OPINION: In the 1950s, a women’s haircut cost three shillings, or $9 in today’s money. A men’s cut would set you back all of two shillings, or $6 today.
The price of haircuts has soared above general inflation over the years, especially for women, who have to take out a second mortgage before they go to the salon.
Blokes must have been feeling left out. In recent years, going to the barber has turned into an ‘experience’, complete with tumblers of whiskey, designer stubble measured to a tenth of a millimetre, and sandalwood-infused beard oil. In spite of what the faux-retro decor is trying so very hard to suggest, this is not your grandfather’s barbershop.
While the men who frequent these trendy shops look great, I still think it’s worth making a case for the good old-fashioned DIY approach.
Why split hairs over $30, you ask?
I recently saw a photo of a battered old Wahl hair clipper from the 1990s, which its owner estimated had saved his family thousands of dollars.
I decided to run the numbers on our own pair of trusty clippers, also bought in the 1990s, used by one father and four sons throughout childhood and the teenage years. By my calculations, it’s saved us at least $8000, and my dad still uses it to this day.
This is a fairly incredible return on investment for an item that costs all of $40, and lasts more-or-less forever, so long as you occasionally de-gunk it and oil the blades.
Besides my own unskilled hands, a procession of siblings, flatmates, and girlfriends have cut my hair over the years; all of them rank amateurs. Only once did my head look like it’d been run over by a lawnmower. The classic short-back-and-sides or buzzcut is not exactly brain surgery.
Longer hair is trickier. Owners of luscious locks usually get a proper cut once or twice a year, at eye-watering expense, and then regular trims of the ends. I have it on good authority that it’s entirely possible to do these trims at home with a pair of hairdressing scissors, and if you’re feeling brave, you can even find DIY tutorials for proper cuts.
For anything more complicated, you’re going to struggle to beat a trained professional.
This is where DIY can go disastrously wrong. It doesn’t make sense to skimp on a good haircut if you work in sales, or need to make a strong first impression. Looking scruffy for a job interview in order to save $30 is the definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish.
When it’s time to call in the pros, there is one strategy you can use to keep the costs down. Beauty academies and hairdresser training schools offer cut-price services to anyone willing to put their fate in the hands of a trainee.
This is still a bit of a punt, but there’s an experienced professional overseeing every snip, and it means you can get expensive salon treatments for a steal: at one school, a lady’s cut and blow wave is $18, and men’s cuts are a mere $8.
I don’t miss the creations my mum used to whip up with a mixing bowl and a pair of kitchen scissors, prior to the purchase of the trusty clippers. If you too were traumatised by shearing-shed mullets and atrocious fringes, know that there is a middle ground here.
With trendy haircuts only ever getting more expensive, and thousands of dollars on the line, the DIY approach is not as hair-brained a scheme as it sounds.