Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Our hairdressers are cut above the rest, Mr Taxman

You'd think, when a top comedian can get away with 1% tax and when hedge fund investors pay less tax than their cleaners, there would be more appropriate targets for HMRC than Madge and Doris down at Headz Up.

But hide your curlers, perming lotion, dye and GHD straighteners, ladies, the taxman cometh.

Bizarrely, while Revenue inspectors will be bouncing into pubs in Scotland, cafes in Wales, and garages in England, it's hairdressers in Northern Ireland who can expect to see Hector's bowler hat bobbing into view.

Of course, everyone should pay their fair whack but Mr Grabbit and Mr Run of HMRC would do well to consult Mrs G and Mrs R before rushing to judgement. Fact is, hairdressers do much more than tease the province's strands.

They are the fourth emergency service, rolling retail therapist, psychiatrist, girlfriend, wise woman, confessor and life coach into one appointment.

Maybe that's it - the misters can't work out how much tax hairdressers should be paying because they know you couldn't put a price on a good one.

That's why, to the bafflement of their menfolk, women will blithely announce "I'm off to the hairdresser, I'll be away all day", before setting out as dawn breaks to drive 30 miles because their favourite has upped sticks to another town. It's because she's worth it.

That's why salons take out adverts to crow about nabbing a certain stylist or wooing another one back. Women know that you cannot - CANNOT - pay too much for someone who knows how to make your hair look better.

From early teens, women recognise the salon as the theatre of dreams, a place where anything is possible. Even the humble Cute Cutz in a dreary back street in a small town can touch the magic of Hollywood. Over the decades they've turned out 'the Purdey', 'the Di', Jennifer Aniston's 'the Rachel', Posh's 'Pob', Amy's beehive ... and now 'the Kate'.

Women may routinely envy another's full breasts, trim waist or great legs, but nothing will ever match the jealously evoked by She With Good Hair. They all know how life would have been so much better if only they'd been so blessed. The men, the homes, the jobs ... the thousands of pounds saved in hair products.

So in they go, clutching a headful of low self-esteem and a photo of a star, begging: "Can you make me look like her please?"

And most of the time these stylists do a pretty good job. Dirty fair hair becomes sunkissed blonde; mousy brunette, a rich red; ginger, black as the raven's wing. Lank hair becomes luxuriant; frizzy, glossily sleek; straight, a mass of bouncing curls.

Recently I was treated to a session with the wonderful Belfast hairdresser Paul Stafford. The man opened a case of scissors and other instruments, like a surgeon about to carry out a major operation. It was the best cut I've ever had. My hair has been the bane not the mane of my life, but this transformation was incredible. Even left to dry by itself, it swished into shape.

But it's what takes place inside the head that is the greatest transformation of all.

Had enough of your boss? Want to say horrible - though not necessarily true - things about your husband? Or bitch about how all the clothes these days seem to be designed for 10-year-olds?

You know where to go to for a sympathetic ear and some sound advice: "Think that's bad? You should see what my Trevor does to his socks ..." Where else can you go to laugh about how men need endless praise for the simplest task?

And men benefit, too, from a trip to a traditional barber, rambling on about who United should sign and why boxing isn't what it used to be - a shot of testosterone for less than a tenner. It's harder work than ever being a hairdresser. It's always been a job involving real graft and stress where you're on your feet all day and where the results of your efforts are public. And in these tough times - sales of home dye kits are soaring - hairdressers must offer increasingly competitive deals to tempt women to splurge on themselves.

Listen to the missus, Hector. It'll be worth every penny.

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