Let’s talk about haircuts!
Haircuts are a significant topic in my life. I spent much of my childhood desperately wanting short hair. Finally, when I turned twelve, I was allowed to get my hair cut short on my birthday. It was a terrible cut – literally an old fashioned bowl cut. Yet, I wore that hair with pride until peer pressure got the better of me and I grew my hair out again.
This became a pattern. I would get my hair cut short and then grow it again to appear more ‘feminine’ and fit in. I finally cut it off for good in my 30s but then struggled through a series of really awful haircuts. I always felt perplexed as to why I felt so rotten about them, why they didn’t suit me and why when I walked out of the salon, I had been blow dried into some old woman with big hair. Finally, I came across a gay man who kind of got it, although he still blow dried and fluffed it when I left. A habit, I guess.
Then one day I had an epiphany. As I was coming to terms with my queerness, I realised what I really wanted was a barber cut. Feeling I was brave enough to walk into that environment, I selected one. As I entered, I noticed the looks I received and the extremely masculine environment. I walked straight back out. For queer people, safety is always at the front of our minds, and I had no idea whether the business was an inclusive environment – however, there were plenty of signs to suggest it might not be.
So, I started Googling and found marketing material aimed at gentlemen and ‘real men’. I couldn’t find a barber in Geelong that stated it was queer friendly, or even that suggested it would cut anyone’s hair. My Google search also turned up an article naming the 20 most queer friendly barbers in Melbourne, but surely I didn’t need to travel there for a 10 minute cut!
Then I found Hunter Barbershop in Belmont, Geelong. I just walked in off the street one day and could see there was a woman cutting hair and the decor had a stylish feel to it (that wasn’t overtly masculine!). I asked if they could cut my hair and they delivered their answer with a smile: “Of course, come through.” They cut my hair, as they would anyone else’s, and charged me a non-gendered rate. I became one of their most loyal customers.
At Hunter Barbershop, I received haircuts that match my queerness, that made me feel at home in my skin and that empowered me to own my queerness. I would recommend them to all my friends and business contacts. Its employees made me feel included, safe and welcome – and in return they had a loyal customer. Could they have improved? For sure. A rainbow sticker, VIP packages that are non-gendered and a more inclusive social media strategy would have all added value, but they had a good starting point.
The knowledge that I can get a haircut, feel safe and get the cut I want is a big deal to me – and also an excellent business strategy. Regional Australia needs more businesses like this. Business owners shouldn’t underestimate the value of being inclusive to a group of people who’ve been marginalised. Signs and actions, even if they’re small, matter.
That’s the thing about inclusion. Everyone wins. If your business’s marketing material needs a refresh, take a look at our Digital Marketing Inclusion Audit. The diversity consultants at Bree Gorman will work with you to identify quick wins to build loyalty, trust and meaningful inclusion.
04 May 2023
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