No fade on prices: Why Philly barbers are charging $100 and up for haircuts
Published in Fashion Daily News
PHILADELPHIA — Kenneth Carruth IV, the North Philly native known as The4thKen on social media, has made waves (literally) with his haircut tutorials and videos. The 20-year-old barber has amassed more than 1.8 million likes on TikTok, with his biggest video reaching over 2 million views. But it’s not always his clean lines and tight fades that are attracting attention.
In one video, Carruth showed off a mid-fade and noted, “My client paid me $80 for this haircut.” Other videos list prices well above $100. While some viewers were in favor of the price tag, others called the haircut a “scam” and wrote how their barber could do the same job for $15.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Carruth also charged $15 per head. But with more demand, and the rising cost of running a business, he had to raise his rates.
“I feel like pre-pandemic, barbers were undervalued,” Carruth said. “Now, barbers are starting to realize their worth and see that it’s not just about the cut. You’re providing an experience.”
And he isn’t alone.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, haircut prices rose 6.8% in November 2022 from the same time a year before, which is the largest annual increase since the fact-finding agency started tracking the category. Men — who are used to paying with a single bill for their cuts — are noticing.
In the past, local barbers engaged in price wars with neighboring shops to have an edge on clientele. If one shop offered cuts for $20, another would offer them for $15. But the pandemic crippled small-business owners, said Damon Dorsey, 61, president of the American Barber Association. Barbers and other service workers were among the hardest hit.
To stay afloat, many chose to raise their rates.
Southwest Philly barber Nicky Prosseda, 40, said the seismic blow of the pandemic also inspired barbers to sharpen their business practices.
From the mid-20th century to recent years, Prosseda said, barbers enjoyed the benefits of cash-in-hand transactions and tax-free loopholes. But as the industry evolved, the slow rise in haircut prices didn’t match the hikes in beauty product prices, booth rentals, and Venmo and CashApp fees. And for many, it made barbering unlivable as a primary income source.
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