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The kindest cut: Queues as Northern Ireland hairdressers finally reopen after four months


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Wait is over: Hairdresser Natalie James at work in her Union Street salon in Belfast yesterday

Wait is over: Hairdresser Natalie James at work in her Union Street salon in Belfast yesterday

Stephen Hamilton

Alan Clarke before

Alan Clarke before

Alan Clarke after

Alan Clarke after

Raymond Lennon before

Raymond Lennon before

Raymond Lennon after

Raymond Lennon after

Vincent Curran before

Vincent Curran before

Vincent Curran after

Vincent Curran after

George Argyropoulos before

George Argyropoulos before

George Argyropoulos after

George Argyropoulos after

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Wait is over: Hairdresser Natalie James at work in her Union Street salon in Belfast yesterday

Lockdown locks and overgrown roots were quickly banished yesterday as hairdressers reopened for the first time in four months.

Salons were filled with the sound of banter and blow dryers throughout the day as people sought out help from the professionals.

The easing of restrictions, which also applied to other close contact services such as tattooists, is the latest sign that Northern Ireland is slowly returning to normality.

Queues were spotted outside salons from early in the morning as customers waited patiently for the shutters to come up for the first time since Boxing Day.

Among them was Alan Clarke (68), from Hillsborough, who was looking forward to his first haircut of the year at the Cambridge Barbershop on Belfast's Lisburn Road.

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Alan Clarke before

Alan Clarke before

Alan Clarke before

"I was here at 9 o'clock and people were queuing all down the street," he said.

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"It's been almost three hours of a wait, but it's worth it because, as you can see, my hair is a bit of a mess. I didn't make any attempt to cut it myself, nor did I want my wife to try, so I've just been putting up with it.

"I've been coming here for the past 10 years. You don't miss the hairdresser until they're not open."

Mr Clarke added after his haircut: "It was worth the wait because it was badly needed."

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Alan Clarke after

Alan Clarke after

Alan Clarke after

Further down the queue, Vincent Curran, from Belfast, was topping up his tan in the April sunshine as he waited for his turn in the barber's chair.

"My wife gave me a bit of a trim a few weeks ago and did a really good job - on one side," he joked.

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Vincent Curran before

Vincent Curran before

Vincent Curran before

"It's time to get back to the professionals.

"I'm sure it hasn't been easy for them being off work. It won't be easy for them either today, or for the next few weeks, as they try to cram people in while also keeping safe.

"It was a case of queue up today or hold off for month, but I think I've picked a good day to stand in the sun and wait."

After his haircut, Mr Curran added: "I feel like a new man and 10 years younger, so I'm raring to go."

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Vincent Curran after

Vincent Curran after

Vincent Curran after

Snipping his way through relieved clients inside, Sean Lawlor, the co-proprietor of the Cambridge Barbershop, was equally delighted to be back. "It's like the first day at school and Christmas all rolled into one," he laughed.

"We have been open since 8am, but we had people messaging us since 5.30am looking to get booked in.

"We've extended our hours and will probably be open on a few Sundays because so many people are looking for haircuts."

Back outside and covering up a multitude of sins under his hat was regular customer Raymond Lennon (73), from Belfast, whose last appointment was four months ago.

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Raymond Lennon before

Raymond Lennon before

Raymond Lennon before

"I have been standing here for an hour and a half, but I do need a lot of attention around the sides," he said.

"The last time I was here was a week before Christmas, so my hair has got a bit crazy since then. I didn't think we'd going back into lockdown so soon, so I was keen to be back here at the first opportunity.

"I bought clippers online and had a go at it myself, but nothing beats the professional touch," he added.

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Raymond Lennon after

Raymond Lennon after

Raymond Lennon after

"I don't feel right unless I've had my hair cut.

"I have a Zoom meeting later, so I'll appear nice and tidy for that. I don't need to wear the hat any more either!"

Beside him in the queue was an excited George Argyropoulos (36), who said he hoped this lockdown would be the last.

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George Argyropoulos before

George Argyropoulos before

George Argyropoulos before

"It's been too long, so I'm looking forward to this. We're lucky the weather is good for the long wait outside, but I trust these guys, so I don't mind," he added.

"It's great to have a bit of normality back again. Hopefully, there is no going back after this and we keep progressing."

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George Argyropoulos after

George Argyropoulos after

George Argyropoulos after

Across town it was also a hectic but happy Friday for Natalie James of James Hairdressing on Union Street as her clients returned for the first time in over 100 days.

"There was a queue out the door when we opened at 8am but we're getting it under control. It's a great feeling to get back and see everyone again," said Natalie, who has been in business for 30 years.

"It has been a long time coming but we're definitely ready for a busy few weeks ahead as we try and catch up.

"We have seen a few men coming in with home haircuts but they're all fixed up now so their wives will be happy tonight,"she added.

Natalie also admitted to some nerves as the first customers came through the door: "When you haven't been cutting hair for so long it's a bit nerve-wracking but you soon get up to speed again."

Among those taking to social media to mark being reunited with their hairdresser was Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, who had made her appointment in advance of an appearance with Ryan Tubridy on RTE's The Late Late Show last night.

She tweeted: "Reunited with my hairdresser. Hope you've all got your appointments sorted too. Best of luck to our hairdressers, barbers and close-contact services reopening today.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds, who has an appointment secured with her hairdresser today, said it was great to see sections of the economy reopening.

"I am super-excited for 12.30pm when I will be at the hairdresser," she added.


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