Scissoring 101: LGBTQ+ hairdressers talk queer trends, stereotypes and re-opening after lockdown

Here are seven London-based hair stylists who will grant all your hair-raising dreams, no questions asked.

It’d be fair to say that queer people can be pretty ballsy with a box of bleach and a pair of scissors. During quarantine, a mix of boredom and overconfidence have led to drastic hair changes – leaving our hairdressers with the hefty task of salvaging our many, many, mistakes. 

The past four months have seen people desperate to get back in the salon chair. But for queer people, stylists who you can trust and don’t feel pressured by are few and far between. 

Brits in general are known to be too polite and skirt around their thoughts and feelings. It can be daunting telling a hairdresser exactly what you’re after, and telling them when you don’t like an idea (particularly when it’s already too late!) can be more daunting still. Identifying as LGBTQ+ adds another layer of pressure to this. We choose which parts of ourselves to hide on a daily basis; our hair shouldn’t be something that we have to compromise for the sake of gender-norms, nor because we were too uncomfortable to speak freely with our hairdresser. 

It’s important to remember that stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community are, for many people, just stereotypes. Whilst some queer folk are avid supporters of an electric blue mullet, there are no rules that state what queerness looks like. That being said, some of the first photographs of queer women emerged in 1928, when poet Radclyffe Hall paved the foundations for lesbian hair with her ear-length, slicked-back chop. When Hall published the now-cult lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness, the obscenity trials that followed were illustrated in the news with self-portraits of Hall and her lover, Una Troubridge. In 1920s society, these were the first images of lesbians that people had ever come across, leading to a stereotype that stands firm 100 years later. 

Queer spaces are vital to the LGBTQ+ community. Bars and clubs have been our watering holes for centuries, but it’s high time that we felt safe in spaces that don’t revolve around drink, dark corners and loud music. As more LGBTQ+ bookshops emerge, so too do queer cafes and discussion groups. Hair plays such a large part in queer expression, it’s a wonder that it’s taken so long for queer-specific salons to start appearing. 

We all remember that scene from the L Word where Shane lops off Jenny’s long hair? I can’t promise to find the Shane to your Jenny, but I can offer you seven London-based LGBTQ+ hair stylists who will grant all your hair-raising dreams, no questions asked.

Felix Lane, Open Barbers

Why did you want to work in a hair salon specifically for the LGBTQ+ community?

Being a trans person and wanting to have a haircut that felt affirming for my gender was hard because hairdressing is such a gendered industry. This is one of the things we want to challenge, the idea that there is women’s hair” and men’s hair”, it’s so reductive and boring! We want everyone to have a haircut that feels right for them, based on their desires and needs rather than any gendered expectations. The sliding scale, pay what you can system is also a really crucial part of being queer friendly for us; queer and trans people can face discrimination and struggles that mean they might not be able to pay high prices, and those that can pay more to help subsidise those that can’t.

Have you or anyone you know experimented with their hair dramatically during lockdown?

We actively encourage anyone to experiment with their own hair; we really don’t think people should be told off for cutting their own hair, it’s your body and you can do what you want! Greygory (director and co-founder) and another colleague Aerynne created some video tutorials which we put on our Instagram, and we also offered haircut tutorials via video chat. It’s been great to see clients trying things out for themselves and feeling empowered to do so.

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How can readers book an appointment with you and are there any other LGBTQ+ hairdressers that you would recommend?

We are open seven days a week, and you can book online at open​bar​bers​.com, we are releasing new slots every Wednesday and Sunday at the moment. I’d also recommend Spooky Runo, a wonderful stylist and colourist, you can find Spooky at spookyruno​.com.

Sam Rubinstein, Rooibos

How did you become a hairdresser? 

I get asked this a lot, particularly from people that knew me in the years when I was a video editor or when I worked in music, and I always give the honest answer: depression. I hit a real low – I’d been dumped and fired all within three days … harsh, I know. So after wallowing for a couple of months and lying in bed, I decided (with a lot of help from my friends) that I needed to do something different and I signed up for a NVQ in Barbering.

When you suffer from depression it’s hard to care about yourself in a loving way. So learning the skill of hair cutting gave me the outlet to put that care into other people. And in turn, I gained an immediate sense of achievement after each job and witnessed the joy of my clients when they left me feeling their best. And, honestly, it made me remember how to feel good again too. 

What made you want to set up a hair salon specifically for the LGBTQ+ community?

I think it’s only fair to mention that my hair salon”, Rooibos, started from one half of my bedroom in Tottenham. I wanted to create a space that is completely judgement free. Yes, you could go and see a 10+ year experienced stylist at your high street salon. But I can bet you that that stylist will ignore half of what you’ve asked for or tell you that the high fade you dreamt of having won’t work on your head because you’re a woman”. I mean, it’s ridiculous. As a gender fluid queer stylist myself, I know how I’d like to present and I don’t think my genitalia should really affect whatever is going on top of my head. 

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Do you think the LGBTQ+ community is more experimental with their hair in general?

This is a definite yes. To me, someone who is LGBTQ+ has already disrupted dominant social norms and so they are more likely to seek out ways to explore their gender and sexuality through physical appearance. I think experimenting with hair is a great way to play around with the grey areas of expression.

How can readers book an appointment with you?

Book in via Instagram @rooibos_ldn or email [email protected]​gmail.​com. It’s worth mentioning that I also offer discounts for fellow natural redheads (hence Rooibos aka Red Bush) who endured similar taunts at school.

Cecilia Cappel, Barberette

How did you become a hairdresser? 

I was a senior lecturer in Criminology at a London University and had been involved in education for over twenty years but increasingly felt I was losing my soul and there was more to my life than what I was doing. So, I made the monumental decision to leave without having another job or clear plan about what I was going to do. 

I had been boring people for ages about my experiences as a black woman going into male barber shops and how intimidating and disrespectful some of the spaces could be even for a confident person. I imagined a space where anyone who came into it felt safe and comfortable to be themselves and decided that I should gain the skills to create that imagined space and here I am. I had no training in hair or beauty so have literally started from scratch to get to where I am now.

What’s the future for you and your career in hairdressing?

I trained as a barber so I am now refining those skills and adding more hairdressing techniques to my repertoire which is super exciting. What my journey shows is that you are never too old to learn so I am looking forward to learning how to colour as I love the way it enhances a hairstyle and lifts one’s spirits. My ultimate aim is to specialise in working with people with hair loss. As an alopecia sufferer myself I can appreciate how having it affects things like confidence and self-esteem and can make going to have your hair done more challenging. Going to the hairdresser can be a big deal for alopecia sufferers especially in large salons.

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Would you say there’s one specific hairstyle or look that is the most popular? 

I know more about shorter hairstyles so a fade is definitely rocking it at the moment, whether it is a taper or zero fade. Undercuts are also featuring especially in the warmer weather and leading to lots of creativity in terms of patterns and colour. Being here at Barberette means that I am expanding the types and range of trims I do so the two Ms (mullets & mohawks) are also featuring. 

How can readers book an appointment with you? 

You can find me at Barberette London and you can book an appointment through Booksy. I offer a mobile service so you can DM me through Instagram or on +44 7593625336. I think the important thing about hairdressers is to find someone you connect with and who you trust.

Erik Pascarelli, Bleach London

How did you become a hairdresser?

Being young and trans meant cutting my own hair. Going into salons was always horrendous. After a couple years of doing my own hair I moved onto my mates’, and then eventually a salon.

Would you say there’s one specific hairstyle or look that is the most popular?

I’d say in general everyone is obsessed with balayages and natural blondes, but among the queers it’s all about the mullet. I’ve actually seen orange hair creeping in to being popular right now too!

Do you think the LGBTQ+ community is more experimental with their hair in general?

I definitely think so! I suppose hair is such a beacon of self-expression, so it makes sense to show the rest of the world how proud you are to be yourself with some funky hair, plus it’s the easiest way to ID another queer.

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Why do you think it’s important for the LGBTQ+ community to have specifically queer hairdressers to go to?

I have quite a few gender diverse femme clients and I know it’s super important to them to be sat in a chair with someone they feel safe and comfortable with. And to be honest, it’s vital for me too! No offence to my other clients, but you cannot imagine how beautiful it is to have a conversation with someone like me while I’m working. Nothing beats knowing I’ve made someone from my community feel as amazing as I want them to.

How can readers book an appointment with you? 

They can make an appointment with me by calling Bleach London Soho and booking a consultation!

Jemima Bradley, Blue Tit London

What does your future in hairdressing look like? 

I’d like for my work to be able to bring light and attention to queer hair, for people to understand and love the expression and art behind it. For me it’s a canvas, and I aim to change people’s opinions on hairdressing. I’d love for punk/​queer/​arty weirdo hair to be respected and seen in a new professional light. I’d love to dwell into shows and performance art with my work there’s so much more to hair than what one might see in an image. I want people to see the energy and what hair can make people feel.

Why are LGBTQ+ hairstylists so important for the queer community? 

It’s so important for the LGBTQ+ community to have a stylist to go to that are queer; to be able to sit in a salon chair where they feel comfortable; someone who is aware of pronouns and how to address styles that are femme, masc or androgynous. Someone they don’t have to make themselves smaller and more conforming to. 

Hair is such an expression and for queer people it’s like a crown, it’s something they use as an identity. Hair has so much history in any culture, including mullets along with other shapes. They are queer history and it’s so important that that is recognised and queer people can recognise there’s stylists who understand the culture and have experience with what being part of that culture feels like, getting your hair done is so exciting, it’s an experience and it’s pretty sick when you can share that with your stylist. 

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Have you or people you know been experimenting with their hair during lockdown? 

I definitely know a fair share of people who have experimented with their hair during lockdown. I love that people would shape up the hair or put a new colour on, hair such a personal thing and I think it’s a great experience for people to try. But bleach! Please be careful! 

How can readers book an appointment with you? 

To book an appointment with me you can either pop me a dm @mulletbabyy, book online through the link in my bio or give the shop a call. 

Lauren Thwaites, Barberette

What made you want to set up a hair salon specifically for the LGBTQ+ community?

Klara set up Barberette due to finding it impossible to get a queer hair cut and being discriminated against by either charging her too much money for what she wanted or being told by barbers that they couldn’t cut her hair because she was a woman – even if she wanted a barber style hair cut.

What hairstyle is most popular at Barberette? 

Bowls, skin fades and quiffs have always been an extremely queer look. It’s hard to just pinpoint one as everyone’s style is so diverse. But the mullet has definitely become popular.

What’s the future for you and your career in hairdressing?

I would really love to expand Barberette and create more of a queer hub that provides services and a safe space to hang out for queer people that doesn’t revolve around alcohol and drugs.

How can readers book an appointment with you and are there any other LGBTQ+ hairdressers that you would recommend?

You can book online through the Booksy app. There’s a salon called Glitch in Brighton and Bristol that looks pretty cool and also Tuttii Fruittii in Deptford do really cool colours and patterns.

Jadah Dale, Bleach London

Have you or anyone you know experimented with their hair dramatically during lockdown?

Being the neurotic person I am, I have absolutely NOT done experimentation of any kind.

My wife did however apprehensively allow me to do a pink cow print design on her hair for some online content. She ended up loving it and now I recreate it every few weeks for her!

Would you say there’s one specific hairstyle or look that is the most popular? 

I work at Bleach so the nature of the work I do is mainly focused on bleaching people’s hair in order to achieve bright and unnatural colours! Those types of vibrant creative colours and super bright blondes are what I find to be most popular in my day to day.

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Why do you think it’s important for the LGBTQ+ community to have specifically queer hairdressers for them to go to?

I think that it’s important to be able to speak and converse freely with your stylist. Hair is so personal, so it’s great to feel like your stylist gets you” and for you feel as comfortable as possible. Knowing you’re with someone who has a likeness to you can create a safe space for you to put yourself out there and that’s really significant to your personal esteem. 

How can readers book an appointment with you? 

Readers can book an appointment with me by calling Bleach London on Berwick Street, Soho at 020 7734 9009. You can find my work at @midnightcowgrl on Instagram. 


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