How to Help Your Barber While the Shop Is Closed

You’re probably on a schedule. You understand that your haircut requires regular visits to your barber (every three to four weeks to be exact). But social distancing is our new normal, and that throws a wrench into even the best laid plans.

As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe, and state governments are mandating the closure of non-essential business in an effort to flatten the curve, service industry professionals are bearing much of the weight. It’s why your gym is closed, your favorite restaurant has switched to take-out only, and why your local barbershop is dark. Haircuts themselves may or may not pose a risk of coronavirus infection, but the fact that the CDC has advised against gatherings of 10 or more people and social distancing measures advise keeping six feet away from other people means a haircut is unlikely in your near future.

Caucasian stylist cutting hair of customer in barber shop

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Just like other service industry professionals who have lost their jobs amid the widespread business closures, barbers and hairstylists are in a complicated situation. “Barbers and stylists work on commission-based pay, meaning they get paid per haircut,” says barber Kevin Baker of Sposito in Brooklyn, NY, “so no haircuts equals no pay.” To further complicate the issue, since many barbers and hairstylists are considered freelance or independent contractors, “they technically can’t be laid off to collect unemployment while they’re out of work,” says hairstylist Ryan Austin of IGK Salon in New York City. It also means that some stylists can feel pressure to keep working even if they’re uncomfortable, because they can’t afford to stop. “The people you see working now are doing it because they have to,” says celebrity hairstylist Rita Hazan, who closed her own salon in New York City last week.

These closures don’t just affect the barbers, but the shops and salons as well. Like restaurants, many of these businesses don’t run with a large profit (or any at all), so closing down is not a decision taken lightly. “We’ve had to lay off our employees so they can get disaster assistance,” says Chris Applegate, owner of Shed Barber & Supply in Austin, TX. “If we had the money to pay them, we would be paying them, but we don’t. So we have to try to help them.” As with many restaurants and bars, there is a lingering question of whether many of them will be able to reopen at all.

For a lot of guys, their relationship with their barber is one of the most important in their lives and seeing something like this happen to the barbershops and hair professionals they care about can be heartbreaking. Couple that with the fact that they may not know when they’ll be able to get their hair cut (safely) again, and it’s a recipe for heaps of anxiety. Luckily, there are some things you can do to support your barber in these strange times.

How to Support Your Barber or Hairstylist Right Now

You don’t have to be made of money, or even leave your house, to support your barber while their shop is closed. These are the best ways to get them through this difficult time.

Reach Out Over Social Media

“Reach out to your stylist and ask them how you can potentially help,” says Austin. Tell them you’re thinking about them and let them tell you what they prefer. Offering to Venmo them some money up front isn’t the move, says Applegate, since some barbers don’t like to accept money without offering a service. Instead, let them suggest what they’d appreciate. It could be as simple as booking a future appointment or buying something off their social media. If you don’t know how to get in touch with your barber, like if they’re not on social media, contact the barbershop or salon and ask them if you can have your barber’s contact information.

Book a Future Appointment

Lots of barbershops and salons have online booking tools these days, so go ahead and book an appointment a few months out. “You can always reschedule if needed,” says Hazan, “but let them know you’re waiting and ready for the second they open. If they know their income is going to be okay [when they can get back to work], they’ll be fine.” If your favorite spot doesn’t do online booking, contact your barber directly and tell them you want to book a future appointment and pay in advance if you can. But if you’re strapped for cash too, and can’t afford to pay up front, at least it’s a good way to assure them they’ll still have business when they get back to work.

Buy Merch or Products From Them

Some shops who have their own product lines may be able to lean on that revenue stream for a while. If your barbershop or salon sells products, check to see if they have an online store. Buying your products through them instead of another retailer will help them maintain some sort of income while the shop is closed. Even if they don’t sell products, ask if they have merch you could buy. “We sell shirts and other stuff online,” says Applegate, “and any little bit like that helps.”

Buy a Gift Card to Use Later

If you can, buy a gift card to use against a future service. “It’s a donation you can use at a later time, so it’s a great way to be able to support the shop and as soon as we’re open, you’re able to use it,” says barber Tony DeAngelis, owner of Blue & Black in Brooklyn, NY. If you can, ask your barber if you can buy the card through them. “At most salons, the stylists get commission from a gift card,” says Austin, so it could be a double whammy.

Send a Tip in Advance (or Just Because)

If your financial situation allows it, consider sending your barber or stylist a tip through Venmo or another similar service. Don’t do it out of the blue, but if they’re open to it, tell them it’s an advance for a future tip once you come in for your next cut. (But then still tip them later anyway.)

Check if the Shop Has a GoFundMe

Some barbers shops, like Fellow Barber in New York City and San Francisco, CA and Les Enfant Terribles in Brooklyn, NY, have set up GoFundMe relief funds to help support both the barbers and the shop itself. Consider making a donation if you can, with the knowledge that it may mean the shop is that much more likely to reopen.

Ask if They’re Offering At-Home Advice (and Pay Them For It)

Some places, like Rita Hazan’s salon, offer at-home color kits for existing clients to do their color at home until they can come in again. “I send a text or email with directions on how to apply it,” she says. “If they have questions, they can always text or email back. I try to make it as easy and uncomplicated as possible.” Not every place has this capability, but if you’re worried about something like color, it’s worth asking. Your barber may also be willing to offer you one-on-one advice through FaceTime or Zoom, but if they do, offer to pay them for their time.

Offer Moral Support

If you can’t afford to make a donation or buy products, at least reach out and offer moral support. It’s something everyone needs. “Social media has been a great thing,” says Applegate. Post a shout-out to your barber and barbershop on your feed and let them know you’re thinking of them. If you haven’t already, leave them a positive Yelp review, something every business appreciates no matter what. A little positivity goes a long way.

Garrett Munce Garrett Munce writes about men’s style and grooming.