A group of Toronto creatives are doing their part to address a hairy situation

While much of the focus on the business impact of COVID has been on restaurants and bars, another retail sector that has been upended by the shutdown has been barbers and hair salons.

Barbers were not included in the re-opening strategy announced by Ontario’s Ford government in mid-May, and the close-quarters nature of their profession means they could be among the last businesses to re-open.

“It’s been maybe six weeks since I went to the barber, and I see all these shops shuttered,” says freelance art director Mark Spalding, who has co-created a new online fundraiser for Toronto-area barber shops called #HairDare.

“It makes you wonder a) how they’re surviving and b) how they’re going to come back. There’s not much room for error in their [profit] margin. I thought it would be nice to help these people out.”

The situation has become, well, quite hairy. With no access to barbers/hairdressers, people’s hair (even that of the power-brokers) is getting longer and/or shaggier by the day.

Many have begun turning to family members to give them “COVID cuts,” often with unintentionally hilarious results (I personally was well on my way towards this before my wife stepped in).

Spalding worked with fellow freelance copywriter James Dunlop and Paul Curtin, general manager at the production collective Makers, to bring the property to life. HairDare is intended to showcase some of the best (and worst) home haircuts while also raising money for Toronto-area barbershops and hair salons that are being hurt financially by the crisis.

The HairDare.ca website is asking visitors to make a donation to one of 16 barbershops (or submit a business of their own) and then allow a family member to cut their hair and post a picture or video of the resulting haircut to social media using the hashtag #HairDare.

“It took me a while to jump off the diving board and get a haircut from my kids,” says Spalding, who says the result was actually not too bad. “We’ll all lose a little pride to help out those small businesses who’ve lost almost everything.”

Chris Powell