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Cut the chat: The rise in popularity of a 'silent service' at the salon

Ever dread the polite but impersonal chit chat that sometimes seems part and parcel of getting a haircut?

You're not alone. And less alone than before the pandemic, some believe.

Both Aralyn Estay and Amy Glena, owners of salons in central Edmonton, say they've noticed an uptick in requests for what they advertise as a "silent service" or a "silent cut."

"You come in, you are greeted, you are guided to the station, and the only conversation had is the consultation," explained Glena, owner of Ponytails + Horseshoes off Whyte Avenue.

"Then we literally just stop talking. It's that simple."

She began offering the option – which can be selected online when booking an appointment – about five years ago after learning some people with social anxiety avoid salons. At the time, the service was beginning to trend elsewhere in the United States and Europe.

Glena estimated only a small fraction of her clientele actually choose a quiet cut, but said the salon's promotion of it has been well received overall.

Amy Glena, owner of Ponytails + Horseshoes in Edmonton, has offered a "silent service" option for about five years.

"I think people have found us and come here specifically for that," she told CTV News Edmonton.

"It gives people a safe space, especially if you have anxiety. Or some people just aren't chatters. Or if you talk all day long, you don't necessarily want to do that; you need some you time."

Estay has been offering silent cuts since she opened her chairs in Jasper Avenue's Sunday Salon Suites.

"A lot of times when people come into appointments, they don't want to talk, maybe they've had a stressful week, or a stressful few years – like we've all had," she shrugged. "It's nice to just kind of come in, just be pampered a little bit, and not have to worry about having to make conversation with one of us.

"And we're totally OK with it."


Estay believes the COVID-19 pandemic is partially behind the growing popularity of silent cuts.

"More people are talking about mental health," she told CTV News Edmonton.

"People are realizing, OK, I need some time for myself to just unwind and relax and not feel the pressure of having to have a conversation 24/7 during the day."

Aralyn Estay, who runs Aralyn Estay Hair Co. out of the Sunday Salon Suites in downtown Edmonton, believes the pandemic has made people more attentive to their mental health needs -- such as quiet self care time.

One Edmonton registered psychologist says that's entirely possible.

"With the pandemic, we've been having to stay at home, socially distance, we haven't really been able to see friends and family as much, and so we're seeing pretty big spikes in social anxiety and just introversion in general," Jennifer Charlicki said.

"[The option of a silent appointment] gives you permission, essentially, to say, 'I'm going to do my self care, I'm going to go to my appointment, and I don't have to worry about the rest of it. I can just sit there, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, close my eyes, just relax, and that's it.'"

She added, "I think the need was always there. I don't know how aware we were of that need."

Registered psychologist Jennifer Charlicki says "silent cuts" can be of great benefit to people with social anxiety, for whom situations requiring small talk can be stressful.

Both salon owners noted a benefit to stylists, too.

"A lot of the times [sic], a lot of people don't pick up on the social cues," Glena said.

"They just mark it as a silent… We just know: Don't push. Just leave them."

Before, if a client wasn't talkative, "You would think, 'Oh, are they mad or…?'" Estay added.

Plus, she said, "We love talking to our clients, but it is nice sometimes. Like, if you don't want to talk, that's OK because I'm kind of tapped out."

For all of these reasons, Charlicki expects demand for silent cuts will outlive the pandemic, and that the trend could make its way to other personal service sectors.

However, she offered a small word of caution: "If we are solely relying on this and we are not challenging our social anxiety in any other ways, then yes, I think there can be some complications there because … we are further isolating ourselves."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Alison MacKinnon Top Stories


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