Situation Grows Hairier
Erie barber shops, salons still without clear-cut reopening date
Judging from the looks of some of us, it's been a Stone's Age since we've seen a stylist's chair. Maybe you've adopted cave painting as a hobby during quarantine, but more than likely you need a haircut.
Given the timing of Governor Tom Wolf's statewide shutdown order in mid-March, your last trim was probably between 10 and 14 weeks ago, give or take (a little bit off the top). Since then, you've either self-tamed your Paleolithic pate or continue to wait for Erie County to enter Pennsylvania's Green Phase of reopening — when we might lay down our flint spears and sweetly surrender to a steadier pair of shears.
Even then, notoriously close-quarters salons and barber shops have many challenges to comb through. Normally volume businesses, those that have reopened have thinned out their schedules, spacing appointments and chairs further apart to encourage social distancing between clients (and to rigorously sanitize). However, the stylists themselves can't possibly maintain six feet from the scalp and/or face they're working on. Masks, of course, are worn during each service rendered — but pose an obstruction to most tools of the trade, especially when secured behind the head (stylists have found those looped around the ears easier to navigate). Haircuts are one thing, but waxes and facials are almost comically incompatible with a mask.
Nonetheless, most are doing whatever it takes to responsibly function, and state lawmakers have even stepped up on their behalf. House Bill 2388, supported by State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro and others, sought to obtain statewide waivers to the governor's business closure order for select business, including:
- vehicle dealers
- lawn and garden centers
- cosmetology salons
- barber shops
- messenger service and agent service activities
- animal grooming services
- manufacturing operations
After clearing the State House and State Senate, H.B. 2388 was vetoed by Gov. Wolf last week, citing "an infringement on the authority and responsibility of the executive" and a violation of "the separation of powers that is critical to the functioning of our democracy." With the lack of testing availability and other factors in play, the governor was not comfortable with the idea, especially in harder-struck counties (all of which will be going Yellow on Jun. 5 — but only Green counties will be cleared for shave-off).
With that being the case, the area's brave men and women may still have to venture into the fraught and tangled realm of the DIY haircut. At minimum, this will require either a pair of electric clippers with plastic guards (short hairstyles) or a pair of haircutting shears (longer styles or layers), a fine-toothed comb, and a hand mirror (for a live look-in at your behind-the-head miracle work). Concerned parties recommend that beginners cut their hair dry (for those with curls, it's an absolute must), take their time, and work in sections.
If you have a volunteer you can commission for the task, all the better. Some stylists may even conduct real-time coaching via video conferencing software (ask if it's a possibility). Beyond purchasing styling equipment or products — permissible under the Yellow Phase — paying for a coaching session could be a good way to support your temporarily sidelined cosmetologist.
All this said, it's a good time to be bald.
Left unchecked, Matt Swanseger's uncut hair begins to resemble the long-ago molting of a McDonald's Fry Kid. He remains open for drive-thru at firstname.lastname@example.org