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Make That At-Home Trim A Little Less Hairy With A Virtual Salon Visit


JaBarie Anderson has led more than a hundred haircuts via Zoom in the last few weeks.
Kat Lonsdorf/NPR

JaBarie Anderson has led more than a hundred haircuts via Zoom in the last few weeks.

As weeks of staying at home have turned into months, and salons and barber shops in most states continue to be closed, many of us are getting a little shaggy.

If you want to go the DIY route but need a little guidance, haircuts are the latest services to make their way online: You can now invite a professional into your home through video chat for a virtual haircut.

That's what I did on week six of stay-at-home orders in Washington, D.C. — when my boyfriend, Noah Caldwell, wanted a haircut. We're both producers on All Things Considered, and we're quarantining together.

We threw a sheet over a coffee-table-turned-barber's-chair and rounded up some tools: a comb, a spray bottle and sewing scissors — barber shears are a hot commodity right now and sold out many places.

And then we called in (virtual) reinforcement: JaBarie Anderson in Brooklyn.

He's a hairstylist who's led more than a hundred haircuts via Zoom in the last few weeks. He's worked with clients all over the world: Germany, Dubai, China and Paris, France. One day, he said, he was so busy he had nine back-to-back appointments.

I found Anderson through a website called YouProbablyNeedaHaircut, which launched in early April. It's a side project for tech entrepreneur Greg Isenberg. He got the idea after talking to a friend in New York City who had lost his job as a barber due to the coronavirus.

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At the time, Isenberg needed a haircut. But he wasn't thrilled with the idea of his girlfriend taking scissors to his hair.

"So I was like, how about you hop on FaceTime, you teach her, and I'll give you some money. And we did it, and it was pretty cool. And I realized, maybe other people out there might want a similar service," he said.

After Isenberg built the site, it took off almost overnight. So many hair professionals wanted to apply that they eventually had to take down the application page.

The site now has dozens of stylists and barbers from around the world. The price is similar to that of a normal haircut — about $1 per minute of the stylists' time.

That might seem a bit steep — paying that much to do the actual cutting yourself — but essentially all the money goes directly into the pockets of the barbers and stylists, who are otherwise not working.

Anderson said the income has taken a big weight off.

"Now I'm able to provide for my rent, I have a younger brother in college, if he needs my help, or my mom, I can do that," he said. "I just wanted to make sure I was financially stable enough to help myself, and help my family."

Isenberg's site isn't the only place offering online cuts. Virtual barber shops and salons have started to pop up locally, too, from San Francisco to Ottawa to Tokyo.

There are also a slew of free haircut tutorials online, which is another option for barber newbies like myself. But the weird, and great, thing about having a professional peeking over your shoulder on the webcam is that they can walk you through it in real time.

Anderson (patiently) taught me how to section the hair, to pull it 90 degrees from the head and then trim — and how to go back and check that everything was even.

Plus, he was just a good-natured cheerleader the whole time. It was fun.

And the haircut itself? Well, aside from one near-nick (sorry, Noah), it turned out great — and bloodshed-free.

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