UPDATE: Information in the graph was corrected on Feb. 1, 2016
Chatter and music fill the air. The soft snick of scissors mixes with the sound of blow dryers and spray bottles. Tufts of hair are trampled underfoot as stylists dart to and fro. Shannon Bower squeezes her eyes shut as her stylist pushes her bangs onto her face. She is sitting in the Stanhope and Company hair studio, receiving a new haircut that will cost her $28 more than the haircut of the man sitting beside her.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Not just for Bower, and not just at the Stanhope and Company studio. Nearly every hair salon in Halifax prices women’s haircuts significantly above men’s haircuts. A typical men’s wash and cut costs about $30, while a women’s wash and cut costs about $50.
This begs the question: Why?
Women’s cuts are generally booked for 45 minutes to an hour, while men’s haircuts are usually only booked for half an hour. If clients are being charged for time, this would explain the higher prices for women. But it still leaves us wondering why all women’s haircuts take longer than men’s.
Another possible reason for pricing disparity could be how much product is used in women’s cuts compared to men’s cuts. Several hair stylists say that generally both men’s and women’s haircuts require the same amount of product.
One patron suggested that men’s haircuts are cheaper because men get their hair cut more often. According to many stylists, people with short hair tend to get haircuts about every four to six weeks, while people with longer hairstyles tend to get haircuts every eight to 12 weeks.
But not all men have short hair, and not all women have long hair. Our question remains: Why do women’s haircuts cost more than men’s haircuts?
Quantity vs. quality
It all comes down to how much hair you have, and how long it takes your stylist to cut it.
“We’re providing a service, so the deciding factor is really time,” says Jenn Greene, a stylist at Kara’s Urban Day Spa.
Jill Ernest, a fellow stylist from Bowtique Hair and Makeup, agrees.
Ernest says that women’s hair usually takes longer to cut, but if a man comes in with long hair she will usually charge him the women’s rate. “It’s the difference between a 20-30 minute service to a 40-60 minute service.”
Local student Tora Oliphant is sitting in the next chair over, receiving her monthly trim. “As a kid, my haircut would cost twice as much as my brothers’, but I would also spend twice as long in the chair,” she says.
Ernest’s co-worker, Teresa Fisher, says sometimes men’s cuts can take just as long as women’s. “Some men are just as picky, if not pickier, than women. You wouldn’t believe it, but it’s true.”
Stylist Angelina Bistekos at the Casa Dante Hair Studio says that even if women have short hair, the cuts still typically take longer than men’s.
“Women’s are a little more expensive just because there is more work put into it than men’s cuts. There is work that goes into men’s cuts, but women get a hair styling, a blow dry, and in my experience lots of product gets used. Women are also more likely to want extra services, whereas men are kind of more easygoing,” says Bistekos.
At Stanhope and Company hair studio, Redmon Giovanni is cutting Shannon Bower’s hair. He says “for a women’s short haircut, I charge them the men’s price, but I don’t always charge men more for a longer haircut.” He says that even with long hair, men’s cuts are still generally more basic than women’s.
Fisher explains how “prices do vary depending on the skill level of the stylist. There is demand on time, experience, and for specific things they’ve studied over the years.”
Greene and Giovanni agree. “We pay money to go to classes and learn new techniques, and we go to hair shows to see what’s new. We invest a lot into what we do,” Greene says.
Giovanni says the technique that he’s using to cut Bower’s hair took him about 10 years to learn. “I think you pay for the experience of the stylist as well as the time you spend in the chair,” he says.
Stacey Turpin, an employee at Vitality Medi-Spa, points out that a women’s short haircut may be considered a men’s cut, just based on the amount of work that has to be done. She says most stylists make a judgment call when they see a client, and can charge them the women’s or men’s rate depending on which best suits their cut.
Ernest says she considers all aspects of the haircut when deciding on a price, not just the gender or hair length of her client.
Greene does it too. “Sometimes I’ll lower my price, depending on what I’ve done,” she says, as she sorts through a box of new hair products that have just come in.
Is it fair?
Greene thinks so. “The people who do this because it’s their passion tend to charge a bit more, because they know their value,” she says.
Ernest says it often depends on who’s running the place. “We have the benefit of being locally owned, so we can take our own prices into consideration. Some places have to stick to prices set out for them,” she says.
Some places, like Casa Dante, have their own set standard prices, but “it also depends on the stylist, because everybody kind of mixes it up and makes their own prices for their own clients,” says Bistekos.
Giovanni says, “It’s fair if you charge by time, but if you charge by the haircut then it’s not. I always charge by the time. Time and technique should be the determining factors of price.”