They ‘looked like Chia Pets’: Marylanders learn do’s and don’ts of quarantine haircuts

With her Baltimore County basement converted to a barbershop and electric clippers gleaming in her hand, Rachel Hamilton faced her three boys. First, the youngest.

Five-year-old Nash watched his mom pull up a YouTube lesson on the screen. It didn’t inspire his confidence: how to cut hair.


It’s a scene that plays out across Maryland and beyond. The coronavirus has driven families indoors and back to a do-it-yourself approach. For everyone from pop singer Pink to this Parkville mom, the pandemic brings one more first: quarantine haircuts.

In addition, sales are spiking for hair dyes. Clippers are selling out. Americans everywhere are turning to online tutorials to try to cut their own hair, often to hilarious results.


Hamilton’s three sons relished their monthly trip to the barber with Dad — just the boys. Recently, their mom dug out the clippers she had never used. She went down to the basement and set up shop on the laundry table. Kyle, 9, protested.

“She’s never cut hair before!”

When the shearing finished, 5-year-old Nash wore a Mohawk.

Two days later, in Harford County, Jen Snyder reached her own grim conclusion.

“We have to tackle this,” said Snyder, of Forest Hill. “My husband and son were both looking like Chia Pets.”

Her husband, Andy, took the trimmers to their 10-year-old son, Nathan. Jen captured the boy’s frown with her camera.

“The first half, he was super angry; the second half, he was dejected," she said.

The kids have been out of school for six weeks now; they’re going bonkers. Just try to keep a 4-year-old sitting still for a trim, says Jeanne Green, of Lutherville-Timonium.


She spread a tarp over the living room floor to battle her son’s “borderline fro.”

“Don’t try and do it without TV, or an iPhone or an iPad,” she cautioned.

Thursday marked one month since Gov. Larry Hogan closed barbershops, salons and other nonessential businesses to try to stem the outbreak. He eased up a bit last week, allowing stylists to keep appointments with essential workers such as soldiers, doctors and paramedics “where ungroomed hair could pose a safety risk.”

Still, these folks need haircuts.

Edward Buck Jr., of Havre de Grace, hasn’t let anyone but his trusted barber cut his hair in 16 years. With his regular barbershop closed, the 53-year-old security director tried to mat down his hair under a stocking cap, wearing it even while he slept.

Buck faced the mirror with dismay.


“He is very funny about his hair,” his wife, Ericka Alston Buck, said. “He only goes to this barber he has gone to forever. He’s also balding so there’s this technique with this fiber spray — ”

Suffice it to say, “He was looking really rough. And our son, too.”

Only, Edward Buck Jr. owned no clippers. He searched Google for nearby beauty stores. Closed. Closed. Closed. He scrolled down past salons farther and farther away. Finally, one open.

Buck called because he wanted Wahl clippers, the kind his barber uses. In luck, he headed out to the car and took off, bound for a distant beauty store — an hour and a half away, in Delaware.

After Hogan closed all businesses deemed nonessential March 23, governors around the country followed suit. The home haircut, well, became a thing.

Internet tutorials sprang up. So did galleries of blunders. There was pop rocker Pink on Instagram, flaunting her uneven trim after a tipsy home cut.


“When I get drunk, I get really, really brilliant ideas,” she told fans.

Her public service announcement: “Stay home. Stay safe. Cut your own hair.”

There was country singer Blake Shelton showing off his home-cut mullet. And kid actor Julia Butters — who appeared beside Brad Pitt in last summer’s “Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood” — shaving a checkerboard into her dad’s hair. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper admitted his own snafu on live TV, saying, “I gave myself a giant bald spot. ... I’ve been walking around all day with my hand on my head.”

Meanwhile, sales of Madison Reed’s home hair-coloring kits skyrocketed 750%, according to a CBS News report. Some electric hair clippers have sold out on Amazon. The vacuum cutting device Flowbee — ever the butt of a joke — appears sold out everywhere, according to Fortune magazine. Suddenly, Newsweek is publishing hair cutting tips.

“The first half, he was super angry; the second half, he was dejected."

—  Jen Snyder, on how her 10-year-old son Nathan reacted to getting a haircut from her husband, Andy

Stylist Jamie Lang, of Columbia, began mixing home coloring kits and making deliveries to longtime customers. Most customers require a color touch-up every three to six weeks. In these days of video conferences, Lang cautioned against a box of hair dye off the pharmacy shelf.

“They call it ‘cappuccino brown’? I don’t even know what that means,” she said. “You can totally mess up your hair. I’ve corrected so many.”


In Baltimore, Kristen Chandler, owner of Bella of Canton salon, dished out advice.

“If one MUST cut at home, cut from front only. Ladies should carve a semicircle section out at bangs, gather section to desired length and point cut.”

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Leslie Bauman decided to bring the hair cuttery to her Ruxton living room. She had always felt too nervous to trim the hair of her 3-year-old son, Glyde. They preferred Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids, the franchise that draws in families with its slides and seats in toy cars.

So Bauman pulled out their play car and taped a homemade sign with Glyde’s name on front. His big sister, Mazzlyn, 8, carried the clipboard.

“We’re going to play Cookie Cutters," his mom announced.

For Edward Buck Jr., the drive back from Delaware to Havre de Grace took another hour and a half. In his bathroom, he arranged the new instruments. “Edward!” he called to his son.


Videos online showed him how to cut a fade. Simple enough, right?

Edward, 10, sat shirtless. The clippers buzzed behind his ear.

He squeezed shut his eyes.