How LGBTQ+ Owned Hair Salons Are Making It Through COVID-19, and How You Can Help

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Maintenance cuts and color transformations might initially send you to a hair salon or barbershop, but the community and atmosphere will make you a regular. After coronavirus-related closures rippled through the United States in late March, the industry was forced to take a temporary hiatus. Business owners worried about staying afloat; stylists feared the long-term effects of losing their incomes; these safe, familiar, and functional spaces became inaccessible for beloved clients to enjoy – including those created to serve the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer, genderless, and LGBTQ+ owned salons and barbershops play crucial roles in the industry. They’re inclusive to all, fairly priced (i.e. gender-neutral services), and create open, affirming, and judgment-free spaces. And like any other salons right now, they’re trying to navigate the fallout of the last two-plus months of closures. Ahead, we checked in with two business owners to see how they’re doing it: Kylee Howell of Friar Tuck’s Barbershop in Salt Lake City, UT, and Jamie DiGrazia of Logan Parlor in Chicago, IL. Read on to discover how you can help support them during this time.

Rolling With the Closures

From the start, for both business owners, responding to the pandemic was rooted in community and a desire to best serve the ones they built. Ultimately, that meant closing up shop. For the safety of her customers, Howell made the tough decision early: “I closed Friar Tuck’s down at least three weeks before our city/state mandated it,” she said. “With the CDC telling us we shouldn’t be touching our own faces, it made sense to me that I shouldn’t be touching anyone else’s.” And as the virus spread quickly, DiGrazia pivoted her strategy to take control of the few areas she could. “The last few months have been about learning to let go,” Digrazia told POPSUGAR. “To really know that by not working we are keeping ourselves and others safe has been a concept I never thought would affect our community.”

Next came all the administrative work (filing for unemployment, PPP loans, potential appeals) and the beginning of a long and stressful waiting game – financially and mentally. “I get so much of my human and social connection and interaction as a barber. My guests become my friends, my family,” Howell said. “Many folx thought [the closure] would be like a three-month vacation, but for much of it I was on edge and stressed about my business staying afloat.”

Community Support

To ease some of the stress, clients found new ways to support the businesses and stylists beyond immediate services. “Our loyal guests have purchased gift cards, shopped our online store, and even donated to our team’s GoFundMe,” DiGrazia said. She also had requests to pick up styling products and shampoos curbside. Howell saw a similar response with prepaid services, merchandise, and the simple gesture of checking in to see how she was doing. Since reopening a few weeks ago, her clients have also donated much-needed supplies, like hand sanitiser and cleaning products. “It was tough to get my hands on those things to open back up safely, both due to price and availability. I’m so grateful that folx see that and we are working together to fill in those gaps.”

But their clients’ willingness to help isn’t a coincidence. It’s a direct result of the communities that Howell and DiGrazia have built – and the importance of these spaces within the LGBTQ+ community. Howell describes it well: “[The virus] doesn’t discriminate against gender, political beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. It’s just science.” That said, it continued to teach her about the customers she serves. “I knew how important this space was in my community before, but with as many folx who reached out to help keep the lights on, there’s no doubt about it.”

How You Can Help as Salons Reopen

Looking for actionable ways to help? There are options at every level, both monetary and completely free. If you’re able, a little extra tip can go a long way, or even shifting your buying habits by purchasing products in the salon. Sharing on social media and by word of mouth is appreciated, too. But both business owners agree: amplifying their voices and mission is key.

“Making people aware that we exist and we don’t conform to social norms inside or outside of the salon will help breed our salon culture,” DiGrazia said. “We hope to inspire the industry to offer gender-free pricing and styles as we believe hair has no gender and want to create looks for people that are suited [to] their personality, hair type, and face shape – not how they may or may not identify.” And, Howell adds, supporting these businesses and their owners can help fix larger issues within the industry. “Queer folx who own these spaces – especially queer people of colour – do not always have the same access to resources as their straight counterparts in business. Speak about this, share resources, and now that we have seen plainly those cracks in the system, work to make them better even when there isn’t a global pandemic going on!”

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