As hair salons began temporarily shuttering amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became abundantly clear that getting a haircut is so much more than just a utilitarian task. It's an act of self-care, and one that often doubles as a cherished ritual within a community.
While many hair salons across the country have begun reopening, things are far from normal, and for clients, social distancing isn't the only obstacle in the way of the next haircut. The economy is still struggling to recover from the catastrophic impact of the coronavirus, and many people are still out of work or having trouble making ends meet. As such, paying for a haircut may not be in the budget right now. Recognizing this, New York City's White Rose Collective has begun offering sliding scale haircuts for existing clients who are currently unemployed. The idea first came about when Megan Robinson, a longtime stylist at the East Village salon who provided free haircuts for frontline hospital workers during the peak of the crisis, suggested it to founder and creative director Teddi Cranford. Cranford was thrilled at the prospect of giving back to their clientele, particularly since many clients who were able to do so prebooked services and sent prepaid tips via Venmo during lockdown. "We wanted to extend that love to our clients who now needed us," explains Cranford. "Our clients have always been so supportive of us so it’s important that they feel supported now more than ever." When Cranford shared the news on Instagram, one user commented, "I got this email today and teared. Thank you for this."
Due to timing and overhead, color appointments aren't including in White Rose Collective's sliding scale initiative, but all cutting hairstylists are participating. For existing customers, it's pay what you can—no explanation needed. Additionally, the stylists providing these service will receive 100% of the payment. To Cranford, the whole notion encompasses why she believes White Rose Collective will survive as a small business. "As a team we are listening to one another and are keeping an open mind and navigating this together," explains Cranford. "My team is incredible and I’m super lucky to also feel supported and safe as a small business owner." Moreover, Cranford believes her team is doing some of their best work ever. "With our faces covered most of the time, I think now more than ever it’s all about hair—from an image standpoint," she says. "I’ve been cutting more bangs and bits and I find people are embracing their natural texture more, and we love it."
Between months of lost income and reopening at limited capacity, many salons are still struggling to meet the bottom line, and may not have the financial means to offer their services on a sliding scale. But for those who do, White Rose Collective offers a model for supporting out-of-work clients during this difficult time, as well as continuing to foster a sense of community and connection.
"Community allows us to feel seen, heard, and supported—and to also share our modern life struggles," says Cranford. "If you aren’t giving back to your community during a time like this, then what are you doing? Our surrounding community is what keeps a small business alive."