How Does Hairdressing in The US Compare To The UK?

Published 18th Aug 2023 by Sian Jones

A career in hairdressing can lead to opportunities and jobs that take you outside the salon and even halfway across the world, with many stylists splitting their time between the UK and the US. In recent years the UK hairdressing industry has continued to evolve, and social media has given us a bigger window into the global market, so we asked three stylists how does hairdressing in the US really compare to the UK?

L’Oréal Professionnel Paris Artist, Jack Howard, splits his time between the US and the UK, working from the Paul Edmonds salon when he is visiting London. Jack notes that one of the biggest changes in the UK market has been the rise of the independent, which has been common in the US for a while. "The biggest difference is the work structure - you can earn so much more money in the US and I regularly hear people talking about earning $75k-$100k all over the country, the difference is the way the payments are set up. They can be employed because there is no base rate, it’s all commission so there is no holiday or sick pay, but they have the opportunity to make that money and save it," he explains adding that there are better benefits for hairdressers in the US. "They know if they work hard they can make good money rather than rely on salon owners paying them the minimum wage with little reward. In the UK if salons have the right packages people will want to work for them and be back in the salon environment – being on your own is hard and it’s not for everyone."

Retailing With Confidence

"Retail here in the US largely revolves around selling products to help increase ticket prices. Most barber shops and salons offer products ranging from skin to haircare, especially in large market areas like New York City," says Jason Biggs, New York based Master Barber at Murdock London, Nordstrom. "The average price for a haircut in the US is about $30 with variation based on factors like location and quality. The average haircut can start at around $75 for your basic service." 

When it comes to retail, Jack explains nobody does it like the US. "Salons will put products in front of their clients, and explain how to use them and what they do. They believe in their prices and always recommend products, and their clients will buy them. They are very strong at selling, whereas in the UK there is still a feeling of being too pushy," says Jack adding that discounting services doesn't have a place in the US hairdressing industry. "When I visit the UK the biggest thing I see is that salons discount their services – this never happens in the US, hairdressers recognise the value of their services whereas in the UK some salons compete with the salon down the road rather than offering how much their own services are worth. If you see a discount in a salon in the US, you know they are in trouble!”

Talking Trends

The rise of social media trends has undoubtedly had an influence on the hairdressing industry, with both stylists and clients finding inspiration online but Jack questions whether the inclination to target a younger market is the right approach, "Both markets are focusing on youth and young people, however recently companies such as Tom Ford have come out against this. Our industry needs to be more inclusive for all ages because young people aren’t the ones that spend the money." 

Jack Winn, stylist and founder of Jack Winn Pro, notes that US stylists focus 'obsessively' on innovating and setting trends, “The premium is on pushing the envelope and trying something new. On the other hand, U.K. hairstylists tend to embrace a more classic and timeless approach, valuing the art of precision and subtlety. There’s a value on mastery rather than novelty."

As an American, from the outside looking in Jason also sees both the similarities and differences in UK and US trends, "You can appreciate the UK's mastery of shears and cropped hairstyles compared to the clipper-heavy usage here in the US. It seems the UK enjoys a different silhouette; their men's haircuts are sharper and more edgy as opposed to the US where clean cuts and blurry skin fades still reign supreme," he tells us, adding that along with skin fades, the current trends in the US are the modern mullet, textured styles, hair colouring and beard sculpting and shaping.

When it comes to the future of the industry Jack Howard considers what we can learn from other markets, "We have to find new ways to keep people engaged, keep people in the industry and attract new people. Older hairdressers can’t sit there and say that’s how it’s always been, we have to approach it in a new, fresh way and that’s where the excitement is and where the pain is, but also the rewards." Jack Howard however, also praises the high value the UK market places on the traditional approach to a loyal stylist column, "Stateside, it’s a wild, fast-paced ride of networking and self-promotion to get ahead. In the UK, it’s about building trust and strengthening long-term relationships with clients. UK clients are certainly more loyal; they wouldn’t dream of cheating on their stylist.” 


Sian Jones

Sian Jones

Published 18th Aug 2023

Sian is Editor Modern Barber and Deputy Editor Hairdressers Journal International. She has over ten years’ experience writing for print publications covering Youth & Children, TV & Entertainment and Lifestyle. Sian graduated with a degree in journalism, and whilst studying was nominated for the Guardian Digital Journalist of the Year award in 2011.

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