Gender equality in haircuts

By Nicole Gnazdowsky

Joanie O’Leary says she’s tired of going into hair salons for a trim that takes as long as her boyfriend’s, but costs sometimes up to twice as much.

The Halifax Women O’Leary says she doesn’t understand why standardized gender based pricing can still exist as prominently as it does, when the man sitting next to her is getting his hair of equal length trimmed for less.

Hair salons across the country have typically had pricing structures modelled around the traditional method of gender based pricing. If you are a male you pay one price and if you are female you pay another.

As gender equality issues continue to push their way to the forefront of many heated debates, this is one area where the issue exists but remains untouched.

Nadine Eberts is a hairdresser who has spent time working in many cities across the country, including Halifax. She’s now employed in Regina, and says the type of haircuts she gives to her clients often overlap and there are no longer strictly male and strictly female haircuts.

There are a few hairstylists in the bigger cities across Canada who have decided to address the issue and instead implement a gender neutral pricing structure, which is based upon the time, effort and skill a requested style will take instead of basing the charge on gender.

Kristina Hallwas, a Regina-based hair stylist, is one of the stylists taking a more progressive, gender-neutral approach when charging her clients for her services.

Hallwas divides her services into four categories; prices range from $12 to $56 depending on the time, expertise and attention a client requires.

No Halifax salons have adopted a method like this and instead remain under the traditional system. The price gap varies from place to place and can be as low as a gap of $6 at the Head Shoppe to as high as almost $20 at .blu.

The gap can be seen on every hair salons website, where they clearly differentiate between the price for a male and the price for a female.

Chris Richards, hairdresser and director of salon resources for the Hair Design Centre, a hairdressing and esthetics school in Halifax, says the reason salons here use the traditional model is based on the centre’s market research findings.

“Based on the market research we have done, this method is what attracts the most customers, this is what they are used to, so it is automatically attractive to them,” he says.

The Hair Design Centre offers a six-level pricing structure that stylists would fit into based on education and skill level. Those at the lower levels would charge less, and increase their rates as they increase their skill level. However, the centre still differentiates within each level between male and female prices.

“We want to appeal to the masses of what people are searching for, our analytics say people like the traditional model, so that’s why for the most part, we stick to it,” Richards says.

Hallwas says it’s important to educate clients on why she has decided to charge the way that she does so they are able to understand why and what they are paying for.

She said feedback varies. “Some males are accepting, others are not happy to see their prices sometimes go up “depending on what they’re looking for.”

“For the most part, their prices are not going up, my stylists are just not being shorted for putting more effort into an intricate haircut and charging a price based on gender rather than effort,” Hallwas says.

“This is just what seemed right to me, I believe in equality.”

When Halifax men were asked about the issue, many responded that they are not interested in the idea, the consensus is that they believe their hair takes less time, and they have no interest in spending nearly as much time as a female would in the salon chair.

“I think I get my hair done more often, I don’t want to spend even more then I do each time I go,” says Tanner Clarkson.

The assumption automatically is that prices will go up for a male if the traditional structure were to be changed. But, as Hallwas says, it’s a matter of educating.

Once the alternative options are clearly explained, it begins to make sense to clients that in the era of the man bun, a male’s trim should not always cost less than a female.