Barbershop

Opinion: Hair today, gone tomorrow

The owner of Carve Barbershop will be having a bad hair day today. That’s a shame. Staff at Consumer NZ who get their hair cut at one of his Wellington barbershops say it’s great, staff are courteous and it’s an all-round pleasant experience.

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But owner Matt Time has banned women from having haircuts there. He reckons men need the space to talk about, well, man stuff. While they’re being shorn, they can have free and open discussion. In the 15 to 20 minutes it takes to get a number one, they can unleash on stuff they can’t talk about with their partners or friends.

That’s Matt’s view of the world. In a deeply unscientific survey of our staff, I found no one shared it. The men, nearly all of whom went to barbers, wouldn’t go to a shop that banned women. Far from considering a barbershop as a place to unload emotions, most went to unload hair – and fast. Many had their hair cut by women barbers. They liked it.

One noted, going to the barber was like taking a taxi – the conversation was inane and didn’t last long.

The women who took their children to the barbers for a cut did it for speed and cost reasons. The women who went to barbers did it for the close shave or cost, or both reasons.

One guy had taken a shine to his barber because he displayed pictures of All Blacks in his shop. Essentially, you point at the All Black haircut you like and minutes later it’s yours, he said. This barber employed women and men cutters.

Apparently there’s a particular barber in Wellington who doesn’t like hair. It doesn’t matter what you ask for you lose the lot, including your eyebrows. One of the younger staff said he might talk about his dreams and goals with the person holding the shears, but on the whole he thought it was the barber who was getting the therapy, not the customer.

One of our older men, goes to a barbershop staffed by women. He’s been a loyal customer for 10 years. It takes 10 minutes and he’s never felt the need to unload his personal problems.

They do all agree they discuss hair.

Matt defended his position by illustration. There were things men needed to talk about man-to-man. For instance, he said he couldn’t talk to his partner about matters in the business arena. He wanted to protect her. He would only talk about business with people he could trust. Presumably his partner is not one of those people. Crikey, how 1874.

And I can see the point of the analogy. You’re likely to trust a person you’ve developed a relationship with over 10 to 20 minutes, possibly once every 6 weeks.

This is the 21st century and consumers have choice. Hopefully Matt is learning a harsh lesson. You can be hair today and gone tomorrow.