As provinces across Canada begin to lift stay-at-home measures, many of us are itching to get back out into society and feel a sense of normalcy. The grooming rituals of pre-pandemic life promise a much-needed boost of joy, non? Here, two ELLE editors share their experience getting a hair cut and colour, respectively, during two Toronto hair salons during stage two of Ontario’s reopening plan amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Melissa Perdigao, beauty editorial assistant?

As someone who has spent the last five months helplessly watching my bangs grow out, I was eager to get myself into a hair salon chair. For my first and highly anticipated salon experience of 2020, I paid a visit to hairstylist Jason Lee, who heads Jason Lee Salon in midtown Toronto. This is how it went down.

THE MOOD:

When I arrived at Lee’s, the vibe was calm and subdued; Madonna music could be heard faintly over the speakers. As expected, the space was operating at a reduced capacity in order to accommodate social distancing. It was a shift from the typical high-energy bustle of a hair salon. “I firmly believe that keeping a calm environment keeps our customers feeling safe and comfortable,” says Lee. “People are stressed and anxious enough, so for us, our salon needs to be calm so [clients] can enjoy as much of a normal experience as possible”. Considering my own anxiety about entering a public space during a global pandemic, it was a welcome change.

Although I brought my own mask, the salon offered disposable masks and sanitizer. However, beverages and other refreshments, which were previously provided by the salon, are temporarily on hold in order to limit contact. I greeted a masked-up Lee with a socially-distanced “air hug” and made my way to the chair, iced coffee in hand.

THE PROCESS:

Excited for a change, I gave Lee carte blanche with my hair. He decided on a caramel-toned balayage (my first foray into colour in over a decade) and a quick trim. “A lot of people are just asking for clean-ups, which is cool to see and potentially indicative of new trends to come,” says Lee. As someone who has rocked a chin-length bob for the last two years, it was interesting to learn that I wasn’t the only one digging the grown-out look. “We’ve [also] seen people go lighter because they were wanting a bit of an uplifted change in their look,” Lee says. “The idea of a change seems fun right now as a direct response to not being able to do anything for so long.” Thrilled at the prospect of a hair transformation, I had to agree.

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THE END RESULT:

The entire process took about two hours. Something to keep in mind: the length of time required for your service may directly correlate to how much you’re shelling out. “We can only fit so many people in at once, so depending on how long of a service a person is getting, the price may have to reflect the amount of time they are spending using that seat,” says Lee. “Pricing no longer is represented by how many foils a person gets, but rather their need for time.” This also explains why Lee’s salon won’t be offering blowouts for the foreseeable future. The sooner delays are minimized, the smoother the transition to pre-COVID wait times and pricing will be. Lee rough-dried my hair and sent me on my way. I made my way home, eager to complete my blowout and see the finished look. Ahead, the final result.

Victoria DiPlacido, digital director?

I was admittedly nervous to get my haircut. I kept asking myself why I’d go back into a public space for something that, for myself, personally, I can’t consider “essential”: I have extremely low-maintenance hair, and despite not having a hair cut since February, it didn’t really…matter? I wasn’t seeing anyone IRL other than select family and friends, all of whom knew me during a three-year stretch at university when I barely brushed my hair, let alone had it cut. However, when David Nadicci, owner of We Are We Are salon in Toronto asked if I wanted to come in and see the post-COVID space before they opened to the public, I acquiesced for the sake of journalism (and the thought of photos being taken at an upcoming wedding ceremony).

THE MOOD:

When I arrived at We Are We Are on June 28, I hadn’t been inside an indoor public space other than my local grocery story since March 13. Everyone must wear a mask and bottles of hand sanitizer are, reassuringly, everywhere: at the door when I enter, by the hair washing station and on the table in front of my salon chair. We Are We Are is spaced out over two floors and allows a maximum of 10 people in the entire salon at once, five hairstylists and five clients, which allows for plenty of distancing (although it was only Nadicci and I in the space during my appointment). The salon is welcoming, but the vibe is calmer than what I recall –? and that’s by design. “Something that feels different for us is that we can’t allow clients to bring a friend with them to their appointment, and that was pretty common because people like to hang out here,” Nadicci tells me.

THE PROCESS:

My extremely low-maintenance balayage, done back in February, is growing out well (thanks, David!), so we opt for a quick haircut. I go over to the hair-washing station, where they have blocked off the middle sink to ensure distancing between clients. Every space is sanitized after use; additional time is left between appointments to allow for these new measures. (The salon is run as a collective, so each hairstylist sets their own prices, however, prices still reflect the service, and not the length of time spent in the studio.) Nadicci cuts off two inches and fixes the overgrown layers around my face, then dries and styles my hair.

THE END RESULT:

We Are We Are Salon Toronto Reopening

The wash, cut and style took less than an hour: a dream reintroduction to society for the COVID conscious. When I check in with Nadicci a few weeks into reopening to see how things have been going at the salon, he tells me that clients are feeling similarly to how I did. “My clients got used to having a more lived-in look with their hair during COVID (longer roots, layers, etc), so I’m finding people are asking for lower maintenance colours and haircuts,” he says. “And most clients have been saying the trip to the salon has been their first major outing, so I feel a responsibility to make them feel as safe as possible.” Mission achieved.

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