Booking a routine hairdressers appointment usually makes me feel, at most, a mild sense of relief. Not this time. There was nothing routine about the reopening of England’s hairdressers on July 4 — as soon as I could, I rang HOB Salons, my go-to spot in Camden, and secured a Wednesday morning slot, when the shop was quietest. I was so desperate to get four months of tangled lockdown hair lopped off that I punched the air in jubilation after I booked, as my football team, Arsenal, had just won a game.
With excitement came nerves, and plenty of questions. Would I get the same pampered experience as before? Would it feel too regimented, and less personal? I had questions about how coronavirus precautions would work, too. Britain’s government sent mixed signals over the easing of lockdown restrictions: Stay 1 meter away from anyone outside your household, but it’s fine for hairdressers to rub your head with shampoo and snip away. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells one moment, and embracing the long-forgotten feeling of physical touch the next.
I’d had most of the coronavirus symptoms in March, at the beginning of Britain’s lockdown, and would hate for anyone else to go through the same. Psychologically, I’ve been ready to delve back into public life, but I know that others, who may not have experienced symptoms, feel more cautious. I was anxious about the health of staff and others around me.
Fortunately, HOB Salons, my go-to hairdresser for five years, eased any worries I had Located by London’s Regents Canal and Camden Market, it’s a spacious shop that still allows for an intimate relationship between hairdresser and client. The salon ramped up its social media output coverage during lockdown, and told customers what to expect upon their return — and now calls all customers before their appointment to inform them of safety measures. That means no more mid-trim drinks: Usually you can slurp beer, tea, coffee, or juice, but now only home-bought drinks in sealed, reusable bottles are allowed.
The waiting area is closed, so I wait at home for a phone call on the day of my appointment, and, 15 minutes before my slot, it rings: My seat is cleaned and ready. The system is ideal for locals — everyone else has to wait outside the shop for their turn. Expect this to be the norm for post-lockdown haircuts.
Senior hairdresser Sol, of Hobs Salon, wears a clear visor at all times.
As soon as I step in, my hairdresser hands me PPE — a slip-on disposable white gown with a hole for my head. I’ve had the same person cut my hair since 2016. Sol is my hairdresser, friend, and occasional counsellor.
Four months after I last saw him, his arms are outstretched in a mock air hug, a clear visor strapped around his head. I get all emotional seeing him again. Stepping out of my closed social circle, hearing the buzz of the clippers, and anticipating a new, cleaner self was overwhelming — in a good way. I laughed, and wanted to hug him, but instead settled for an anti-climactic elbow bump. Feel free to adopt another safe greeting to meet your own needs.
I feared coronavirus would kill the usual pre-cut hair wash — a chance to lay back and escape momentarily — but they’ve been saved by transparent screens between hair-washing stations, which take little away from what is still the most relaxing part of any salon session. It took half an hour to untangle my hair. As Sol said, “Some of us have let ourselves go in lockdown”.
A photo of my first post-lockdown haircut. Short sides feel great!
The rest of my cut was surprisingly close to normal. Sol’s visor didn’t stop the flow of chatter, or sense of pampering. We talked about vacations, football, and dating in the age of coronavirus. In the only awkward moment, I asked for a beard trim. Could Sol do that? Probably not. Nobody knows.
An hour later, four months of anxiety, stress, and worry had fallen to the ground.