They once had neatly-shaven heads and faces, a pointer to the frequency within which they kept a date with their barbers. That was about six months ago before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe.
Those who once clean-shaven faces have let their beards overrun them, leaving their hair to thrive as they avoid essential appointments with their barbers. It is a least talked-about benefit of the coronavirus pandemic, that little opportunity to experiment with new looks, and literally let your hair down.
When lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi posted his new look on Twitter for the first time, his one million followers were jolted: “Someone tell me this is Nicolas Cage and not the Mullah himself. Is he planning to appear in a blockbuster movie as the head of a cabal?” posed one Twitter user.
And when Suna East MP Junet Mohamed wanted to ridicule the transformation of Jubilee Party, it was by juxtaposing Abdullahi’s old and new looks: “These two photos are a clear indication how Jubilee Party has changed/evolved between 2013 and 2020.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto too haven’t been left behind. Both appear to have awakened their rustic sensibilities and are now embracing shy beards. Uhuru briefly sampled the hair-brushed backwards ‘Jomo look’. He has since stopped the reggae by shaving.
When former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo’s images filtered on social media sometimes in July, nobody could believe it was him.
His overgrown hair betrayed a wide bald rift. Meru Senator Mithika Linturi took advantage of the times to go with a full-blown silver beard. His Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen also joined the “beard gang.”
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, however, has maintained his neatly manicured beard as his signature style, but he missed a few barber appointments. Joho always had a seamless transition from his beard to his hair, and a smooth cut on his hairline, defining his forehead. Now, he lets the cut grow, wearing a substantial head of hair and keeping the beard rugged for months on end.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has not compromised on his usual style, a colour job for jet black hair and trim that keeps his hair short and neat. The same goes for Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, who has seemingly maintained his signature baby-face look.
But unlike these men, there are many who cannot afford to sample the coronavirus looks because nature has scanted their fortunes. They have gone completely bald and were not afforded beards by mother nature.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on many businesses, including beauty and barber shops frequented by clients who are now sporting new looks. In April, salons and barbershops were given strict regulations, including wearing masks while offering their services, dispense sanitiser to customers and checking crowding in the establishments.
John Mwangi, who runs a barbershop at the heart of Nairobi, says between March and May, his clients barely came for their regular cuts. “Business is still slow. House calls have become a big sustaining action. I have not seen many of my regular customers in months,” Mwangi says.
Anthony, who styles hair in a high-end hair studio in Hurlingham, Nairobi, says that as much as many people are saying that things are returning to normal, it is not the case in their business. “Our biggest clients have not been coming, and some even have their house-helps and other assistants do their hair at home with our guidance on the phone,” Anthony says.
To date, over 35,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 500 others have died arising from complications associated with the disease.