Home hair-cutting has become a necessity — and an adventure — for Utahns during pandemic

Wearing a bright, royal blue hoodie and jeans, with his overgrown hair pulled back into a partial ponytail, 14-year-old Benjamin Blake sat down his parents and older sister for a quick Google Slides presentation. The topic: Why Ben Should Get A Mullet.

The Evergreen Junior High student brought up some great points, like the fact that he’s been in desperate need of a haircut, Mom and Dad have been bugging him about it for “quite some time,” and school is closed down, so therefore he doesn’t see many people. But what might have really brought it all home was his third point: His older brother, who’s now 22, had a mullet when he was Ben’s age.

“I kinda want to keep the tradition alive,” he told his parents.

After that, it became more apparent a teenager put the presentation together. The fourth reason as to why Ben should get a mullet simply said, “He will look so fire.”

Ben closed up his argument with two final points: “We can do it here at home” and “Honestly, why not?”

When he was done, he informed his parents he needed to be notified of their decision within the next 24 hours.

His mom, Laurie Blake, didn’t need that long, agreeing seconds later to cut Ben’s hair into a mullet.

“We really enjoyed his presentation that he used to convince us and the haircut itself made all of us laugh,” Laurie Blake said.

Thanks to some clippers and fabric scissors the family had around the house, the rosy-cheeked ninth grader is now rocking a mullet/mohawk combo with nowhere to show it off.

“The haircut turned out not bad,” Blake said. “Ben was a little concerned — especially since I was laughing so hard when I was shaving the sides and cutting the top. Luckily his hair is pretty thick, so my lack of skill is not too noticeable.”

The Blake family isn’t the only household making quarantine cuts.

As the nation grapples with the ongoing pandemic and self-isolates as much as possible to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many people are picking up scissors or clippers for a quick haircut inspired by boredom, necessity or both.

For some, it’s been an experience they hope to not repeat, while others may continue to cut their own hair post-pandemic.

Jennifer Nelson, a 43-year-old band teacher and mother of two, has been self-isolating with her family since March 14. They all had hair appointments canceled the week after the stay-at-home orders were issued by Salt Lake County at the end of March, and with the orders extended until May 1, they took matters into their own hands.

Nelson’s husband found some clippers he bought two years ago and had his wife give him a buzz cut, which he calls his “pandemic cut,” and is happy with the results.

As for their 9-year-old and 3-year-old sons, Nelson needed more help, as she had never cut hair before.

Last Friday, Nelson set up a Zoom call with her brother Eric, who happens to be a wig and make-up artist with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. With his advice and guidance, she was able to cut her older son’s hair.

“So, with my computer on the kitchen counter and my son Clark on a kitchen stool, I made my first cut,” Nelson said. “My brother had to keep reminding me that it’s hair, it will grow back if I mess it up. Even so, it took me over an hour to cut Clark’s hair. I didn’t do a very good job at taking off the length and Clark was NOT happy with me or the results, so we will be trimming again this weekend with the promise that I will work faster.”

Seeing his mother work on his dad’s and brother’s hair, however, made 3-year-old Holt not want any part of it. He refused to let Nelson get near him with the buzz clippers or scissors and tearfully told his mom he wanted to go to Cookie Cutters because they have a slide and balloons. But nearly a week later, the youngest member of the Nelson family finally relented.

While cutting her 3-year-old’s hair was more difficult because he kept wiggling, Nelson said the experience was easier because she felt more confident and Holt has much less hair than his brother.

As soon as it’s possible, however, Nelson will be taking her boys back to the barber. Even if she ends up building her skills, she’ll only continue to cut hair in an emergency.

And as for herself, Nelson is just going to keep letting her hair grow out and see what happens.

“I have a lot of appreciation for hairdressers and barbers,” Nelson said. “I can cut my boys’ hair and do an OK job, but I don’t want to.”

Jennifer Marshall, who lives in Herriman, needed a little more help.

Her usual hairdresser has a home salon and has canceled all her appointments to comply with social distancing, but she offered to-go packs to any of her customers who need products. Marshall needed to get her roots done, so her hairdresser packed up a color tube, a bottle activator with the exact amount she’d need for her color, and a color dyeing comb.

The hairdresser also included instructions on how to apply the product and how long to leave it, with a tip to have Marshall’s husband help. Because the hairdresser prefers no contact, she has customers use Venmo to pay her.

“She charged me just over cost — about a $5 profit for her — which, to be honest, is worth it completely,” Marshall said. “A built-in tip for her trouble is the least she could ask for to help me feel a bit more normal in a very abnormal time.”

For Reagan Erickson, a 41-year-old photographer in Santaquin, it didn’t take long for self-isolation to force her to bust out the hair-cutting scissors and thinning shears she bought from Amazon years ago.

Erickson, her husband and two daughters started self-isolating the first day Utah schools changed to online learning, although her husband still leaves the house to go to work. That same week, Erickson realized she needed a haircut and cut it to her shoulders.

Then her husband decided he needed to trim the back a little, which turned into more of a straight bob with two long sections in the front. After a week of trying to pretend she was OK with it, Erickson decided to thin it out a little and accidentally cut a 3- to 4-inch chunk from the back.

“I panicked and tried all day while my husband was at work to fix it,” Erickson said.

Then she had a thought: The cut was showing up horribly on her blonde hair and might not look as harsh on darker hair.

So, on a Walmart run, Erickson made sure to buy some boxed hair dye. Once home, she had her 14-year-old and 11-year-old daughters help her dye her hair and take turns holding a mirror while she cut layers into her hair.

By the time [my husband] came home, I was actually hiding in my room with the door locked, laughing and crying, while my girls warned him,” Erickson said.

“Needless to say, I still needed my husband’s help to make it livable,” she said. “I have never had this short of hair in my life and my home attempt at hair [coloring] resulted in very bright red hair. My daughters keep making mermaid jokes because I look like Ariel! Oh, and let’s not even talk about how horrible my roots turned out.”

While Erickson is unsure if she could handle the stress of cutting and dyeing her own hair again, the coronavirus — and the financial aftermath of the pandemic — might leave her no choice in the matter, she said.

Emily Spacek, a 22-year-old writer and after-school program director who lives in Salt Lake City’s Marmalade District with her boyfriend, Andy Sager, ended up not only cutting Sager’s hair, but also dyeing and trimming her .

The couple has been self-isolating since March 16 and by early April it became more apparent that Sager needed a haircut. Luckily, they already had hair-cutting scissors, a hair buzzer and a comb.

This wasn’t the first time Spacek had to cut her boyfriend’s hair, but it was the first time Sager requested a cut that wasn’t a simple buzz cut. So, she got to work combing, measuring and trimming away.

“This recent haircut was certainly more of a risk, but I think the attitude in quarantine is to be more flexible, maybe because the ego is toned down due to the nature of staying home,” Spacek said. “Wherever his willingness came from, I gave him the cut and it turned out surprisingly well.”

For herself, Spacek decided she’d make an even bolder change. Inspired out of boredom, Spacek decided to bleach and dye her hair, on top of giving herself a trim.

Spacek ordered the necessary tools online for her hair adventure and avoided washing her hair while she waited for them to arrive, to help make it healthy and greasy before any bleach damage. She also started watching multiple videos on YouTube from stylists and amateur dye artists to prepare for the job.

“They were great,” Spacek said of the haircuts. “We both have pretty thick hair. Mine of course is much longer, so it was very easy and the change is not drastic. Andy’s haircut took much more time to do because I am much less familiar with cutting short hair. Still, he liked it a lot and I think it looks the same as if he were to go for a trim at the salon.”

Because of the success Spacek had at home, she is now considering continuing to cut (and dye) her own hair, especially because of how much money it would save her. Sager may return to a professional occasionally, because Spacek “takes too long” and the couple doesn’t like having to clean up all of the little hairs themselves.

“Working on hair is actually really fun and something I realize that I enjoy,” Spacek said. “I like to do things that require concentration and precision. Plus, in quarantine you realize how silly it is to take something like hair so seriously.”

Daniel and Sarah Duke didn’t have such good fortune cutting their 2-year-old son’s

Usually, 30-year-old art teacher Sarah and her mother have been the only ones to cut Oliver’s hair, but they’ve stuck to just trims for the toddler. The sandy-haired boy was supposed to have his first professional cut before the family went into quarantine about five weeks ago, but will now have to wait until everything opens back up.

In the meantime, Oliver’s hair was getting really shaggy and starting to block his eyes. So his parents decided to cut his hair using a pair of new household rounded scissors, a smock, comb and a water spray bottle.

Oliver was put in his high chair and given plenty of lollipops, cookies and screen time — but he couldn’t be bought, and made it clear to his parents that he hated getting his hair cut.

“In the past, Oliver could be appeased pretty easily with a show or treat while getting his hair trimmed,” Sarah Duke said. “Now he does not like the feeling of his hair being cut or touched and tries to squirm out of it as much as he can.”

Because Oliver was making it more difficult than usual, his parents decided to break it up into two big sit-down sessions, and made a few snips here and there while the 2-year-old was brushing his teeth to try to even out the sides.

Daniel did most of the cutting (his first time cutting hair), while Sarah helped with the layering at the end.

While the process proved to be more difficult than expected, it still brought some much-needed laughs.

“There was definite comic relief as we had a few days in between cuts where Oliver just looked like a ragamuffin with uneven sides, especially when he woke up with bed head,” Sarah Duke said. “We laughed at our good fortune that at least no one would have to see it.”