There is no one right way to feel about getting your hair cut.
Ideally, getting your hair cut makes you feel good about yourself because you've worked out a way you want to look and it's become a reality. It's also a nice way to take care of yourself.
However, the experience of getting your hair cut might feel very different from this image. You might find it daunting to go to a barber's shop or hair salon for the first time. You might not know how to ask for the haircut you want. You might be worried that the hairdresser will misgender you or does not understand your identity. It can even be difficult to stare at yourself in the mirror for half an hour or longer.
In most salons there is gender discrimination in terms of pricing. Pricing is often divided into 'men's and 'women's' prices - 'women's prices' are often more expensive, even for a cut of the same length. Aside from the arbitrary cost difference, it can be stressful if the hairdresser decided to charge you for a gendered cut that you feel doesn't reflect you or your identity. Unfortunately, hairdressers sometimes charge you for the gender they think you are rather than asking you first.
These difficulties aside, there is also the important question of style. How do you get the style that you want?
Below find a few tips on how to have a better experience while getting your hair cut.
Remember you have a right to be there
It can be difficult going to a very gendered space to get a hair cut for the first time - for example a barber's shop or salon that is mainly used by people of the same gender.
You might find it exciting and something you've been waiting to do for a while.
Many barber's shops and hairdressers are prepared to serve customers of any gender. Some have unisex pricing policies so your gender doesn't make a difference to the price.
The law supports you in most circumstances to access a haircut in an establishment that serves people of your gender identity.
However, haircutting establishments can be very gendered places.If you are non-binary, you might feel frustrated that hairdressers are so fixated on the distinction between male and female. You might not feel bold enough to question single-gender salon policies.
If you feel like you have been unfairly treated while trying to get your haircut because of your trans status, Citizens Advice has some tips on action you could take. The first step is making a complaint to the business that treated you unfairly.
Getting the haircut you want
It can be really difficult to describe the sort of haircut you're after.
The easiest way to communicate your idea to your hairdresser or barber is to show them a picture of the style you want. To get some ideas you could:
- Look at celebrity haircuts and save the images
- Make a scrapbook of styles you like or search on Pintrest
- Google 'women's/men's/gender-neutral hair styles'
- Add the latest season and date (Winter 2015, for example) to find styles that are on trend.
At the barber's shop
In most cities you can now find trendy barbershops that combine vintage style and traditional services such as wet shaves with up-to-the-minute haircuts. High street barbers might be more low key and for most you don't need to book - you just walk in, take a seat and wait your turn.
Unlike unisex or more feminine hair salons, barbers generally won't wash your hair, they will just wet it with a spray then cut. More traditional shops might not be used to cutting fashionable styles (even if they are 'classic' ones) so you should definitely take a picture if that's what you want.
You should try to get familiar with a bit of terminology. The barber might ask you if you want your hairline (at your neck) 'straight' (squared off) or 'natural'. If you're getting a clipper cut, you'll need to know what the grade of each blade means - you can find out here. Fashionbeans also has a good guide to terminology.
Depending on where you live, the barber might ask you if you want 'tapered' or 'square' sideburns. Tapered sideburns become thinner and taper out to a point as they go down your face - quite a particular look that you might not want. Old school barbers also have the habit of brushing your wet fringe forward and cutting it in a straight line!
The lesson is that it's important to tell the barber firmly what you do or do not want.
Open Barbers is a hairdressing service for all lengths, genders and sexualities, led by Greygory and Felix.
They offer a personalised and warm haircutting experience with a queer and trans friendly attitude. They seek to promote the diversity of identities in society, and celebrate people’s appearance in the way they wish to be seen. Anyone is welcome, including friends. They aim to make Open Barbers a welcoming space to hang out in, with a range of teas, biscuits, and zines to make you feel at home.
Here's a short film The Test Shot made about Open Barbers back in 2012:
They offer distinct hair styles, cuts, colours and shaves, specialising in sharp, sculpted shapes. Their pricing is gender-neutral: they charge on the basis of the work they do for you, not on your gender. They cover everything from quiffs to long hair, pin ups, flat-tops to cut-throat razor shaves, decorative clipper work to colouring. Most importantly, they give you the cut you want: they have no boundaries or pre-set ideas about what is best for you.
Address: Warwick Works, Studio 11, Downs Rd, London E5 8QJ
If you would like to tell us about a gender-neutral or trans-friendly hairdresser in your area that we can share, get in touch.