Silence on order: Instead of chatting about everything and maybe even feeling obliged to make small talk, customers can book a so-called silent cut with some hairdressers. Not only the customers, but also the hairdressers enjoy the silence.

“We came up with the idea during the Corona period, when many conversations only revolved around the pandemic,” says Andrea Siepert-Fichter from the “Wild Hair” salon in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg. Her employees reported that a London hairdresser had been offering silent cuts for a number of years. In the end, she too decided to include the service in her program, says Siepert-Fichter. “We wanted to create a zone of relaxation where you can forget all your worries.”

Insurance salesman Benjamin Hartwig is happy to take advantage of the offer. He discusses his wishes with Siepert-Fichter, then she gets started and they are both silent for 20 minutes while the customer next door talks about his parents, his new job and the commute, while loud rock music plays in the background. “The noises don’t bother me,” says Hartwig after the cut. “Because of my job, I talk to people all day, hear good but also bad stories.” The visit to the hairdresser is therefore very relaxing for him. “These are minutes in which I reflect on my day and can only occupy myself with my thoughts,” said the 29-year-old.

The proximity to the hairdresser does not please everyone

“If hairdressers deliberately advertise Silent Cuts, they might be able to address a target group that is annoyed by the many conversations at the hairdresser’s,” says Antonio Weinitschke, Art Director at the Central Association of the German Hairdressing Trade. “The trend is probably more like that. Everyday life is hectic enough, many people just want to relax and have a break.”

Jan Kopatz, head of the Berlin hairdressers’ guild, considers silent cuts “nothing outstanding”, but above all a “marketing tool and a fad”. The quality of the cut does not differ from others, he emphasizes.

Psychologist Julia Scharnhorst explains why private conversations often arise at the hairdresser’s with the physical closeness. Being touched by another human being for a period of time can trigger a feeling of familiarity. This is also often the case in other situations, such as with a physiotherapist or a masseur. “But not everyone thinks it’s that great. Many people also tell stressful or intimate things,” says Scharnhorst. This can be tiring. “The customers go home refreshed after an hour. The hairdressers often have the next customer and the next conversation right away.”

Even hairdressers don’t always want to chat about private matters

“And we take some problems home with us,” adds Siepert-Fichter. She herself therefore enjoys the appointments without small talk. “I’m only human and not a machine and I’m not always in the mood to talk. I like to daydream,” she says.

In addition to the chatter, there is also the noise pollution from hair dryers and other devices. “You have to endure that first,” says Scharnhorst, who specializes in mental health in the workplace and also gives stress management seminars for the professional group. She therefore very much welcomes the Silent Cut concept. It also gives the hairdressers an island of calm.

This was also a reason for Anna Weber from Villingen-Schwellingen (Baden-Württemberg) to offer Silent Cuts five years ago. She was under a lot of stress at the time. For many customers, it is easier to get an appointment with the hairdresser than with a psychologist – with consequences. Again and again you hear a lot of personal things. “But I just want to be a hairdresser,” says the 62-year-old. “Unfortunately, only three or four customers, who are under a lot of stress themselves, want their hair done regularly without talking to them.” The big problem with her: She only makes house calls and private things are talked about even faster.

The customer decides

In Austria and Switzerland, customers can also exclude small talk at the hairdresser from the outset. In Berlin, Anna Jäger from Salon Blush in Friedrichshain and Philipp Hofstätter in Kreuzberg also offer quiet appointments. “Hair talk but no small talk” – yes, discuss hairstyles, no small talk – this is also how the Salon Rohn in Charlottenburg advertises its “Silent Service”.

Weinitschke from the Central Association of the German Hairdressing Trade says that you don’t necessarily need such a clear agreement: “It’s always the customer who decides whether to talk. You quickly notice whether someone wants to talk or not. As a hairdresser, I would never talk a customer into a conversation. You need sensitivity.”

But not every customer is comfortable with saying nothing. After all, small talk is considered polite, says Scharnhorst. “There are books, seminars and coaching where small talk is advertised and everyone acts as if small talk is something really great that everyone has to be able to do.” The sometimes uninterrupted torrent of speech – called logorrhea by experts – has consequences: “At some point the hairdressers can no longer really concentrate on anything for a long time,” according to the psychologist’s experience with seminar participants.

“A good hairdresser immediately knows who wants to talk”

Working life is where small talk definitely has its place, says Scharnhorst. “It makes it a lot easier to work with people once you’ve figured out some things you have in common and whether or not you like each other.”

Celebrity hairdresser Dieter Bonnstädter could not even imagine a silent cut offer. “The exchange with customers is something nice,” he says. And: “A good hairdresser notices immediately whether a customer wants to speak today or not.”

Small talk in the salon has not died out at Siepert-Fichter either: around five to 15 customers book the service with her and a few colleagues every week. And not every employee cuts without speaking. Even she herself cannot do without talking to every customer. “Regular customers, whom I’ve sometimes known for 20 years, also have a very personal bond.”