‘A lot of strange haircuts’: Alaskans are getting shaggy, creative and desperate

Fernanda Conrad cuts her five-year-old son’s hair. “He looks pretty cute, if I may say so myself,” she said (Photo courtesy of Fernanda Conrad)

Nick Crawford was preparing for an out-of-state trip in early February and missed his usual appointment for a haircut.

“One thing led to another, I ran out of time, and so I went on this trip and then I had to get quarantined when I had to get back and then by that time all the barbershops were closed down,” he said.

So the Fairbanks ski coach did what a lot of Alaskans have been forced to do. He got out the mirrors and scissors and went to work. It was the first time he’d ever cut his own hair.

“I was definitely winging it and kind of the corners, between the sides and the tops I messed up so I would say that was the hardest and then, of course, getting around back behind your head was also kind of messed up,” he said.

Now, he jokes, in addition to being quarantined, he’s also avoiding any Zoom calls. Luckily for Crawford, his job as a ski coach isn’t too Zoom-centric and he’s able to wear a hat when he goes outside for exercise or for groceries.

While Crawford chose to give himself a haircut, others are turning to family and friends. Fernanda Conrad recently gave her husband and five-year-old son a trim. She says it required some innovative use of their bathroom space.

“The only thing I prepared was my bathroom floor, I put newspaper down for the hair to fall and sat each one on the toilet,” she said.

She says the cuts turned out okay.

“My son looks really cute, if I do say so myself. My husband looks good on the front, but from the back, he has a bowl cut — it’s really 90s, but he can’t see it so it’s fine,” she said.

Zoom calls will work just fine she says, as long as he doesn’t turn his back.

Besides haircuts there are other hair care issues that can come up that are difficult to hide. Just ask special education teacher Lee Madison who leads regular Zoom lessons for her students.

“I had a student tell me they didn’t know my hair was so old,” she said. “Granted it’s elementary school and they don’t know any better, but I was still a little bit demoralized.”

Madison says she finally caved and bought an at-home hair coloring kit online. But in a time when everyone is turning to at-home fixes, even that can come with issues. A few days after ordering the kit she got an email saying that the product was on backorder because of such high demand during the pandemic, and her shipment would be delayed.

Not even the governor can hide from the fact that barbershops are closed. He’s been avoiding an amateur haircut so far, according to his spokesperson, Jeff Turner. But in an email, Turner wrote that the governor has some “family members who would love to experiment with his hair.”

At a recent news conference, Gov. Mike Dunleavy joked that, “We’ve seen a lot of strange haircuts the last couple of weeks.” This was shortly before he announced plans to open up barbershops and other businesses by next week.

But others are embracing the challenge as an opportunity for novelty and creativity. Griffin Hagle of Utqiagvik convinced his wife to give him a mohawk.

Griffin Hagle with a mohawk (Photo courtesy of Griffin Hagle)

“It probably shocked most of my coworkers when I showed up on the Zoom call rocking that the next day, so that was fun,” he said. “But just having a little bit of fun with that where we can.”

Eventually he shaved his entire head and says he’s enjoying it unselfconsciously.

“It does feel kinda good, I get why guys do this, it’s fun to rub on, you know, it’s like, my shampoo goes a lot farther, my hats fit well, it’s great,” he said.

Shawn Idom, a barber and the owner of Hair Science, said that he’s had plenty of inquiries about best practices for hair cuts, even requests for Zoom appointments to instruct clients how to cut their hair.

He says clippers are one option.

“The guys just get very scared, especially if they want to keep some length or something like that, buzz cuts are pretty straightforward,” he said.

He does have some serious safety advice. Men, he says, should stay away from the straight razors unless they have training and practice. And for those who have purchased salon-quality equipment, he said: Get some disinfectant spray in case of an accidental nick.

“I wouldn’t want anybody to get anything as far as ringworm or anything,” he said.

While it can be fun and rewarding, a lot of people are realizing how much they miss their barbers and reconsidering who essential workers are.

“You never think of them because they’re non-essential, but in some ways they feel kind of essential,” Madison said.

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