With the Austin barbershop he's been going to for more than 25 years shut down during the stay-at-home orders, Will Holford nearly waited too long to attend to the situation.
"My barber called me," Holford said. "He must have seen a pic I posted on FB and took pity on me."
Holford's appointment is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, nearly two months after his last hair cut, at Sportsman's Barbershop.
It also comes one day after barbershops and hair salons across Texas are allowed to open under new guidelines set out by the governor and aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus, while opening up more businesses after weeks of economic devastation.
(Ron King Salon)
Waiting impatiently beneath split ends and heavy bangs and scary home haircuts, clients seem to be parted right down the middle on whether they will be going back any time soon.
For every Holford with an appointment, there's a Laurie Felker Jones with an overdue cut and color—or a need to "paint the front of the house," as she jokingly refers to her visits—and no immediate plans to address it.
"My stylist and I have been talking, and we both want everyone to be safe," said Felker Jones, an Austin consultant and mother of two. "The risks just aren't worth it."
For some, the home haircut was a delightful surprise.
"My wife gave all three of us boys summer buzz cuts," said Austinite Arturo Aviles, father of twins. "Feels great!"
Salons are also divided, with some opening immediately while others wait until they deem it safe.
Friday morning was busy at the Ron King Salon near the Four Seasons hotel downtown, where up to 75 clients might cycle through on a typical Saturday.
King expects to see one-third of that, if his appointments fill up, as new capacity rules limit the number of both clients and stylists. So he'll now open seven days a week, instead of being closed Sunday, for 12 hours a day.
Clients wait in their cars and retail products are moved behind the counter. Stylists wear masks and gloves, and money exchange is all touchless—even stylists' tips will be sent through VenMo.
Otherwise, his strict sanitation practices are business as usual.
"This is what stylists are trained to do," King said. "We have to take a sanitation class over and over and over and over, each year … It's the safest place to be."
At Birds Barbershop's nine locations, owners consulted an infectious disease expert and are waiting until next week to open, said Laura Snyder, a shop manager on the East Side.
Employees will have face shields and daily temperature checks, the front desk gets a sneeze guard, and no beard trims or color treatments at first, said Snyder, a student at Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute, which opens later this month.
"I'm scared in general of this virus," she said, "but I'm really appreciative that the place I work vows to be the cleanest and safest place in Austin to get a haircut."
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."