I cut my own hair. It’s getting easier now that there is a lot less of it these days. But I started doing it back when I was in the Navy because I was expected to have a fresh haircut every two to three weeks and that got expensive.
The base charged about $7 and some of those barbers were hacks. A haircut off base was usually $10 or more. I have always been far too frugal to drop that much coin, so I purchased a set of clippers for less than $20 and I was in business. Well, cutting your hair in the mirror while holding another mirror can get tricky and I certainly did end up with many burr-style haircuts before I learned some tricks.
Why are haircuts, something that usually takes a matter of minutes, so expensive? Are barbers and hairstylists getting rich off us poor suckers who just want to look nice? Or could we blame a greater evil for this?
First, we need to talk about what it takes to become a barber or stylist. Program costs and durations can vary pretty wildly here. One vocational training website says that costs can range from $2,000 to $11,000. The time can take from a few months to a couple of years. The minimum training to certify in Texas is 1,500 hours.
So this initial investment is made up front, usually to be paid back in the form of loans. Barbers and stylists start out much like most college graduates, saddled with debt when they enter the workforce. At least now you can go make some money, right? Not so fast.
Now you must prove to the state that you learned what you were supposed to. You take a written exam that costs $55 and a practical exam for $78. However, before you can take your practical examination, you have to purchase all your supplies, plus a mannequin or model to perform the exam on. Then you shell out $55 to renew your license every two years, because … just because.
Now you can finally join the workforce and make some mad loot to pay off some debt. Since you probably can’t afford your own shop right away, you typically rent a booth from a shop owner — more cost. You’ll need supplies. Some days are slow. Some clients only want certain barbers.
The struggle is real for someone just getting out on their own to cut hair. Better get used to living with your folks and eating a lot of Ramen noodles for lunch. The average starting salary for barbers is around $20,000 at the entry level. It looks like you might take a little while to pay off all that debt you took on.
Let’s say you want to get out on your own and run your own shop. Maybe rent some booths out to other barbers so you can make some money off their backs. Renting a building is not cheap. Buying is even more expensive. You also get to pay property taxes and insurance for a building. Of course, running a shop has licensing fees. At every single turn there is some bureaucrat with his hand out, demanding more money. And for what? Are haircuts somehow better with these fees tacked on? Was there no incentive for barbers to protect the health of their clients without government oversight? Haircuts are expensive because of government.