Bay Staters Taking Haircuts Into Their Own Hands

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For the time being, professional haircuts from licensed barbers and hairdressers are no longer available to Massachusetts residents.

Still, people are getting haircuts.

Non-essential businesses are shut down in the state until at least May 4 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — including barber shops and salons. Now, Bay Staters find themselves playing the role of barber or hairdresser. 

The results? Not bad, several women told New Boston Post.

Joanna Ventola of Hanover got her hair cut by her husband for the first time ever, and she was surprised it turned out alright.

“We didn’t even have any good scissors and had to use my son’s lefty scissors that I sharpened with my knife sharpener,” she told New Boston Post in an email message. “Pulled it back in a ponytail, chop chop chop. Then used a comb to straighten it out then cleaned up the ends. I’m in shock he went through it because he has no patience and usually storms off.”

“I was super impressed with how well he did,” she added. “I figured he would have no patience to trim the ends and make them even.”

In some cases, moms decided it was time for their children to cut their children’s hair.

Lynne Gleason of Hanover said her three-and-a-half-year-old son did not want a man bun, for the time being, so she had to cut it.

“I don’t have a choice,” she said in an email message. “We will be home for a while. I’m most nervous to cut my husbands hair

“Their hair grows fast!,” she added. “I bribed my son with candy and cut a bunch! Looks good surprisingly! He has longer hair for a boy.”

Michelle Casey of Weymouth has given two haircuts since barber shops have shut down: one to her son and another to her husband.

She said she essentially gave them what is known as the regular haircut. 

“My son was really anxious because I’ve never cut hair before,” she told New Boston Post in an email message. “I think I did O.K. though because he said ‘it’s not too bad.’”

“My husband was less worried because he kept saying, ‘if you mess up I’ll just shave my head!’” she added. “But both ended up being O.K. haircuts, I think.”

Madeleine Griffin of Weymouth said she was able to cut her son’s hair without too much issue, but does not anticipate doing it again anytime soon.

“It didn’t come out terrible, but I’ll definitely be scheduling a real haircut for him when it is safe to do so,” she told New Boston Post in an email message. “Also he’s seven. So low bar in terms of his pickiness. It was definitely a study in patience. I’m pretty sure I never want to do it again but if I do it’s going to be outside in his swim trunks so I can just hose him off after. Also, he kept saying ‘don’t cut off my ear’ which was a little distracting.”

Plus, Victoria Landers of Hanover cut her father’s hair on Sunday and was happy with the way it turned out.

“I cut my father’s hair this morning right on the front porch,” she told New Boston Post in an email message. “No clean up necessary as the wind blew it away. He doesn’t have many hairs, but the few left to cut came out great. Adult child currently paying my rent in haircuts. (No professional training; graduated college with a business management degree) If you live at home with your parents, please make yourself useful!!”

The fact that people who are not professionals can cut hair without catastrophic results also illustrates a larger point, according to Shoshana Weissman, a policy fellow at the R Street Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.: that occupational licensing laws surrounding professional haircuts are too strict.

In Massachusetts, for example, earning a barbers’ license requires 1,000 hours of classroom hours at a specialized trade school; meanwhile, an EMT license requires just 150 classroom hours, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington D.C.-based organization that is skeptical about government regulations.

“So there are innumerable laws that get in the way of cutting hair – something moms and dads do for their kids all the time, safely,” Weissman told New Boston Post in an email message. “Depending on the state and locality, laws often require that you must only cut hair in a salon, you cannot have salons (or other home-based businesses) run out of your home, and you cannot cut hair in others’ homes. Also, you have to be a licensed barber to do it, which can take thousands of hours of training.”

All 50 states require barbers to be licensed. However, from 1983 to 2013, Alabama was the one exception. And when the state put a licensing requirement in place in 2013, they grandfathered in everyone who was already a practicing barber. This made them eligible for the license without taking any classroom hours or exams, even if they started just before the law was enacted, according to the Institute for Justice.

Weissman added that she understands why professional barbers and hairdressers would not be allowed to make house calls during a pandemic, but normally she believes there are too many barriers — in terms of cost and time — associated with getting into the profession.

“Now, I’m completely sympathetic if, for the interim, haircuts at home cannot happen due to coronavirus concerns,” she added. “That’s reasonable. But if crackdowns are happening just because of the existing overly-burdensome regulations, it’s silly at best and extremely harmful to people trying to make an honest living at worst.”