'I looked like Robinson Crusoe': relief as salons reopen in Germany

Femke Colborne, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 04 2020 11:10 PM

A hairdresser from the Kestir Gitsin hairdresser shop serves a customer after its reopening, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Cologne, Germany, May 4, 2020. Thilo Schmuelgen, Reuters

Helmut Wichter had been desperate for a haircut for weeks as hair salons were shut in Germany to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

"I looked like Robinson Crusoe," said the 87-year-old, who joined crowds flocking to salons early Monday as they reopened their doors.

"I came here this morning and saw that there were already young people standing outside," Wichter told AFP, as he finally emerged clean shaven from a barber in Berlin.

Many Germans had been left lamenting the state of their hair since mid-March, with some resorting to the black market to meet their grooming needs.

In late April, police busted two illegal hairdressers in basements in the Bavarian district of Miltenberg.

One in seven people also resorted to cutting their own locks during the period, according to a survey by YouGov commissioned by national news agency DPA.

But Monday saw the start of a new phase of the virus fightback in Europe's biggest economy, with salons allowed to open once again along with some schools, museums, zoos, churches and playgrounds.

Hairdressers have also reopened in Iceland, Slovenia and Greece as many European countries begin to tentatively ease lockdown measures designed to contain the virus.

At another barber a few streets away, Galep Atmaca, 15, showed up at 8 am.

"I feel uncomfortable with my hair right now," he said, a crop of dark curls sticking out from beneath his hoodie.

Business is booming for barber Ramazan Uzun, 27, whose Cut 36 salon in Berlin's Kreuzberg district is nearly fully booked for the week.

"People are keen to have a proper haircut," he said.

Hairdressers and their customers are required to wear face masks, and customers must be seated no closer than 1.5 meters apart, with many allowing only a couple of people inside at a time.

Despite the measures, Uzun is still concerned as he lives with his parents and is worried about them getting infected.

"But we have to make a living somehow," he said. "If we get infected it's not a problem, but then when we go home and our kids and parents are at home, that does make you a bit scared."