As those with experience of DIY home haircuts will no doubt attest, the business of barbering will be here for the long haul. Data from a study by market research brand IbisWorld revealed that the market size of the barbershop industry in the US is increasing faster than the consumer goods and services sector overall. Barbering, already evolving rapidly before the pandemic, is a hotbed of growth.

A growing number of barbers are joining the swelling ranks of the self-employed (60% in the UK, according to a study by the National Hair & Beauty Federation) – be they shop owners, freelance barbers or chair-renters. And those solo operations are busy diversifying their income streams. Some are taking to education by offering digital masterclasses for specific styles, cuts or treatments. Others are going down the retail route, supplying specialist products to accompany their personal brand. Many big-name barbers are positioning themselves as all-round creatives, pivoting their services to film, TV and music productions for the higher prices they pay. And those with a big enough following have become brand partners with dominant companies in the sector.

A cut above

Tech, of course, is playing a huge role in making it easy to go it alone. There are several all-in-one platforms that link freelance barbers with customers. French app Wecasa, for example, hosts more than 5,000 skilled hair and beauty professionals. Texas-based ShearShare, which has listings in more than 850 cities, matches barbers with empty chairs in salons and barbershops. And New York-founded Squire is a software platform that allows barbers to handle bookings (including direct from Instagram), manage their inventories and take care of point of sale. With more than 2,000 partners in the US and UK, the company, founded by Dave Salvant and Songe LaRon in 2016, raised $59 million in 2020, tripling its valuation to $250 million.

Deals and wheels

Mobile barbering’s rise has also accelerated as a result of the pandemic. TRIM-IT, based in London, operates as a franchise, with barbers paying a monthly subscription fee and a percentage of their commission to get access to one of TRIM-IT’s kitted-out salons on wheels. Last year the business raised $1.1 million to scale up.

A little something extra

And then there are the bricks-and-mortar shops innovating when it comes to additional services. Cuts & Creps, based in Bristol, UK, offers a sneaker-cleaning service as well as buying and selling sought-after sneakers. Also in the UK is Cornwall-based 1981, the country’s first zero-waste barbershop. Its energy comes entirely from green sources, with its hair clippings being used in booms that help to clean up oil spills.