Hairdressers need to revive the “hygienic-yet-trendy” bob cut and ditch blow drys to survive coronavirus restrictions threatening to decimate the sector, say industry leaders.
Covid-19 is reviving the iconic precision bob cut as the “safe” alternative to “lengthy” blow drys for longer locks, according to Tim Hartley, a former director at Vidal Sassoon.
The world-renowned hairdresser fears that the coronavirus is more likely to spread in long, wavy hair which has dominated female styles for years.
The bob cut became popular when sported by Hollywood star Louise Brooks during the ‘flapper’ era.
It came back into fashion during the 1960s when Twiggy had the chop.
The bob remains in fashion thanks to award winning actresses including Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Rosamund Pike.
Mr Hartley said: “We have to think about maximising hygiene. The sooner the long tresses of yesterday are dispensed with, the more hygienic it will be for us all.
“The hour-long blow dries in the salon are no longer safe for the stylist or the client. Research suggests the Covid-19 virus is transmitted much easier through a swift airflow.”
He thinks the shorter cuts, popularised by his former boss Vidal Sassoon, are the solution to the stricter hygiene required during the Covid-19 crisis.
Tim, a famous industry trendsetter, said: “With the bob cut you can wash your hair everyday and not worry about it. It becomes part of your routine. It’s the glamour without the fuss.”
Vidal Sassoon revolutionised hairdressing in the sixties by devising a way of putting a permanent wave in the hair, allowing it to dry naturally whilst retaining the style, Tim explained.
He said: “The bob cut started with icons like Mary Quant, but is now back with modern-day stars like Tilda Swinton and Rosamund Pike.
“It is in vogue again now and is the only way for the industry to emerge from this Covid lockdown. It can be anything from shoulder length to below the ears, depending on how bold you want to be.”
In a bid to lead the bob cut revival, Tim has teamed up with other industry leaders also backing the resurgence.
Guildford salon owner John Carne has opted to scrap the hour-long blow drys when he reopens his salon Monday July 6.
John, the former vice president at the Fellowship For British Hairdressing, thinks the “high speed air flow streams” that blow drys require could increase the spread of the virus.
He said: “My view is simple. I cannot expose my stylists or clients to a possible increased risk of Covid-19 transmission by undertaking lengthy blow drys in the salon. So for the foreseeable future they are off our service menu.”
Hair salons across the UK have been closed since lockdown began on March 23 in a bid to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Salons are expected to reopen on July 4, and while government safety guidelines for salons are yet to be announced, hairdressers are expecting to have to use personal protective equipment when they are unable to remain two metres apart.
The National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF), the UK’s largest hairdressing trade association is urging salons to limit treatment times to control the spread of Covid-19.
An NHBF spokesperson said: “In line with the current two-metre social distancing regulation we are recommending that hair and beauty salons and barbershops alter their lay-out to meet these to protect staff and clients. This will mean that most salons will not be able to accommodate as many clients as they normally would.
They added: “Treatment times should be kept to a minimum and so we are encouraging consultations to take place online before a client visits.”
Given the restrictions, some hairdressers see the “wash and go” precision cut as the economical choice moving forward.
John, a L’Oreal Colour Trophy winner, said: “In our salon we will only be able to operate eight of our usual 20 stylists chairs at any given time. Shorter cuts are much quicker than lengthy blow drys, so they will allow us to keep a high turnover and make a profit. Otherwise reopening just won’t be worthwhile.”
Mr Hartley believes reviving the bob cut, and its variations, will give women “freedom” with their hair which they haven’t experienced in the era of blow dry dominance.
He said: “Shorter cuts allow people to air or finger dry their hair. It’s much sexier because there’s a sense of freedom. With blow drys, if someone wants to touch your hair, they can’t, because it is coiffured. That’s not sexy.”
The hairdresser strongly opposes the dominant “blow dry culture” which he blames for damaging hair.
He said: “It goes against my hair cutting principles. Great British hairdressing is about celebrating the natural flow of the hair, not blow drying the smithereens out of it. Blow drys can sometimes make hair look healthy, but ultimately, it’s very damaging.”
After starting out aged 15, Tim rose to the peak of international hairdressing as Global Art Director at Vidal Sassoon. In a 35-year stint under working for his “friend and confidante” Vidal, he helped British hairdressing to become a global export, notably in China and Japan.
The veteran, who is now training the next generation of hairdressers in precision cutting, hopes that the coronavirus will “catalyse” the return of personalised hair cuts.
Prior to lockdown, Tim conducted an experiment by seeing how many “great cuts” he could spot on the fashionable Kings Road, in Chelsea, London.
He said: “There were absolutely none. I counted at least fifty beautiful women pass and they were all cloned, wearing long, generally blonde, wavy hair. I was in despair. Many had their hair scraped back into a ponytail like a schoolgirl. I thought ‘where is individuality these days?'”
The 66-year-old added: “The fashion circle needs something to nudge it on. In this case, Covid is the catalyst. People are looking for change. It makes sense that hair natures’ finest complement follows suit.”
Mr Hartley believes the precision cut resurgence is already underway, especially among younger women looking to break dominant trends.
He said: “It’s already happening, and not just in high-fashion circles. A lot of the rock chick mums have this long Kardashian type hair, and their daughters want to be different from their mothers. Hair is a symbol of rebellion and individuality.
“Many girls have started cropping their hair, but short crops haven’t been promoted by the manufacturers in any shape or form. As far as they are concerned, the more products they can sell to people with damaged hair the better. The torturous blow dry generates big money.”
Hairdressing professionals including Tim are also concerned about the rise of the “home hairdressing” trend which has ballooned during the lockdown.
Mr Hartley said: “A lot of people have been cheating with home hairdressing.
“I’m massively opposed to that. It lowers the standard of the industry big time. And also it’s a very dangerous thing to do health-wise.”
He added: “Since people haven’t been spending vast fortunes on coffee, you can say to yourself that going to a master stylist at a top salon is the way forward. There is an option no matter what your budget is.
“Going to a place where they will knock it off for a couple of quid is not the answer. It’s dangerous too.”
Mr Hartley has recently launched the Tim Hartley Hairworld Learning Library to educate young hairdressers and reverse the “decline” in industry skills.
He said: “We are only going to survive by upping the game.
“Unfortunately, I’ve seen skills decline in recent years. Many of the stylists who trained within the decade would struggle to create the precision cut. They’re only familiar with churning out the basic trim for the ‘long wavy hair blow dry’ look.”
He added: “I don’t care what my competitors think: Great British hairdressing is based on cutting and colouring hair, not blow drying it.
“People will say any old bullsh*t to make clients happy.
“If we’re going to be great, we need to educate and lead. If we don’t, we’re screwed.”