Hairdressers, It’s Time to Stand Up

Every so often, you come across something that hits you in just the right way. Today, I read something that sparked a thought. That led to a memory, and that memory, coupled with my current state of mind is compelling me to write the following. Now, before I go any further, I am going to do the responsible thing and warn the majority of you that what you are about to read may make you uncomfortable.

What I feel compelled to talk about tonight is the unique position of you, the hairdresser, to effect change.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I have faith in you, People of Industrie—I have faith that regardless of your affiliations, beliefs, or leanings, that you can agree that something is happening in our country and that we are all responsible.

If you don’t want to dig into this, I understand.

If you are not ready, confused, or nervous, believe me, I understand.

If you are defensive, if you are resolute to your beliefs, if you feel that it is wildly inappropriate for a website dedicated to the beauty industry to make any sort of political statement…

Please, read on.

Not only do I want to hear your reasonings, but I am also eager to learn more about your unique point of view.

Perhaps I should explain a bit, how I came to this place. How I came to stopping my nightly routine, cutting short my family’s dinner, delaying bath and bedtime for my children, and sending my husband out for the night to write this piece. It’s definitely a “sign of the times” story, I assure you.

Earlier today, I came across a post from a member of a private group that I belong to that detailed out an experience that this user had during her regularly scheduled hair appointment. The group is private for a reason–it is largely political in nature—and so I won’t re-post her story here, but the main points are that this woman belongs to a particular religion that requires her to wear a head covering, whenever she is in the company of a man who is not her husband.

The salon that she frequented was more than willing to accommodate this and arranged to conduct her appointment in a mostly secluded area of the salon, where she could remove her hijab without fear of going against her religious beliefs. As it so happens, another stylist was occupying the same space with their client, and the two women were discussing their perspectives on a belief system that was, seemingly, different from their own and ironically, the same as that which the other woman in the room ascribed to. The woman whose post I was reading, described how torn she felt, listening to these other two women so egregiously misconstrue her faith and her people, directly in front of her with no thought as to who else may be in earshot. Should she speak up and risk “fanning the flames?” Should she keep silent and disrespect her faith? She spent the remainder of her appointment wondering if she could safely address these misconceptions about her faith and whether she was right in doing so.

Not exactly the relaxing experience that her stylist was hoping for, I am sure.

In any case, after the conclusion of her appointment, the woman asked at the front desk to speak to the stylist who had been conversing with her client in the same room. She was told that the stylist was unavailable and was prompted to leave a message.

The message that she wrote is I think, what impacted me the most out of this entire story. Essentially, she told the stylist that she couldn’t help but overhear her conversation and as a Muslim woman, noticed that there seemed to be some misunderstandings of her faith and culture. She suggested that perhaps this stylist hadn’t had the opportunity to make many Muslim friends and so, therefore, offered her own friendship—complete with phone number and an invitation to meet for coffee.

This story has a very happy ending. Many staff members in the salon were moved to tears, upon reading this woman’s note. It made them reconsider how they conducted conversations with their clients. They realized that perhaps they should be more careful what they said and how loudly they said it. But perhaps the best takeaway of all was the staff recognizing the supreme grace with which this woman handled this potentially volatile situation.

By telling this story, I recognize the fact that I have likely alienated many of you. While I have the utmost respect for my peers in beauty publishing, I understand that it is often impossible to take a stand in this line of work. By making a statement, you risk losing potential business.

I also understand that this is what may be going through many of your minds, right now. (Those of you who haven’t closed this tab to write an angry letter to editorial@industrieonline.com. If you haven’t yet but want to—desperately—I have linked this address to make it a bit easier for you. Again, your point of view is welcome).

Those of you who remain, I am going to take a stab and say that maybe, like me, you are wondering how you can make a difference. In these trying times, which threaten to pit neighbor against neighbor, where we are already seeing families torn apart and friendships dissolve in an instant; when so much of your business relies on your relationships, how can you affect change?

Hairdressers, you are more powerful than you know.

How many clients do you have?

How many referrals do you get on a regular basis?

How many inhabitants of your community do you touch on a daily basis?

Think about it for a moment. More so than any other business (besides, perhaps your local bartender) you have the ear and the trust of the community, and that, my dear friends, is an immense responsibility.

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I had the good fortune, at one point in my beauty industry journey, to work with a woman that I greatly admired. This particular woman taught me a great deal about the industry, about hairdressers and how relationships work and how to tell bullshit from real shit and that woman…I will forever be grateful. While professing her love for the everyday hairdresser and salon owner one evening, she educated me on how hair salons were used to fuel the French Revolution—via secret tunnels and rooms hidden underground— and how the Black Panthers first met in barbershops in California. Hair salons, she told me, have occupied a unique space in the community throughout all of the major events in history, because of the amount of trust it takes to form a solid client/stylist relationship.

People of Industrie, allow this to sink in for a moment. Like the abolitionists or the suffragists, you too have the power to effect great change in our nation. You have the power to reach a multitude of people in your community and directly impact the way that they think, feel and interact with one another. Those of you who are parents may understand how this type of responsibility feels but may have never thought of it regarding your clients. I urge you to do so now. Your clients come to you because they trust you. Beyond just the knowledge of how many grays they actually have, your clients trust you with their marriage problems, their struggles with faith, their conflicts with their children, deepest concerns about their family members. And while they appreciate your attention, they also trust your feedback and opinions—you are their rock, not just their sponge.

So I want to challenge each and every one of you to think through how you are going to use that power.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Oh, but what about all of the clients I will lose because we do not think the same way??”

Please, let me be clear. I am not encouraging you to adopt a belief. I am not asking you to choose a side. What I am empowering you to do, is to ask yourself what you think your role is. What do you honestly believe that you can stand up and do, to help your community in this uncertain time? Ask yourself the tough questions, play out the difficult scenarios and decide how you feel, in your heart is the proper way to respond.

And stick to it.

You may lose some clients that don’t share your point of view. You may have a handful of what you may have once considered being your most loyal customers, even friends, stand up, tear their capes off, grab their purses and walk out in a huff, it’s very possible. But I promise you if you are speaking from a true place if you are standing up for what you believe, deep down somewhere to the bottom and left of your soul is right, you will not only lose the right clients but gain them as well.

For those of you who are left still reading this, I believe in you. I applaud you; I hope that Industrie can be of some help to you in your journey. I believe that we stand for what you stand for, in the end:

Let’s make something beautiful, together.

Onward & Upward,

-justine

READ: Taboo Topics in the Salon