Brushy look becomes new norm for Kenyan men amid COVID-19 pandemic

NAIROBI (Xinhua) – The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new norms in Kenya and for Kenyan men, having a brushy look is one of the new normals.

Since the outbreak of the disease in the east African nation, many Kenyan men have never stepped into barbershops to shave their heads or beards. Others have reduced the frequency of visiting the shops for fear of contracting the disease.

The barbershops, salons and massage parlour were identified as some of the places that one can easily contract the virus due to the high number of people visiting them.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health thus came up with guidelines for operators to follow to curb the spread of the virus. They include the hairdressers must wear masks at all times, sanitise regular surfaces, towels and clothing they use in the shops and ensure customers maintain social distancing.

In high-end salons and barbershops, operators are wearing personal protective equipment as they seek to assure customers that they would be safe.

But this has not inspired many customers, especially men, to visit the shops as regularly as they used to before the pandemic.

Many Kenyan men are thus spotted with brushy looks as they keep off barbershops in fear of the disease. The brushy look, which has become the new normal, has been adopted by high-profile people like Members of Parliament, musicians and TV news anchors and the ordinary man on the street.

“I have not stepped into a barbershop since the pandemic started and I don’t intend to do so anytime soon. This is my norm,” said journalist Antony Kimani. Before the pandemic, he would regularly visit his favourite barbershop in the capital’s central business district every week.

“I would pay KES400 (about USD3.8) per visit but nowadays I shave my beard at home,” said Kimani, whose hair is over 5cm tall currently. Every day he combs the hair, he observed, it reminds him of the pandemic and the need to observe containment measures. “It is one way of telling me that things are not normal yet; that we have a disease to fight,” he said. His sentiments are shared by tens of other men as the brushy look continues to appeal to both young and older men.

“If you go to the barbershop you risk contracting the disease because people share towels and the machines and some of the operators don’t maintain high standards of hygiene. Keeping long hair and a bushy beard is part of the sacrifice we have to make during this pandemic period,” said John Musiega, a motorbike taxi rider in Kitengela.