is also indicative of the complete racket that is the entire beauty industry. Compare this to the experience of a different female friend who has a pixie cut: Once I went with her to the barbershop, where not only did she pay less than $50 for a trim with totally noticeable results, but they even offered me a beer!
Yet the men whom the Wall Street Journal surveyed — men who presumably are the type who read the Journal, which is to say older and wealthier than the rest of us — almost all had haircuts that ranged from just $12 to $40, with a single outlier who said he pays $100 but has “no idea if that’s a lot.” In one especially egregious case, a man who pays a total of $12 describes his barber as “kind of like a therapist, too, so it’s a little bit of a therapy session.” Imagine paying $12 for a haircut and therapy! Are you kidding me?!
Listen, I don’t pretend to have the solution here. I think barbers and hairstylists all deserve to get paid fairly for their great work, and I get why cutting and coloring a long head of hair costs hundreds of dollars versus a shorter, lower-maintenance one. But I also firmly believe men should have to pay more than the cost of a Midtown lunch special for theirs. And while they’re at it, they should maybe all stop getting the same exact one.