Monday, 9 August, 2004

I don't understand hair.

I was shocked and dismayed when I discovered that you need a license to cut hair in this province. It's true! There's an independent body that regulates the cutting of British Columbians' hair, and moreover, this independent body exists because legislation says so. Go ahead, read the act. Someone, back in the dense mists of time, apparently thought that it was necessary to regulate the cutting and styling of hair, the performance of manicures or pedicures, and the giving of non-therapeutic massages and various other things that I particularly enjoy having done to me when I've had a bad week.

How I found this out was interesting. I was over in a semi-industrialized part of town about a month ago dropping some stuff off at a contractor's place when I saw the tell-tale racks of bottles in the window of a shop. "Aha," I thought. "I need more molding putty and I don't have time to run over to Gemi, so I'll go in here." Behold, a wide selection at low low prices. Boo-yeah! Up to the counter I go, arms full of stuff that I'll probably end up hating (because I end up being disappointed with most of the styling products I try that aren't made my Lanza).

"Can I see your license, please?" the woman behind the counter asks. My license? I haul out my driver's license. "No, not that one." I have a confused look on my face, so I reach for the other license, the one that allows me to do my job. "No, not that one, either." She points to a sign on the side of the counter: "Valid hairdresser's license require for sale."

"You're joking," I said in a disbelieving tone. "You need a license to shop here?"

"Yes," she said. "And since you don't appear to have one, get lost." Well, not in so many words, but that was the gist of her position. So I got lost.

This exchange bothered me. Why the hell would you need a license to buy hair care products? It's not like you're buying guns, or fentanyl, or explosives, or highly-enriched uranium; this is stuff that goes in your hair and makes it spiky. I later realized that the licensing requirement probably had more to do with price discounts and commercial licensing agreements between distributors and manufacturers than it did with regulating the sale of these products to consumers, but even still, you'd think that a place like that might have two price scales -- the "I have a license" discount scale, and the "random bozo off the street" pound-me-in-the-ass scale. Apparently not.

(I'll note, for the record, that five minutes with Google revealed at least a half-dozen distributors that sell the same stuff I was after at cheaper prices but without the onerous need to prove I cut hair for a living.)

I didn't really think about this anymore until yesterday when I went looking for a tint brush. It's been years since I did anything radical with my hair color (though some might argue that not wearing your natural hair color for seven or eight years in and of itself is a radical thing), and for the first time in those years my choice of coloring required a tint brush. I couldn't find my old ones -- thrown out, probably, in a fit of reasonableness -- so I had to go shopping. My first stop was the most logical, the place where I buy most of my "professional" grade hair products. "We're not allowed to sell tint brushes," the guy behind the counter said. "You're not allowed?" "We're not allowed to sell tint brushes," he said. I dearly wish I'd inquired into who didn't allow him to sell tint brushes, because that would have been an inspired investigation.

The only thing I can think of is that there's a conspiracy in place to ensure that consumers can't cut, style, or dye their own hair in a way that is too similar to the techniques used by professionals. That, or the government was involved somehow. Clearly, we have way too much regulation in this province -- though I'm at a loss as to who, precisely, is responsible for this overabundance of regulatory zeal.