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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 14:03 GMT
Profits cut for Zimbabwe hairdressers
By Steve Vickers
BBC, Harare

Christmas is usually the busiest time of the year for salons

A joke doing the rounds in Zimbabwe is that Christmas has been cancelled this year due to economic constraints.

That may not be the case exactly, but most people are feeling the pinch, and many women are having to cut back on their hairdressing budget and opt for long-lasting hairstyles.

So while it used to be fancy sets like spirals and bobs, it's now fishtail, carrot, and other types of plaiting.

Weaves are also in, as are dreadlocks, wigs and short hair.

"When you get to the festive season, this is normally the busiest time, when there are parties and everyone is bubbly and excited," says Jackie Granger, one of Harare's leading hairstylists.

You have to adjust to your pocket - I'd like to change my hairstyle once a month, but I just can't do that
Salon customer
"But this year there's been a downward trend. People don't seem to be spending as much as they used to spend, particularly when it comes to hair, people would rather look for food or keep money for school fees rather than having their hair done.

Shorter and shorter

So the majority of fashion-conscious Zimbabwean women have had to compromise with their hair, though they're not finding it easy.

Shaving your head is easier to manage and cheaper, says Vimbai

"My hairstyle is very very short and I have a tint - it's called copper," explains one salon customer. "I used to have long hair with weaves."

Another says: "It's difficult but you have to adjust to your pocket. It's just beyond my means to have the trendy hairstyles. I'd like to change my hairstyle once a month, but I just can't do that."

You could even go for the ultimate in low maintenance hair - the completely bald look. It's becoming increasingly popular," said one shaven-headed lady called Vimbai.

"I find myself more of a natural woman when I carry this hairstyle - It's very easy to manage."

"And the other advantage of being bald is it's very versatile. I can change it to suit the occasion - if I get invited to a dinner I can just put on my wig and go."

Costs soar

Zimbabwe's year-on-year inflation is now running at 502%. But official figures for prices at hair salons show a rise of 2100%, the highest rate of all categories monitored.

In other words, on average, a hairstyle costs 20 times more than it did a year ago.

"With hairdressing they say it's a luxury business so when they bring in the products, there's a 60 or 65% duty on that," Jackie Granger says.

"When you look at it sometimes you wonder if it's worth being in business because we are being out-priced."


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