coronavirus toronto hair salons

Hair stylists and barbers in Toronto are urging each other to stop giving home haircuts

We're one week into coronavirus-induced self-isolation, meaning some of us are probably starting to look a little unkempt (read: crumb-covered and shaggy). 

With all hair salons and barbershops across Toronto closed since last Monday, some of us may be tempted to call our barbers or hairdressers to come over, even paying extra to get a fresh cut amidst COVID-19. 

But as some rogue stylists hit Instagram — mostly on the low — to promote house calls, hair professionals are now urging one another not to conduct home visits, despite how dire their financial situations might be. 

"If you have self respect and you respect the industry you're from, don't do it," says Peter Gosling, owner of Glassbox Barbershop.

"You don't have the correct sanitation tools at home...and you've been advised not to be within six feet of people." 

After one of his barbers tested positive for COVID-19 in early March, Gosling decided to close all three of Glassbox's Toronto locations, leading to the unemployment of multiple contract barbers and full-time employees who now must rely on EI. 

It was a hard decision, Gosling says, but increased sanitation, masks, and gloves weren't going to help fix the extreme decrease in clientele as fears over the novel virus began to esclate. 

"I wish we were an essential, but we’re not essential, we’re a luxury," says Gosling. "The last thing you need is to look good right now, what do you need to look good for?" 

The hair styling industry, as important as looking presentable may seem for some, isn't considered an essential business, meaning it's been one of the hardest-hit professions as it relies almost solely on physical contact between service providers and their clients.

But some salons have managed to transition to product pick-up and delivery models to help bolster finances for the foreseeable future.

worldSALON, which has been operating on Adelaide Street for 30 years, has been focusing on selling its WORLD line of eco-friendly haircare and skincare products since it closed last Monday. 

Owner Brian Phillips says that some of their clients work in media, many of whom need to upkeep their hairstyles for on-camera appearances, but worldSALON's stylists are avoiding home visits for now. 

"I'm sure that people are doing it," says Phillips. "But it seems to me that it's pretty reckless, and the fact that you can actually pass [coronavirus] on without knowing you're infected yourself, you just don't know." 

Palm Sunday, a hair salon on Harbord, is offering contact-free pick ups for toners, glosses and homecare products for clients who want to do some basic touch-ups themselves, without the help of a visiting hairdresser. 

"Having nice hair makes people feel good and they need to feel good more than ever right now," says co-owner Kat Marcus.

The salon also has video instructions on how to apply products, since a bad dye job could take up to a year to correct — by which time we'll (hopefully) be able to leave the house.

Acknowledging that it's especially hard for self-employed and contract hair stylists and barbers, Marcus says the industry should hunker down and call their landlords, credit card companies and utility providers to try and negotiate something feasible for April. 

"Once this is over I know we will be busier than ever, but for now we all need to stay home and save lives." 

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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