Personal Column: 'Listen to me. I'm your hairdresser'

So, it's official. The person who cuts your hair probably knows what you're thinking better than anyone else. And now a think-tank wants to use this knowledge to help run the country. Glasgow stylist Rod Gregorson is ready to answer the call
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The Independent Online

I've been in the hair business for 10 years. I love the relationship you build up with your clients. I often get to know them well and hear about their families and their lives. My position at our salon is managerial at the moment, so I'm popping in and out of lots of conversations. I've got a great deal of information and opinions to pass on when we have our hairdresser's opinion forum (organised by the thinktank Demos) later this month.

Hairdressers are quite a big community in Glasgow but we normally only see each other at awards ceremonies, so it'll be good to talk about ideas. I will draw on what I've heard from clients - people in the media, the arts, social workers, taxi drivers - everybody has an opinion! And if they trust you to do their hair, they trust you to talk to you.

This Christmas, a downturn in retail was predicted - but I didn't pick up on people holding back. In fact, our sales of products were better than ever. People pay by plastic now. Then they don't have to think of it as money. I reckon they don't even think of it as debt. They just think of it as a monthly minimum-interest repayment. People don't seem to be anxious about it. Unless they're hiding it well.

People are really into this detox business. Especially younger women. They see it as a quick fix. At this time of year we get a lot of people coming in for a new start or a new colour. Generally, people are getting happier about their self-image. Partly because they find they can buy really, really cheap but good clothes. From H&M and Primark and places. It's sort of disposable clothing - though I don't think people are worrying about where it's coming from or why they're so cheap or how it's affecting other countries. It mainly means they can save their money for something else really good, like ... more clothing. Or shoes or handbags.

I don't think there'll ever be a Tory upsurge here in Glasgow. But then it's not so much a Tory upsurge as a Labour disillusionment anyway. Charles Kennedy: ah, he's on the out. Poor Charles. Because the Tories have got such a buzz about David Cameron, the Liberals need a shot in the arm. I think Menzies Campbell should come in. But I think the opinion generally is "it's just the Lib Dems", you know? They're not seen as a force to be reckoned with. The deaths of Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam came as big blows to people. They were seen as the last honest politicians. I'm not sure that's true, but that's how people saw it.

People up here still talk about Westminster even though we have our own Parliament. We talk about policies in England and Wales even though they're not going to come into force here. It doesn't stop people - teachers especially - telling me how outraged they are Labour is bringing back a two-tier school system.

But when it comes to our Holyrood Parliament the chat is more about the building! People are coming round to it now that it's won the Stirling Prize. They're like oh, it must have something to it. Locally, people are angry about all the usual sorts of things - public transport's always a big one. It's about to go up in price, so there'll be an outcry about that. It also seems as if old listed buildings burn down and get built up again a little bit too often. That feels like a shame. Perhaps there should be more consultation as well about the rebuilding over the waterfront. Council tax is extortionately high in Glasgow, but whether we are getting the services to reflect that amount of spending - well that's the big question. It's easy for people to forget that the city centre was transformed recently, repaved and redesigned. But there are still tramps and beggars and dirt, and that makes people angry... And people are very unhappy about Iraq. I can't recall a single person who has supported it.

Generally people don't come in the hairdresser's to complain, though. They are here to relax, so they're more likely to talk about positive things. Such as? The value of their house. Prices have risen in Glasgow so much over the last few years. Immigration hasn't been a problem here as it has in Bradford and Leeds. There's always been quite a high Asian population and we're all Glaswegians. Though you could probably find someone to sound off about it if you wanted to.

At the hairdresser's you have to talk about your holiday, don't you? A lot of people are going on longer lifestyle holidays: they're taking several weeks and going to places like Australia and South America. They are going to immerse themselves in other cultures - mind-and-body trips instead of a week in Lanzarote. People think nothing of a weekend in Europe and some are even commuting between their foreign-holiday homes.

In America there may be a downturn at the cinema but I haven't noticed that here. Although I suppose there is more talk about what's been on TV. People were looking forward to Shameless. With Little Britain, the general consensus is that it's gone off the boil a bit. I never watch reality TV programmes but so many people want to talk about them. Unexpected people too. People you look at and think, goodness me, I would never expect you to watch The X Factor.

What's the celebrity haircut of the moment? Sharon Osbourne's bob was quite popular. Then around Christmas it was the Madonna cut from her last video. The flicky one. We had quite a lot of demand for that, from younger people especially.

I think the environment has become a lot more important to people recently. People talk about what a hassle recycling is but they also say they hate the thought of landfill so they'd rather do it. I think people are less worried about the cost of things than about where their food has come from now. It may be organic but if it's been flown here from South America then that's no good. The Farmer's Market is getting much more popular and getting an organic box delivered is quite common.

People are also worried about how homogenised everything is on the high street. In the run-up to Christmas people were going on about how horrendous these great shopping centres were, how hellish it is to park and how there are big tailbacks. It's not a pleasant experience. People like popping in and out of shops on the high street.

One thing I don't hear discussed is religion. "Spirituality" yes, religion no. I've also heard nothing negative about civil marriages. Only people from the Western Isles saying, "they won't be doing it here". Well, they probably wouldn't want to! I would say that though, as I'm gay. I wouldn't want to listen if someone was against civil partnerships. Although I'd probably just have to. I'd have to remember that clients are not friends. Though they are great to talk to.