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I've Been Trolled

March 15, 2024

I've Been Trolled

A few weeks back I had another barrage of abuse from hairdressers on Tiktok. 

And all over a video that influencer Melissa Varnavas had posted. The issue began around cost, but personal attacks included me wearing a suit and apprentices being called slaves etc. (they assist as part of their deep learning), and suggesting that what I do is so simple they could all do it for fifteen pounds/dollars etc.

I put 46 years of knowledge into completely reshaping Melissa’s hair from the bog standard 3-Step Bob haircut she had. It transformed the style and she's now on a journey with us to recover her best hair. Melissa fully appreciated the incredible difference to how her hair looked, felt, and moved. And it will be much simpler for her to style.

But the TikTok comments showed a complete lack of awareness, were dismissive of it being just a ‘dry trim’, and derided (with envy) the cost. Our salon haircuts start at £95 and go up based on experience. The top price being for myself or Nicky with 46 and 50 years’ experience respectively.

Call me old fashioned, but I choose to wear a suit instead of the torn jeans and flip flops popularised by hairdressers in many other salons. The suit is a regular subject of mirth on social media and in America some confuse it with a morning coat for some reason. Duh! 😊 

Some of those people who can’t see the point of paying more than £40 for a haircut (nor would I if they were always the same ten-minute one-length Bobs) will spend £600 on a Dyson to overstyle their hair because the haircut isn’t right. And then complain that their styling doesn’t last and their hair is split and broken at the ends.

Value is in the eye of the beholder

And then the spin-off videos came, with hairdressers wanting to know how they could ‘get away’ with charging more, as if clients were stupid. In my experience clients/customers are very savvy and will only pay for value as perceived by them. Everyone is different and as part of my salon training I ask our team to always give at least 120%. Only giving just enough to cover your charge is a dangerous approach in an ultra-competitive world.

Value is a personal judgement but also about discernment. You can only discern if you’re aware of the breadth of quality. For example you won’t appreciate the variabilities of fine wine if you’ve only ever drunk Blue Nun. Easy to then laugh at anyone paying more than £8 a bottle.

Nor will anyone appreciate the build quality and fabric of an Hermes shirt, say, if their experience is only of the Zara and Primark copies. They’ll just joke about stupid rich people being ripped off. If you don’t understand or appreciate the difference its silly to pay a higher price. If you do understand the difference and choose basic and simple, that's a personal value judgement and as valid as any choice. It doesn’t deride others for making a different choice.

Appreciating Quality

There are huge variations in quality in all walks of life. In the restaurant trade there may be six grades of quality for fruit, veg and meats etc. In flowers I certainly know of four grades: petrol station, supermarkets, florists, and super premium. It’s the same in hairdressing, and if the difference at the upper end isn’t perceived or appreciated there is no point paying the extra.

Personally I find quality, luxury, and the pursuit of excellence, the most stimulating arena to live and work in. A large section of our industry admire and respect our salon’s commitment to the highest quality - we’ve won more industry awards for this than any other salon.

The cheaper less conscious end can laugh at us and I really don’t mind. As Mae West said, “It's better to be looked over than overlooked.” 

The video above was genteel compared to the furore on the original video which went viral - 1.5+ million views and 2500+ comments, mostly critical. I laughed out loud reading through them; some witty, some stupid and others plain nasty. But the volume was a little overwhelming and left me feeling quite sad for our industry.

This video below then cemented my despair at how hairdressers project themselves in what is a physically, emotionally, and psychologically intimate profession. There are not many careers where practitioners touch their clients. We do, and we get up close to fully understand our clients and perform creative surgery on them. How we show up matters. 

At the low end, the lack of awareness is astonishing, and in a profession that, practised properly, requires a depth and breadth of collective skills - creative, technical, social and personable, that’s rare in most other roles. I feel sorry for them that they just don’t know. Perhaps that mirrors the general workplace and millennial society. But we'll continue our own path and effect positive change where we can.

This latest video below picked up on the reams of criticism about us using assistants rather than hair clips.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and it’s prompted me to create a different series of educational films for our channel. Directed at the industry, these will explain and educate as to why we work differently to most hairdressers.

In my career lifetime I’ve seen an industry decline in many areas. There’s less inquisitive exploration, fewer ground-shifting ideas, less commitment to professionalism and excellence. 

I will put out our first response video on TikTok later this month but will answer a little here on this Apprenticeships blog for the many younger hairdressers watching these videos.


 Michael Van Clarke


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