Why Women Are Opting Out Of The Hair Salon

Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
“Short-haired women — we’re like a squad. It’s hard to explain, but we immediately compliment each others' hair and ask where we got it done,” says Elena Polson, a New York graphic designer who sports a longer-on-top-shorter-on-the-sides crop. In fact, flagging down a random girl with an edgy pixie was exactly how Polson discovered Freemans Sporting Club, the Lower East Side barbershop where she now drops in for regular cuts. Yep, she gets her hair cut at a barbershop.

Ladies aren't completely new to the barbershop scene. Plenty of women have long preferred the efficient, less ritualistic atmosphere of the local barber, where a lack of bells and whistles translates to lower price tags and a refreshing, informal attitude. But the barbershop's appeal is widening at a surprising rate — and it's evolving well beyond its cut-and-dry image.

Places such as Freemans and Blind Barber (which has three locations in New York City and one in Los Angeles) subscribe to the long-standing principles of barbershops (they're quick, affordable, and entrenched in their neighborhoods), but cater to a younger, "hipper" crowd. That means the barbers who work there have developed a sensibility that goes well beyond the buzz cut. They trim, shape, and layer with the precision of salon stylists, while reinforcing the communal spirit and sense of loyalty that draw clients such as Polson.

"We tie back to some of the really positive things of a traditional barbershop — which is community, which is service — and then elaborate on them," says Rob McMillen, head barber at Blind Barber (pictured here at the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, location). "We're all-encompassing, accepting of all individuals, and can understand folks with different needs."

That's not to say barbershops are no longer havens of red-blooded conversation and quick shaves. And they are, predominantly, male spaces. But many women, particularly those interested in getting and maintaining short cuts, are entering unfamiliar territory for the promise of a sharp new style and a more casual vibe. And barbers seem to be welcoming the opportunity to utilize their impressive skill sets.

Ahead, we take a peek into a few of these establishments, and find out why the women who frequent them have given up the salon, for good.

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