The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many services and events to go virtual in Japan, leading to the advent of online classes, online nomikai (drinking parties) and even online hostess bars.
But online haircuts?
Not a chance, you might say, but one barbershop in Tokyo is trying to make the impossible possible.
In what may be an industry first, Mr. Brothers Cut Club, whose flagship store is located in the fashion mecca of Harajuku, has launched what it calls a “telecut” service, in which its barbers will offer customers self-haircut tutorials in real time via the Zoom video-conferencing app.
“We figured many people are getting annoyed at how their hair keeps growing while they’re staying at home,” said Saito Kon, one of the Mr. Brothers barbers.
“But the only option they have at the moment is either to risk infection by venturing outside to get a haircut, or to do nothing as their hair keeps growing.”
So the barbershop decided to offer a temporary solution to that problem.
Customers interested in the telecut service need to prepare a simple collection of necessary paraphernalia themselves, such as scissors, clippers, a garbage bag and a portable mirror. There are two service options — one for parents trying to trim the hair of their children, and the other for adults looking to cut their own hair. English-speaking staff are also available, too.
Mr. Brothers admits the telecut initiative is more of a “quick-fix” measure, unlikely to blossom into a viable business model. No matter how adept barbers have become at online tutorials, “We can’t really guarantee that customers can get the perfect, high-quality haircut they would look for at barbershops,” Kon said.
“The best we can do is teach them how not to mess up,” he said, adding that the initiative boils down to him and his colleagues trying to “make a social contribution.”
The service is free of charge.
But the project also reflects a message that barbers at Mr. Brothers want to get across to men nationwide who are growing increasingly indifferent to self-grooming as they go out less and less.
“I know many guys are taking perfunctory care of how they look during this stay-at-home period, but we hope this initiative will make them stay motivated about their appearance,” Kon said.
Like many barbershops and beauty salons across the nation, Mr. Brothers has not been immune to the economic fallout of the pandemic.
“Customers have halved from the period before COVID,” Kon said with a sigh. “Not that there’s much we can do about it. We just need to hang tough.”