Look at the photos from the recent demonstrations at state capitols protesting stay-at-home orders. Amid all the signs warning against government tyranny or demanding that the economy reopen, you’ll often see another kind of sign: “I want a haircut!” or “I need a haircut!”
And we have to ask: What are haircare signs doing at a political protest?
Today, we set out to untangle this question. Guest host Richelle Wilson has a wide-ranging conversation with sociologist Kristen Barber about the history of men’s grooming, the undervalued women’s work that sustains the billion-dollar beauty industry, masculinity during the pandemic, the troubling statistic that men are less likely to wear face masks, the costs of seeing ourselves as consumers rather than citizens, and the potential for salons to become a political space as businesses open up with new social distancing practices.
Kristen Barber is an associate professor of sociology and director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Southern Illinois University. She is the author of Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry (Rutgers University Press, 2016).