Keri is now an established barber working in a London barbershop, but their journey into the industry was an eventful one. “I was living in Brighton about ten years ago and really wanted a fade. So I went to a barbershop, but was refused a haircut ‘because I was a woman’. Understandably Keri was quite embarrassed by the refusal. “At that point I identified as female, and it had taken a lot of courage for me to ask for a fade in a barbershop,” they explain.
This led Keri to question why there wasn’t a space where people of any gender could walk in to get a barbershop cut without being judged. So they decided to change things – from the inside out. Keri describes their thought process: “I’d wanted to be a barber for a while, but this experience gave me the wake-up call I needed to make it happen. I wanted to be a part of the industry and change things for the better.”
Keri went to work at Simon Webster Hair, a gender neutral salon in Brighton. They worked there one day a week as an apprentice and eventually decided to move to London to train as a professional barber, which Keri has been now doing for about four years. During this time Keri came out as non-binary – which in simple terms means they don’t identify as male or female and use the pronoun ‘they/ them’ (as opposed to she / her or he / his).
Keri joined LGBTQ+, non-binary and hairdressing Facebook pages to find out more about people’s experiences in salons and barbershops. “I found that cisgendered, straight women who look ‘traditionally female’ were being turned away from barbershops too. It wasn’t just non-binary folk or those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community,” they explain. Hair is a huge part of people’s identity – especially people who may have struggled with their identity in the past. So when you get the haircut that feels like ‘you’, it’s an amazing feeling. But when you have a bad experience it can really exacerbate any underlying feelings of not belonging. “When I have a great haircut my confidence grows –I feel like me,” Keri rightly says. Keri’s next step is establishing a website called ‘Hair Has No Gender’ where barbers can be educated through workshops. They also aim to produce ‘Hair Has No Gender’ stickers for barbershop windows and websites to signpost that the barbershop or salon is accepting of all genders. Clients will also be able to use the website to find a barbershop that’s welcoming to all.
“I found that cis-gendered, straight women who look ‘traditionally female’ were being turned away from barbershops too. It wasn’t just nonbinary folk or the lgbtq+ community.”
So what can barbershops do right now to be inclusive? Be sensitive to the pronouns people would like to be called by and add more representation to your Instagram page or website are just some of the simple, but meaningful, actions barbershops can take according to Keri.
If a barber refuses clients based on gender, they’re only going to limit their client base and business growth (not to mention risk a law suit, as it’s illegal to discriminate based on gender!). Barbers’ hearts are all in the right place – after all we’re an industry that loves making people feel good. Keri concludes: “No one in this day and age should be turned away from barbershops.”
Hair Has No Gender Survey
Keri has set up a survey to explore gender inclusion within barbershops and salons – both from the perspective of clients and barbers. All results are anonymous and Keri hopes that with the results barbershops can be improved for everyone.