Since 2014, Simon Webster Hair has offered gender neutral or gender-free pricing on all our styling and colouring services and the response from our team, our clientele and our industry peers has been overwhelmingly clear: Why hasn’t it happened sooner?
When we set-up Simon Webster Hair in 2012, our ethos was to provide a progressive, transparent and inclusive salon environment with the needs of both clients and our team at heart. Based in Brighton, we have a diverse clientele and staff, which are reflected in the work we produce and the shoots we use for promotion and creative output. We wanted to offer a bespoke service that was tailored to the style and identity of each individual in our community. We aimed to promote and support freedom of choice, freedom of expression and freedom of identity for all.
Our move towards a gender-free booking policy happened organically but followed a clear path from the first day we opened. Simon’s barbering skills were one of our early USPs, so we attracted many clients who wanted clipper-cuts or skin-fades, crops or flattops. We had a high percentage of male clients, but many of the clients requesting that styling were female. Like the men, we booked the women in for the shorter services; services that our automated bookings system had categorized ‘gent’s styling’ because that was the traditional categories it had been programmed with.
We also had a growing clientele that had transitioned or were in the process of transitioning and so we quickly realised the insensitivity of sending out reminder texts that had gender labelling as part of the reminder messaging system. It highlighted the irrelevance of the labelling, which now seemed archaic and contrary to our ethos, so we recognised the need to change very quickly.
Binary labelling of services can exclude clients unnecessarily and the ethos of Simon Webster Hair celebrates diversity, individuality and inclusivity. The terminology we used for our services had to give that same message. And the answer was simple because we were already doing it - pricing by time.
When it comes to pricing colour, aside from the product cost, the time spent in the chair is a key factor in determining the charge to the client. Why should it be any different for cutting or styling services? We put the idea to our team, who unanimously agreed. We had all our client stationery reprinted and updated our website to show the change as well as launching an online and local campaign. We let our clients know what we were doing and were met with total support.
At Simon Webster Hair, we price styling service in terms of time: 30mins, 45mins, 60mins and 90mins. Online and in-salon, there is a clear breakdown of the typical hair-type or style that is best-suited to each service, e.g. 30mins for clipper-work only up to 90mins for a re-style. A clear analogy is the charging system for tattooing or piercing; the price depends on the service, not the gender of the client. For our regular clients, we used the team’s knowledge of their clientele to determine what we booked for their first service after the changeover. For new clients, their initial appointment is always a 60-minute service and we then alter it from there on. Simple!
The move reinforced our brand ethos, attracted new clientele to the salon and helped establish our brand in both our local community and the hairdressing industry at large. The SWH Team found their columns were more efficiently booked and their time was potentially more profitable. There have been no downsides or complications. Which makes the change seem evermore logical for salons in general. And there are a lot of salons making the move.
Gender-free styling is not a trend. It’s not a bandwagon. It’s a social movement towards greater appreciation that we are all different and labels don’t always define us. Especially binary ones like ‘male’ or ‘female’ when it comes to styling services. Categories can be restrictive and limiting, not just for your clientele but for your team both personally and professionally. So when they’re unnecessary, why have them?
In a time when the high street is facing greater challenges than ever before, we have to remain forward thinking, progressive and inclusive. We can feel an element of safety from the fact that service industries are more resilient to an increasingly Internet-based society, but that alone is not enough. To thrive as businesses, we have to reflect the changing expectations of our clients and recognise that equality and pricing integrity is a big part of how and where they choose to spend their money. Whether you use the term gender-free, label-free or gender-neutral, hairdressing has always been at the forefront of creativity and social expression, and history proves that #haircutshavenogender.