A woman has accused a barber shop of sexism after they refused to cut her hair – because she wasn’t a man. Alice O’Toole wanted to get her 5in-long blonde hair shaved off and patterns shaved into her hair but was left angry and confused’ when staff at a barbers told her: ‘We don’t do girls’. Miss O’Toole said she felt ‘humiliated’ after asking for a Grade 2 or 3 cut with hair stenciling at Razor’s Edge barbers in Portsmouth, Hampshire. ‘I’d heard Razor’s Edge had a very good reputation so decided it would be the perfect place to nip into, but when I went in they refused to serve me. The 21-year-old later got a tribal pattern at another barber shop ‘They refused in front of a shop full of people, which was very embarrassing – on the grounds that I’m a woman. ‘I already had very short hair, so it wasn’t a particularly big job I was asking them to do. ‘I thought nothing of going to a barber’s, essentially I wanted a haircut that is typically given to men so surely the best place to go was a barber’s. ‘But apparently not. I was told they would not give me essentially a male haircut as I am a woman. ‘The receptionist looked very embarrassed as I asked for an explanation and all she could offer is “We don’t do girls”, whatever the cut. ‘When I asked wasn’t this a bit sexist even she admitted it was. It’s not like I asked for a perm or a girl’s haircut. ‘My immediate reaction was: ‘Are you joking?’. It was so humiliating to be told that in front of a shop of 15 people, plus staff, all looking at me. ‘I walked out and went to the nearest hairdressers and they gave me a Grade 2, but couldn’t offer the hair art so I didn’t get what I wanted. ‘The staff there were disgusted at the way I’d been treated.’ Under the Equality Act 2010, businesses must now justify giving a single-sex service. This means, for example, a barber shop might say they could not give a woman a perm because it was a style they would not normally do.
Razor’s Edge, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, today apologised and insisted they do not have a ‘sexist agenda’. In a statement, manager Lloyd Hughes said: ‘We had a no women policy introduced 20 years ago after being threatened with legal action after trimming a girl’s fringe. ‘If we have inadvertently broken the law we will endeavour to put this right immediately. ‘The member of staff who served Alice has unfortunately shown ignorance of this change of law in 2010, which we support. ‘We do not operate a no-women policy or sexist agenda. ‘Cutting women’s and men’s hair does require very different skills and knowledge and hairdressers across the world are trained up specifically as a male or female cutter. ‘However we should have provided that service because Alice asked for a men’s cut. ‘I am deeply embarrassed and have apologised personally to her. ‘She was let down by ignorance of the law and poor customer service.’ Miss O’Toole, from Gosport, Hampshire, later got a tribal freehand pattern at another barber shop, which she is happy with. She added: ‘I was angry and confused as to why I was refused service just because I am a woman. ‘I was willing to pay good money for my haircut and give someone the opportunity to get creative with some stencilling in my hair. ‘I’ve got no problem with going into a salon and seeing a man getting his haircut there, so why can’t I have the same treatment? ‘Lots of women have said to me they have had a similar experience, but if a man can get the same cut there’s no way a business can justify turning a woman away.’