Male hairdressers struggle in ‘charisma boom’ wake

by Tomoko Arima

Kyodo

Male hairdressers are having trouble surviving amid the so-called charisma boom their industry gave rise to around 2000.

The boom, hyped by TV dramas and variety shows with charismatic hairdressers, prompted many young men to take up the profession. The number of newly licensed hairdressers in fiscal 2001 came to 7,597, up 2.8 times from three years before.

In fiscal 2011, however, registered hairdressers topped 470,000, up more than 100,000 from fiscal 2001.

The surge in new hair salons has diluted the number of customers per shop at a time when patronage is struggling to recover from the global financial crisis that hit in 2008.

The average salary for male hairdressers aged 40 to 44 then sank to ¥320,000 in 2012, compared with ¥410,000 in 2007.

In fiscal 2012, the number of start-up loans for hair salons offered by Japan Finance Corp. came to 1,608, up 11.7 percent from the previous year and the third new high in a row, despite the sluggish economy.

Most of the loans, 1,058, were taken out for new shops headed by male hairdressers, up 17.9 percent, according to the state-owned financial concern. Most were in their 30s, it said.

The data suggest male hairdressers, who joined the trade after the boom, started their own salons because of marriage or childbirth. About ¥10 million is needed to open a salon, the JFC said.

Now that the boom is over, the number of young men wishing to become hairdressers is falling because rumor of the hard work and fairly low wages endemic to the profession have become widely known, said a JFC official.

Mitsumasa Kanayama, 31, who opened a salon in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward in March, and his hairdresser wife could barely survive on their combined income when they were independent. “It was tough physically to work as an employed hairdresser, on top of the small salary,” Kanayama said, explaning why he opened a salon.