Business

How 2020 Challenged The Barber Industry

Looking Back on 2020: 

How the Barber Industry Was Challenged & Changed Forever


Believe it or not, people, 2020 is nearly over—can you believe we made it? Don’t get us wrong, we know barely any of us made it through unscathed, but in a year that felt like a decade, just getting through it is sometimes all we can ask for.

With 2021 on the horizon—so close we can almost touch it, you guys—we thought we’d do something entirely necessary—reflect.

We know what you’re thinking—can’t this year just be over? Can’t we just bury this year and never look back?

At NAOB, we totally understand the urge to do that—trust us, we had a pretty chaotic year, too. But if we’ve learned anything working in the cosmetology and barber industries, it’s that we should never bury something and ignore it. There are opportunities for growth, for education, and for power in everything that happens—especially the bad stuff.

There’s no denying this year and everything that came with it—we’re looking at you, COVID-19—was chaotic, challenging, and sometimes just straight-up hell-ish. Especially for barbers. When the pandemic hit the U.S., none of us were sure what would happen. The uncertainty and fear that wrapped around the country affected everyone—but even still, we couldn’t predict what would happen to the barber industry. Then, suddenly, it all happened at once.

With shutdowns, regulations, and ever-changing health risks, barbers faced dangerous conditions, risky income predicaments, and blinding uncertainty. The industry took an undeniable hit. One that no one was sure how to recover from. But then, barbers proved something to everyone—something we all kind of knew deep down but needed a firm reminder of.

Barbers are resilient AF.

Look, 2020 wasn’t all bad—we know that. But for anyone out there who felt like this year was less like 365 days ticking by and more like a dumpster fire that we simply couldn’t put out, know you’re not at all alone there either. 

Let’s take a look back on 2020 and get a better idea of what happened, how the barbering industry faced those challenges, and what the big players in the industry did to try to counter the chaos.


A Time of Uncertainty: How 2020 Changed the Barber Industry

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, something irrefutable happened—the greatest thing about our industry, the job security, suddenly vanished. As barbers, we make our money by being up-close and personal, one-on-one, and totally hands-on. Rapidly, that became a huge liability.

Shops, salons, spas, and more shut down—some for days, some for weeks, and some for months. Even now, in the wake of a release of a vaccination for the virus, waves of closures in several states are threatening another round of shutdowns.

The pandemic won’t last forever—this much is true. The barbering industry has been affected in impactful ways—probably for the foreseeable future. But even so, not all of these shifts were a bad thing.

Barbers were forced to diversify their income streams as they weren’t permitted to work directly with clients. While the need for this wasn’t appreciated, this shift was actually hugely beneficial for several cosmetologists.

Professionals switched to virtual consults and tutorials, DIY classes, creating their own product lines, and other creative outlets that allowed them to connect with clients and get paid.

This trend will likely impact the industry for a long time, and unlike the other changes (i.e., regulations, PPE, precautions, etc.), it can be recognized as a hugely positive shift!


How the Industry Responded to COVID-19

Despite everything—the shutdowns, the loss of income, the strict regulations, and the total uncertainty—the barbering industry (and everyone in it) proved to be endlessly resilient.

No, that doesn’t mean every single barber made it through the pandemic unscathed—lots of barbers were forced to close down, to find other work, to shut down their dreams. But so many did make it through by implementing career-saving measures to stand against the pandemic.

And they did so by adapting.

Barbers learned how to keep client relationships alive and connect virtually, they figured out new and effective ways to keep clients coming back for more despite the pandemic, they figured out how to efficiently deal with government-mandated shutdowns without shutting down completely, and how to establish and maintain their clients’ trust despite the chaos going on in the world.

The big players in the industry got involved, too. At a time when the barbering world probably felt like no one was on their side, some of the biggest names in the barbering field decided to show barbers (just like you) that they’re more than just enormous companies—they actually cared about the industry and everyone in it.

For example, the Professional Beauty Association offered complimentary preferred memberships so licensed barbers could have access to insurance marketplaces.

They also established the COVID-19 Relief Fund, to help provide resources and financial assistance to licensed barbers who were unable to work and provide for themselves and their families as a direct result of COVID-19.

At NAOB, we teamed up with Schick Hydro to donate $50,000 to barbers in need and added in a ton of new benefits to our membership offerings to ensure that barbers had access to insurance marketplaces, extra COVID-19 resources, and further help navigating the chaos.


It’s true that none of us could have predicted where this year was going to go. When 2020 hit last year right around this time, it’s likely many of us were filled with hope and the promise of a new opportunity.

Even though it’s scary, we want—more than anything—for you to feel that same hope and excitement as 2021 approaches. Because we’ve all learned something important—no matter what happens, we can make it through together. (And that you simply can’t keep barbers down).

This year, allow yourself to hope, allow yourself to dream—something beautiful is coming, and we’re going to be here with you through it all.

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