Saturday, September 06, 2008

Price of cutting hair shirts

Corn rows: we take your money and scatter / We piss it up the wall...

As regular readers will know, your humble Devil lives at the top of Brixton Hill. Brixton is painted as being a relatively poor area, although there is little sign of poverty.

Coming home tonight, I saw a family coming out of a hairdresser's, and talking excitedly, in the local lingo, about their new haircuts. The mother and two older daughters—the latter aged, maybe, 6 and 8—had the style that is known, I believe, as "corn rows". The youngest was still in a pushchair and had some elaborate braiding of some other sort. I don't pretend to know about hair styles—I get my hair cut, for less than a tenner, at a barber's which, like all of the haircutters here, proudly proclaims that they cater for "Euro and Afro".

The point is that the hairdresser's from which they emerged helpfully had their prices in the window: corn rows, for instance, are priced "from £40". The collected haircuts of these four people had come to a bare minimum of £160.

Child benefit for three children is, I believe, of the order of £15 per week, per child; that means that this mother was "earning" some £180 or so a month from the state. Which, of course, we all pay for.

So, this month, some £500 was removed from my pay, at least partially so that some fucking family in Brixton could have a fancy hair-do. Well, don't I think that was worthwhile, eh?

Having a child is a fucking lifestyle choice: I don't have children, and I don't see why the fuck I should pay for yours. I am actually happy to stump up for state funding of education (but because I love knowledge, not children) and I am even happy to pay a little to ensure that those children don't starve.

But why the living fuck should I pay out so that they can have a fancy fucking haircut?

Anyone? Bueller...?

UPDATE: a Brixtonite writes...
You should know that nobody ever pays the prices advertised in the window. They are there purely for the white hippies who want to do something to impress a newly acquired black boyfriend and appear trendy.

Everyone else goes in and haggles with the hairdresser to get a price that is reasonable. I know that the going rate for cornrows is actually about £20, although. £40 if you use hair extension. Everything is half-price or less if it is for kids. So imagine they'd probably have paid about £10 each for theirs.

Cornrows can also last up to a month or so, which is why many people do them and it saves a lot of the stress of managing black hair.

In fact, growing up in Nigeria, cornrows were the regulation haircut in both the state and private schools for girls. If you came to school your hair "Undone" you were sent back home. You might have noticed that Africans don't go around with afros, it is slightly taboo in most places.

I am 28 and still cannot comb my natural afro hair unaided. With kids it's a whole lot worse. It's not like how it is for you where your comb glides easily through your hair like a hot knife through butter! It is very difficult and painful.

So cornrows are not a "fancy haircut" (except with boys, but that's another story and its mostly teenagers who pay for it with their own money anyway), they are very necessary for many little kids and a mother who takes her kids regularly to the hairdresser to get the hair cornrowed properly is probably a very responsible one.

So relax already!

Which is, I think, fair enough...


Patrick said...

I concur with you Mr DK,

However, I would draw a line at paying for state education even... It neither teaches nor inspires any child I've ever known...

But I agree, subsidising haircuts, is a price to much... :-)

Devil's Kitchen said...


That is why I specified state-funding of education: I do not support state provision of same. I tend to support a voucher system...


Anonymous said...

20 years ago I bought a hair "strimmer' - this was shortly after being being hit for £15 for a 'cut & blow' on the Fulham Road [which was not exactly cheap back then].

Admittedly it took a few attempts, and a complicated array of mirrors to master a reasonable technique, but for an initial outlay of £20 I reckon I must have saved myself well over a grand - not to mention countless turgid conversations about where I spent my holiday, or how the local footy team are doing.

Did a DIY hairdo make me less attractive around the bars and clubs of London ?
Almost certainly, but it also helped me to hone a few trusty one liners, like: "Hi, I suffer from amnesia do I come here often".

Patrick said...


I would agree the voucher idea.. is a great one...


Down here in Hounslow a cut cost a fiver... And they are still open now.. 9:30pm... just pop down on the picadilly my lovely...

Anonymous said...

How do you know they were on benefits ?

Patrick said...

Robin.. please?.. Arnt they all... Child benefit is universal dude...

Devil's Kitchen said...


"How do you know they were on benefits ?"

As pointed out above, Child Benefit is a universal due. There are households earning over £50k which are still eligible for child benefit: people in Brixton will certainly be claiming their whole due.

Of course, they might be on other benefits too:

1) Housing Benefit: let's say £400 per month.

2) Council Tax Relief: £80 per month.

3) Unemployment benefit: £140 per month (with three young kids you'd pretty much have to be on this one).

There may be others that I'm not aware of, of course: never having claimed any, I am no expert on such things.


Boy on a bike said...

Up until the age of 12, our eldest had his hair cut in the bath tub at home with the aid of a pair of electric clippers.

He now gets a "proper" barber cut every few months, but the vanity of children is the least of my concerns. He's been told that if he acts up, it's back to the clippers and a number 4 all over.

I'm with you - parents should support their own kids, or give them to someone who can if they can't be bothered to work.

Anonymous said...

A number 4 - surely you mean a number 2 for the sides ?

Anonymous said...

" How do you know they were on benefits ? "

They were niggers weren't they ?

Where the fuck do you think they get their money from ? working ?

Anonymous said...

How about some of those taxes going towards free birth control?

Tomrat said...

To be fair were placing a lot of faith in the supposition that the lady wasn't in gainful employment; still your right - safety nets not hammocks.

I actually quite like corn rows; it was my hairstyle of choice in GTA San Andreas. Plus I've been watching a lot of The Wire which has reinforced this like.

Devil's Kitchen said...


You receive child benefit irrespective of whether you are working or not.


Anonymous said...

Not only that Devil, but child benefit is issued irrespective of income, or the number of children produced.

For example, Karen Matthews had x7 children to x5 different fathers.

Now according to my calculations this family will have received £4,557.80 each year in child benefits [based on a weekly rate of £17.45 for the first child, then £11.70 for the other six].

It is possible, of course, that Ms Matthews might have received even more had she claimed as a "lone parent" in which case the eldest child gets paid a higher rate.

I assume this is because it is cheaper [overall] than administering a more selective or complicated system.

Anonymous said...

well with the way its going in this shitehole of a nation, crew cuts and numbered tattoos will be the fucking norm!

Patrick said...

A & E

I think the point is... We are still paying for the haircut...

Unknown said...

But the point still stands that if the mum is working and does not collect any extra benefit, then she is simply paying for her children's haircuts from money she has earned. Those of us without children surely should not demand that parents spend their money on their children in specific ways. Or perhaps we should. I certainly do. I tell parents to stop buying haircuts and computer games all of the time and buy them dictionaries instead.

But then I'm doing exactly what you would say the state does - and that's what you are doing here. We are telling people how to spend their money.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Miss S,

"We are telling people how to spend their money."

Not really: we are telling people how to spend our money.

And you are not telling people how to spend their money: you are not pointing a loaded legal system at them and insisting that they buy dictionaries or go to prison: the most that you can do is advise.

Anyway, the cost of these haircuts is not far off the received monthly benefit, right? My point is that, if the mother can afford to pay for £160 of haircuts from her pay, then she does not need the benefits.

Benefits were intended to stop people starving, not to allow them to buy £40 hairstyles.

The benefit is allowing her to indulge in luxuries that she hasn't earned: someone else has had to work hard and may not be able to buy a £40 haircut (or some other luxury) so that she and her children can. That is hardly a fair system.

As for telling her how to spend her money... well, he who pays the piper calls the tune. As I have argued before, once you accept money from the state, you are in debt to that state; if you are in debt to the state, then you are in debt to those who pay for the state.

If you need money and you decide to borrow it off me, I have a perfect right to dictate the terms (or you can go elsewhere, of course, where someone else will dictate the terms).


Tomrat said...

DK and Snuffy,

I think there are crossed wires here; we cannot know that the mother was collecting child benefit or any benefit for that matter - their is every likelihood but we dont know.

Still DK is right in principle; like it or not when we are forced to pay, with menaces, for a service that others use, we inherit a say in what how they use that service; how and to what extent is a much more complicated question - did those haircuts come at the expense or wastage of another public service? I'm thinking of the clamouring underclass in areas of Leeds like Beeston and Harehills with massive truancy problems and bigger massive crime problems (i.e. become net consumers of public resources) is something we should have a say in.

Devil's Kitchen said...


"I think there are crossed wires here; we cannot know that the mother was collecting child benefit or any benefit for that matter - their is every likelihood but we dont know."

You are quite correct -- we do not know that this is the case.

But given that Child Benefit is paid out irrespective of income and that this is Brixton (have you seen the size of the Benefits Office on Brixton Hill (about 15 minutes walk from said hairdresser?)), I think that we can be 99.9% sure that she was, indeed, in receipt of Child Benefit at the very least.


Devil's Kitchen said...

P.S. After all, it's "free money": who would turn it down?

Anonymous said...

no one that's why all ours goes into the bank to pay for the little buggers university

Unknown said...

I agree with everything you have said, but as Tomrat pointed out, I was basing my response on the possibility that this woman was not collecting benefits.

The queue at the Benefits Office in Brixton may indeed be long. But you live in Brixton. You also get your hair cut in Brixton. Does this mean that you necessarily collect benefit? I'm sure there is all kinds of free money you could have collected over the years. Have you?

The point is WHY do you think this family collects benefits? The way they dressed? The way they spoke? Something they said?

Devil's Kitchen said...

Snuffy (if I may call you that),

I based my assessment on whether she was collecting Child Benefit on the fact that Child Benefit is available to anyone with a child – I don't collect Child Benefit because I don't have any children, you see – regardless of income.

Given that Brixton is not the richest area and the people of Brixton are not stupid, I think that it is entirely reasonable to infer that a woman with three young children was collecting Child Benefit.

You will note that, in the post, I did not assume that she was on any benefits other than Child Benefit. Because, you see, she had children and is thus eligible for Child Benefit.

"I'm sure there is all kinds of free money you could have collected over the years. Have you?"

No.* The one time when I was actually starving, I was theoretically a director and employee of a limited company and ineligible. Unfortunately, the company had no money and so neither did I.


* I do not count any benefits that my parents may have collected on my behalf before I reached the age of 16, since I had no say in the matter.

Devil's Kitchen said...

P.S. Pace your rather good Real Racism post, what the family looked like, what colour they were or how they spoke is immaterial to the Child Benefit Assessment. The are only two things that are material to such an assumption:

1) Child Benefit is paid to those with children irrespective of income

2) This woman had three children

Even if that particular family were not on beenfits, this section of Brixton Hill has six hairdressers that I can think of off the top of my head: most advertise their prices in the window, and most are fairly constantly busy.

Indeed, the corn row look on children quite obviously under 16 is the rage, as are various elaborate plaitings, braidings, dread-type styles, dyed streaks, etc.

Even if this specific family were not claiming Child Benefits, another one having their children's hair styled will be.

Let us assume them to be a cipher, shall we? Otherwise, I suppose I could always walk out the front door and go and actually ask one of the families coming out of said hairdressers whether they are receiving Child Benefits...?


Unknown said...

Yes, of course you can call me Snuffy. Well I suppose that is the point, isn't it? You didn't know. I presume when you see a white woman in South Ken with 3 kids, you don't assume that she is collecting benefit simply because it is free money.

I presume if people are working full-time, they don't have time to stand in those queues to collect benefit?

Brixton may not be the richest of areas, but a number of people who live there, work full-time. In fact, it is pretty trendy these days, and has a number of middle-class yuppies, does it not?

This mother could easily be one of them. Of course, I don't know the stats for people in Brixton with children. Perhaps more than half the families in Brixton are collecting child benefit? I don't know.

But I'm guessing she was dressed in a certain fashion, as were her kids. I'm guessing they were crass in their use of language. I'm not accusing you here - it is perhaps a very legitimate assumption. I'm just pressing you to think about the factors in your view and consideration when you made that assumption. It was more than what you say.

Devil's Kitchen said...


"Well I suppose that is the point, isn't it? You didn't know. I presume when you see a white woman in South Ken with 3 kids, you don't assume that she is collecting benefit simply because it is free money."

Yes, I do! I come from that class, you know: they are just as keen on free money as anyone else! Except that they don't view it as free: "it's just clawing some of our hard-earned taxes back from the government".

"I presume if people are working full-time, they don't have time to stand in those queues to collect benefit?"

Child Benefit is paid automatically into your account once you have registered (in fact, I believe that is the only way in which they will pay it these days). You do not need to go and collect it, as you do with the dole.


Unknown said...

Then I have nothing left to say. Your judgement makes sense. You have taught me something. Thank you.

Devil's Kitchen said...


Don't get me wrong: I did judge them in a certain way – I'm no saint.

However, I did consider all of that when I wrote the post: I used Child Benefit because I could be pretty certain that the mother would be in receipt of that benefit.

Anything else would be jumping to conclusions on the basis of little more than my prejudice (and, I assure you, I am not prejudiced on the basis of colour. "Just" class...).


Unknown said...

If you liked my last post, you might like to search my blog for 'Ken Livingstone' - I wrote a post once called that, and I should think it will also appeal...

Unknown said...

One more thing - How do you get your picture tacked into your comments? I mean, what steps do I need to take to do the same with mine?

Chris Gilmour said...

Well, this has been an entertaining discussion, but could you no just wander outside and ask the next family who comes out of the hairdressers whether they are on child benefit or not?

Just for a bit of closure, aye.

You could carry a clip.board and tell them they could be eligible for other benefits too.

Anonymous said...

There is the point here too that a hairdresser in a place like Brixton knows that to charge £40 for a haircut (however involved) does not deter customers. So when all is said and done the locals - on whatever income they have or can get by any means - have no difficulty paying those prices.

So assuming some of the local population are on benefits, it isn't unreasonable to assume some of those expensive haircuts are funded by the state.

(Though of course it may all be a NuLab plot to funnel more money into the pockets of needy hairdressers)

Tomrat said...

As I appear to have stirred the debate pot a bit here I think I might try to cover this on my own splog at some point in the very near future.

purplepangolin said...

Should the state recognize the extra costs to a houshold of having children? At present, having a child benefit payment that is not means tested suggests that it does.

I would suggest that a better system would be to have a transferrable tax allowance for each person in the household, the allowance for children or elderly dependents would be lower than for someone of working age. This would allow families to manage their affairs themselves. For those not in work, there could be a means tested benefit.

purplepangolin said...

As you point out the middle class are just as keen on free money as anyone else. If you are only assuming that this woman is claiming child benefit, does this mean that expensive haircuts for middle class children would get you equally wound up?

Anonymous said...

I can see why in England there is a large number of people dying of heart You want to protect your money your system, well try to send back anybody who do bother you. But now the question would be how and who will fund this, how will this affect british economy!!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

As a mixed race , working class british national, raised in wales surrounded by middle class folk..I'm really pissed off that I've been charged so called "Hippy prices" all these years as I've never, in my 33 years, haggled over the price..s'not very british is it?, doesn't really come naturally to me. An when you've got afro/mixed race hair these salons have got you by the balls really unless you get off your backside and put alot of effort into finding out what your hair likes, there being lots of different types of afro hair out there(some poor unfortunate souls like myself have multiple hair types on their noggin). We don't live in a society where one can afford to spend days plaiting ur own hair, its high maintenace trust me an I really don't blame anyone for spending our money sorting their whole family hair everybody could find sumink better to do than pull a comb through a screaming childs afro hair. Unless you've experienced it you really don't know what it entails. Going to the salon I've come to believe is a waste of my time and is taking two days hunched over plaiting ur own barnet..on the other hand if you've got a problem with where and how your taxes are being spent...why not move somewhere else where they fuck you over in less obvious ways?!

Michaela said...

Its expensive for black people to get their hair done because there aren't as many people trained to do black hair that are trained to do white hair. It's more expensive. And anyway it shouldn't matter must people collect child benefits ebcause they are offered. Wouldn't you think that the parents were neglecing the children if they left them running round with crazy ,messy hair.

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