Silent hairdressing: Short back and sides and no small talk, please

  • People
  • Saturday, 18 Mar 2023

Hair salon owner Siepert-Fichter (left) tending to her client Hartwig in her salon in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Photos: Carsten Koall/dpa

Finally, introverts can get a haircut in peace.

That is also good news for hairdressers and barbers who may be frazzled from the endless chatter too.

"Don't hesitate to ask for a silent appointment if you want to have your hair done in silence," says Vogue Avenue Hair, a salon in Melbourne. "You could be tired, mentally drained, need to work or just want to sit in silence and relax."

Hair salons from New York to Sydney now highlight the option for silent appointments.

The Bauhaus salons in Wales want customers to be "free to relax in peace and do whatever you need to do – from catching up on emails, to reading or just zoning out".

In Berlin, the Wild Hair salon launched their service after the outbreak of Covid-19, when the only thing people were talking about was the pandemic.

Andrea Siepert-Fichter, a hairdresser in Berlin's hip Prenzlauer Berg district, says she wanted to create "a zone of relaxation where you can forget all your worries".

Customer and insurance salesperson Benjamin Hartwig welcomes this service. He tells Siepert-Fichter what he wants, then she gets started. Both are quiet for the next 20 minutes as she cuts his hair.

Siepert-Fichter (left), owner of the hair salon Wild Hair, with one of her customers. The salon offers a so-called 'silent cut', where there is no talking.Siepert-Fichter (left), owner of the hair salon Wild Hair, with one of her customers. The salon offers a so-called 'silent cut', where there is no talking.

Beside him, a customer is chatting away about his parents, his new job and commuting, while loud rock music plays in the background.

"The sounds don't bother me," Hartwig says after the cut. "Because of my job, I talk to people all day, I hear good stories, but I also hear upsetting ones."

He found his haircut relaxing.

"It's a time when I can reflect on my day and just deal with my thoughts," he says.Jan Kopatz, head of the Berlin Hairdressers' Guild, does not think the silent cuts are anything especially outstanding, dismissing them mainly as a "marketing tool and a fad". The quality of the cut is no different from any other, he says.

But more and more hairdressers are noticing people's growing need for quiet.

"Mental health is so important and coming into a salon can be very daunting for some people," says The Hive salon in Dublin.

"If you are stressed, feeling anxious or you are just someone who needs to relax for an hour and not have to worry about the pressure of conversation, there will be no judgement from any member of our team if you request a silent appointment."

German psychologist Julia Scharnhorst says it is not surprising that people often wind up confiding in their hairdresser or having a relatively personal conversation as you are physically close.

Being touched by another person for a certain amount of time can trigger a feeling of familiarity, she says, noting that some people also experience this during a session with a physiotherapist or when getting a massage.

But for those providing the service, this can be exhausting.

"After all, many people tell incriminating things or intimate things," says Scharnhorst."

The customers go home refreshed after an hour. The hairdressers often have the next customer and the next conversation lined up right away," she says.

"And we also take some problems home with us," adds Siepert-Fichter.

She also values appointments that do not involve small talk.

"I, too, am only human and not a machine, and I'm not always in the mood to talk. I like to daydream," she says.

Alongside chatter, salons can be loud places, buzzing with the sound of hairdryers and other equipment.

"You have to put up with that," says psychologist Scharnhorst, who specialises in mental health in the workplace and also teaches stress management seminars.

Scharnhorst is a big fan of the silent hair cut trend, saying it gives hairdressers some much-needed calm, too.

That was what prompted Anna Weber from the German town of Villingen-Schwellingen to offer quiet haircuts five years ago, at a time when she was under a lot of stress.

She felt that many customers found it easier to get an appointment with a hairdresser than with a psychologist and she was struggling with the burden of hearing a lot of personal stories.

"Yet all I want to do is be a hairdresser," she says. "But unfortunately, only three to four customers, who are under a lot of stress themselves, want regular haircuts without conversations."

She also struggles with the fact that she only cuts hair in people's homes, where they are even more likely to confide in her.

Antonio Weinitschke of the central association of German hairdressers believes things need not necessarily be clear cut. The customer sets the tone, he says, noting that a hairdresser soon realises whether someone wants to talk or not.

"You need to be sensitive."While the quiet can also be challenging for customers who feel pressure to make small talk and be polite, the incessant barrage of chatter can cause long-term damage, according to Scharnhorst.

"At some point, hairdressers can't really concentrate on anything for very long," she says, as many have told her during her seminars.For celebrity hairstylist Dieter Bonnstadter, however, silent cuts are hard to imagine.

"The exchange with the customers is something beautiful after all," he says.

Small talk hasn't completely died out at Siepert-Fichter's salon either. She enjoys talking to some of her customers.

"With regulars, and I've known some for 20 years, we do have a very personal bond." – dpa

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