The worst thing about having your hair cut has finally been eliminated

Shhh! Silence is golden, but not in a hair salon (Getty Images)
Shhh! Silence is golden, but not in a hair salon (Getty Images)

Generally speaking, I get my hair cut but once a year. I tell people it’s because the criminal cost of a trim these days would require me to flog a kidney, but the real story is that I find the experience almost unbearable.

There’s the part where you, a non-hairdresser, must somehow muster the words to describe what you’d like, invoking an entire secret language – “oh, I was thinking of a semi-undercut with a French shag and a double-tuck, round-off, back-handspring? Maybe with some long layers at the back?” – or else stab mutely at a picture of Zendaya, as if the stylist had the power to transform you into the world’s hottest A-lister armed only with a pair of scissors and a big, rounded brush.

Then there’s the bit where you’re forced to sit staring at your own face in the mirror for at least an hour under unforgiving lighting, swathed in the least flattering item known to (wo)mankind: the black reverse hairdresser’s cape.

Oh, and the thing where you try to drink the nice coffee they’ve given you, only to discover that this jerks your head too much while someone wields a pair of sharp blades near your face – so you’re forced to keep perfectly still and take excruciating, tiny mouse sips.

But, much worse than all of these, is the chit-chat. The small talk. The mandatory inane conversational gauntlet that must be run from the second you sit down until the merciful moment you are allowed to leave. We’re all familiar with the classic “going anywhere nice on holiday this year?” – which, at this present point in the cost of living crisis, is a resounding “no” from me – but that takes up all of two minutes. How to fill the other 58 with a semi-stranger while already feeling incredibly uncomfortable?

Well, in one Helsinki salon, the answer is: with nothing. Finnish hairdresser Kati Hakomeri has introduced a “silent service” at her salon, Parturi Kati, for no extra charge. When booking online, customers can now pick the following option in advance: “A haircut without talking. After the consultation you can be on your own, recharge your batteries and relax.”

Hakomeri came up with her new service based on her own predilections, as well as those of her customers. “I’m an introvert myself and I understand how uncomfortable it can be for a client to have to make small talk,” she told the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. Finally, I thought upon reading those words – a hairdresser who gets it. We don’t all want to talk for every second of the damn day.

Should small talk be an opt-in situation at the hairdressers? (Getty Images)
Should small talk be an opt-in situation at the hairdressers? (Getty Images)

People will often mistake me for a raging extrovert, and honestly, I don’t blame them. I’m first on and last off the dance floor; a passionate advocate for spontaneous karaoke; and am frequently the overly confident person holding forth in the pub who needs to be shooed out of the door past closing time, like a stray cat. But all of those are social activities, usually with people I already know and like. Throw me into a situation where small talk is the order of the day – a cab ride, networking event or, yes, a haircut – and I find it mentally exhausting, leaving my energy battery totally flat.

At its core, this type of interaction feels like filling silence for the sake of it – because we believe it is expected of us, though neither party is invested in the conversation. What’s draining is keeping up the charade. The person chopping my hair off for cash doesn’t really care if and where I’m going on holiday, just as I’m not especially interested in whether the taxi driver has “had a busy night?”. It doesn’t mean we don’t wish each other well as humans, just that we’ve got other people – friends, family, partners – to care about.

The issue is that we’re often fearful of silence. We believe it to be inherently awkward – when in fact it can be wonderfully liberating once permission has been given to simply keep your mouth shut. And, when it’s in short supply in the rest of your life, it can be one of the most luxurious commodities – a fact Hakomeri acknowledges, saying: “If you have a bunch of screaming kids at home, you can sit here for a while and rest your ears.”

The person chopping my hair off for cash doesn’t really care if and where I’m going on holiday

The first time I truly appreciated the beauty of sanctioned quiet was under wildly different circumstances. I went on a silent retreat – just for a couple of days that first time – and was struck immediately by the freedom of not having to think of things to say or questions to ask. The pressure to needlessly stuff the gaps full of unnecessary dialogue, to squeeze words into every last crack so there wasn’t a sliver of room, had been lifted. Instead, there was expanse: vast time and space in which to cast out thoughts into the ether, like shimmering threads to be followed with patience and curiosity wherever they might lead. It was like my brain could finally breathe.

A hair salon isn’t a retreat, I realise. But it can act as a brief respite amid a busy and noisy world; a momentary sanctuary to be savoured and wallowed in. Of course, not everyone wants that quiet time. For some, getting a haircut is the chance to have some enjoyably light and fluffy conversation. For others, it might be the lengthiest human interaction they have that week – and the small talk, rather than being resented, is cherished.

All I’m asking is that more hairdressers start offering the option of silence for the introvert contingent. Please, I beg of you: cut the chat, as well as our hair.