Hair in the ‘queer’ future

The hair-pulling problem of non-inclusive salons and how Corvallis is stepping up


El Guo, OMN Photographer

Third-year Abby Leader (she/her) talks about her experience at Queer Hair Salons on the Student Experience Center Plaza on April 14. “Straight people live in a different world than I do, and it’s just easier to talk to someone with a rainbow mullet,” Leader said.

Anna Merrill, Contributor

“Are you sure you want to cut your hair short? You might look like a boy.” 

This is what Abby Leader, a third-year mechanical engineering major and self-identified lesbian, has been told when looking to get a short haircut in a typical salon. 

Most people can relate to getting a haircut they aren’t happy with. But for members of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s more than just a bad hair day; it’s a feeling of endless estrangement.

Hair service places have traditionally been centered around straight and cis-gendered people: you go into a salon or a barber shop to get either a men’s or women’s cut and are charged based on that gendered cut. It’s a system that lives within the gender binary, and for queer people who don’t fit into that binary, they know what it’s like to try and be forced into it.

“They expect a certain amount of femininity from you instead of being able to do what you actually want them to do,” Leader said.

Fortunately, more hair service places are making the change to be more inclusive. Right here in Corvallis are three practices dedicated to making a safe space for everyone, especially queer and trans people. 

Faded Northwest: 

“The beauty standards are very (much) in a box, and when you don’t fit in a box that is already put into place, it’s hard to do the same things that other people get to do,” said Russell Lee, owner.

Founded in June of 2022 by Lee, this queer-owned one-man show is not your typical barber shop. While services include haircuts and clipper/fade cuts, Russell also provides customized styles and is currently furthering his education on curly textures, which will soon be added to his list of services. Discounts are currently offered to all Oregon State University students and faculty, as well as military members and veterans.

Lee does not believe in gendered prices but rather in prices based on length and hair type. He currently offers packaged prices that are cheaper and more consistent, which include basic haircuts, maintenance work, etc. His customized styles typically cost more and take longer, but they provide a unique and satisfying experience. 

Lee makes a clear point of listening to each of his clients in order to create a space where everyone is welcome, wanted, and heard. He will talk through your ideas to make sure you are understood and provide well-educated advice to help make your vision a reality. But at the end of the day, he’s not there to tell you what to do with your hair; he’s there to make it happen. 

“I know what it’s like to not be heard or validated in different parts of my life, and I don’t want to add that to the world. There’s enough of that,” Lee said. “We all deserve to be pretty, damn it!” 

Faded Northwest is located at 450 NW Buchanan Ave. and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday. 

The best way to make an appointment with Faded Northwest is through any online booking system (except Vagaro). If you would like to send a message through a social media platform, Facebook is recommended. If you choose to use the phone number provided online, Russell would strongly prefer a text rather than a call. Faded Northwest will also be rebranded to “Northwest Fades and Curls” by June 2023 at the latest.

 “Until there is complete unification and everybody is welcomed, wanted and accepted everywhere at any time at any point, we have to have people that stand up and say they’re inclusive,” Lee said.

Dial H for Hair: 

“Everybody needs a place,” said Amy Mumford, owner. “The general public don’t understand what it means to go into a traditional salon and not feel comfortable.” 

Mumford founded the underground salon (figuratively and literally) in June 2016, wanting to create a space where herself and her clients could be their 100% authentic selves. Mumford is currently the only employee but has plans to eventually bring in more stylists who match the values of her salon. 

“The whole goal and the whole idea for this salon has always been and will never change is truly just creating a safe space,” Mumford said .

Services offered include clipper cuts, short and long hair cuts, color, and styling sessions.

Although there are no student discounts offered at this time, there is a service called a “community cut,” which is free of charge to anyone in a transitional stage in their life, whether you’re getting your first “coming out” cut or navigating sobriety. All products and pricing are gender-neutral, as Mumford believes gendered pricing doesn’t make sense. 

“What if you get a cis male in with long hair; why would you charge them the same that you would charge somebody for a clipper cut?” Mumford said. “I just think it’s really outdated, I think it would really limit your clientele, and even just financially, it doesn’t make sense.” 

Dial H for Hair is dedicated to inclusivity, the promotion of mental health, and working with outside organizations for the betterment of both the queer and Corvallis communities as a whole. Mumford has partnered with many organizations in Corvallis, including the Majestic Theatre, the OSU Women’s Center, Jackson Street Youth Shelter and various unhoused shelters.

Dial H for Hair is located at 425 SW Madison Ave., Suite L, in the same building as Starbucks in the underground shopping center. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

The best way to book an appointment is to go to the Dial H for Hair website and use the online booking system. To contact Mumford, please use the email rather than the phone number provided on the website. 

“Everyone needs a space. Everybody needs to be able to trust where they’re going and be able to be vulnerable,” Mumford said.

Raw Hair Society:

“A lot of practices in our industry are just very old school, and I really wanted to be able to change that within my own walls and hopefully influence stylists that I was able to work with to do the same in the future,” Jill Reed, owner, said.

Reed established Raw Hair Society in June 2019. This sustainable salon/boutique is committed to creating an environmentally friendly industry, a safer space for queer people, and a stronger community. 

Raw Hair Society strongly believes that hair has no gender, and has a pricing system to reflect that belief. Although most prices depend on the stylist you book with, every service is gender-neutral. 

“Hair does not have a gender,” Reed said. “It’s the person that wears the hair, the hair doesn’t wear them.”

The most popular services offered are haircuts and treatments, although color and styling are available as well. The most notable haircuts offered are the ‘pixie/barber cut,’ which is for hair shorter than the ear, and the “signature cut,” which is for hair longer than the ear. There are reparative, moisturizing and scalp exfoliant treatments for all hair types. 

Color services have a pricing system based on three stages: “refresh” for customers who come in often, “maintain” for customers who come in every few months and “the works” for customers who want to make a big change.

Reed has always worked towards creating a safer space for everyone and a team of people who feel the same way. 

Raw Hair Society is a member of the Dress Code Project: an organization dedicated to making salons a safer space for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Reed and her stylists have gone through education on inclusive verbiage, website structuring and pronouns, always looking for ways to further their education. 

“It’s about practicing it every day and educating ourselves the best we can,” Reed said. 

In order to better connect with the community, Raw Hair Society has an in-shop boutique made up of nine local vendors, including: a CBD line, two women-owned jewelry shops, a candle company, concrete and ceramic planters, hair products, styling tools, and lots of houseplants. 

Creating less waste is something of utmost importance to Raw Hair Society, which has partnered with Green Circle Salons, whose mission is to make the beauty industry more sustainable. Everything in this salon is 100% recyclable, which means it all gets packaged up and sent to companies for sustainable disposal. For example, hair clippings are sent out to be used as a soaking agent for oil spills. 

“It’s definitely like a no-brainer; all salons should do it,” Reed said.

Raw Hair Society is located at 600 SW Third St. and operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Saturdays and Sundays. The best way to book an appointment is online, either through their website, social media platforms or any website with their name on it.  There is also full-time salon coordinator to answer any questions over the phone. 

“Being in the hair salon should be a really great thing for everybody,” Reed said. “And really, as a stylist, it’s not our hair. It’s your hair on your head, and it’s important for you to feel like yourself.”

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