Beauty

“I was mortified” – Barbershop throws out customer because she’s a woman

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Anna Pollitt
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A woman with cropped hair walks into a barber's shop and says, "I'll have a trim, please." 

The man in the shop points to the door and says, "I just do girls when we're not busy."

Sadly, this is not a tediously unfunny joke from the archives - its real life 2016 for a woman who wanted to have her short hair trimmed in Cambridge city centre.

Anna Kaminski, 34, popped into Il Barbiere on May 4 and sat down to wait for a simple cut, only to be told "Ladies is that way" as she was shown the door.

Kaminski, a travel writer, has been having her short style cut in barbershops for "many years" without any issue.

"Had I walked into this barbershop and asked them for services they didn't provide, a perm or something, then of course he would have been within his rights to tell me that they don't provide that service but I was asking for exactly the same services as his other clients," she explains. 

The Cambridge resident says: "I was mortified because this was in front of the two customers and his assistant and also because I was completely taken aback by his behaviour."

When it came to her turn in the barber's chair, she says a male client stepped forward to take her seat and she was told loudly by the barber "See you later."

"When I tried to explain to him that I was looking for a male haircut with clippers, he wouldn't listen and just kept loudly repeating, 'See you later'.

"I asked him, 'do you not serve female clients?' He wouldn't answer me just kept repeating the same thing over and over. 

Kaminski says being refused a cut was "upsetting" and claims Il Barbiere is in breach of the Equality Act.

haircut

Curl up and dye: A barbershop refused to serve a customer with short hair because she's a woman

Owner Lino Pizza, who has been running the shop since 1991, tells Stylist.co.uk that the incident was a "misunderstanding." 

"I just do girls when we're not busy," he says. 

According to SWNS, Pizza told the agency: "A lot of the time, we don't want to mess up a girl's hair. They can get all funny if you get it wrong."

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society which promotes equality and rights for women, tells Stylist.co.uk that the shop was "almost certainly" acting illegally.

"The law says its illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sex unless there can be an objective justification," Smethers says. "They can't just say 'we're not going to cut your hair because you're a woman. Its just ridiculous."

"In this day and age most businesses would want to meet the needs of customers," she adds. "It's bonkers."

While it's commonplace to find both women and men in hairdressing salons, Kaminski is not the first woman to be turned away from a barber's chair.

In 2014 a "pro-man" barbershop in Liverpool banned women because they "take up too much room," and in 2015 a female reporter from the Newcastle Chronicle struggled to get a short back and sides in barbershops in Tyneside.

barber

Barber or hairdresser?

Why choose a barbershop over a hairdresser?

The answer, overwhelmingly, is cost. "Sexist pricing means women already pay more than men for the same products and services," Smethers points out. Il Barbiere, for example, charges £16.50 for a shampoo, cut and blow-dry. The same service at Toni & Guy in Cambridge starts at £47. Despite Kaminski's negative experience, most barbers are trained in many kinds of haircuts and should be willing to discuss your preferred style.

The downsides?

You may have to forgo the glossy magazines, frothy coffee and head massage - and if it's busy you'll have to wait around for your turn.

If you've been discriminated against and need advice, the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) may be able to help.

Images: SWNS/iStock

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Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at Stylist.co.uk, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant. The baby is borrowed.

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