Why do women pay double for a haircut?

I was in Melbourne recently and desperate for a haircut. Driven to make myself look as respectable as I could for my return to work the following Monday, I succumbed to the need and marched myself down a local salon.

This was not my local salon, but my boyfriend’s. He has been going there for years and so, reassured by his tried-and-tested measure, I decided this was a case of “what’s the worst that could really happen?”

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It was actually a pretty good haircut and I was chuffed with my new look. My pixie crop somehow looked spunkier than usual. Let me tell you, that when there’s less than an inch of hair to work with any deviation from the norm is pretty impressive.

But it wasn’t until I went to pay that my new do became my undoing. “That’s $80 for today,” the salon assistant gestured. My jaw dropped.

My confusion lay in the fact that my boyfriend only ever pays $40 for a trim.

I fully anticipated having to pay more than my partner does for his monthly trim — despite the fact that his hair is slightly longer than mine. But having to pay double his $40 fee? That is just plain laughable.

See what I mean…

Meg (and her short hair) on a recent trip to the beach.

Since that visit I've made it my mission in life to find out exactly why women pay so much more than men when visiting the hair dresser. And it wasn't long before I had my answer: CLIPPERS.

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The hairdresser I spoke to, who will be referred to as James (I can't reveal his real name, of course), said that women pay more than men not because their hair is longer/shorter/thicker/heavier but often as a result of whether or not a salon uses clippers.


"In my experience salons that use clippers, to reduce service time, have a difference with price structure," he said. "Salons that have a more elitist attitude (and consider clippers inferior) tend to [also] have a unisex pricing system."

Confused yet? Yep, so was I.

Turns out that, in a fantastic twist of fate, both the use of clippers or a distinct lack of clippers in a salon are both to blame for price structuring.

Let's call it 'the clipper complex,' shall we?

James explained it as a timing thing based on the fact that men's haircuts often use a mix of clippers and scissors and are therefore quicker. The service time for a men's haircut is usually around 30 minutes.

"On average we allow 45 minutes for women so there's time for more complex designs that are all scissor cut. Thus the difference in pricing structure," James said.

James explained the detail behind how tiered pricing works:

"Personally, I feel the fair base price of a haircut should be between $35-$40 [for men] and $50-$60 [for women] including styling. This averages out to around $1 per minute (which is on par with other services like music lessons, tutoring or remedial massage) and a little more to accommodate for products used and the cost of continuous training. Of course, this amount can be influenced by factors such as shop rent and seniority of staff."

This certainly gets to the heart of why us women should always expect to pay that little bit more when we grace the salon chair.

But it goes without saying that I won't be returning to any salon that charges me double for the privilege of being a female – at least while I have a men's hair cut.

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