Communities

This Genderless Barbershop Builds Community One Haircut At A Time

by Eva Recinos

July 25, 2018

When Kim Goulbourne learned her barber would be leaving soon, she realized she needed to do something. And she needed to do it quickly.

As anyone who regularly visits a salon knows, it’s often difficult to find one person who gives you the perfect haircut each time. That journey gets even more challenging when it comes to women and nonbinary people with short hair who want a trim or a scalp design at a barbershop. Goulbourne knew she wasn’t alone, so she created a barbershop pop-up geared directly toward women and LGBTQ people.

For its first pop-up event, You and Sundry existed for two days at New Women Space in Brooklyn. In 2018, You and Sundry hosted its second official pop-up, offering haircuts in late June and early July.

“I did not know anything about barbers or the barbershop industry until now,” said Goulbourne, reflecting on her past two pop-ups. She just knew other women and nonbinary people also yearned for a space that wasn’t the traditional male-dominated barbershop.

The summer pop-up, which partly coincided with Pride Month, also featured a curated store with names like L.A. gender-fluid clothing brand We Are Mortals and specialized shoemakers Tomboy Toes. Events like a sex toy demo with Dame Products rounded out the experience. The shop became much more than just a nontraditional barbershop. It turned into a gathering space and safe environment for queer people to embrace their full identities.

That’s not something they can do at just any barbershop. History dictates it: The barbershop intertwines itself with masculinity and male spaces. Bustle writer Kelly Gonsalves, who attended the first You and Sundry pop-up, points out that even when short female haircuts were semi-acceptable, those haircuts were often done in secret.

On the You and Sundry website, interested folks can browse the backgrounds of available barbers. Different categories show each barber’s skill set, like scalp designs, undercuts, and bangs. Each profile also indicates how much experience a barber has with “natural Black hair.” These barbers offer not just great cuts but also a comfortable experience.

“I think most of [the barbers] are used to working in more male-dominated barbershops, so this idea just from their standpoint as a barber, they’ve never really seen anything like this before,” said Goulbourne. “So they were just excited to be a part of it and see what it would be like.”

Besides styling needs, You and Sundry offers something even more important: a safe space. Goulbourne continues to hear about negative experiences women have faced in barbershops; one friend received endless harassment during her entire visit. You and Sundry has a code of conduct that both barbers and customers are expected to uphold.

So it comes as no surprise that many of the customers to You and Sundry tell Goulbourne the same few words: “You need to be permanent.”

In Los Angeles, genderqueer hairstylist Madin Lopez set up a mobile barbershop that they often took to Hollywood and parked near the LGBT Center’s Youth Center. Lopez told the Los Angeles Times that while going from one foster home to another, no family seemed to know how to care for their hair. Once they got the proper hair care, they “felt alive again.”

Hair care, then, becomes a means of not just getting a great look but feeling validated and worthy of attention. For queer and nonbinary people who grow up fighting to be seen and respected — often by the people closest to them — something as simple as a buzz cut in a welcoming environment can make a huge difference.

By the end of this second pop-up, You and Sundry will have given more than 200 haircuts. Goulbourne hopes to set up a location that is “a little bit more semi-permanent” soon, with plans to create a permanent space sometime next year. In the meantime, fans can stay tuned through the barbershop’s Instagram; the account serves as a forum of sorts as well, where followers can recommend shops in different cities to each other. A community has emerged, one that Goulbourne couldn’t have imagined when the idea came into her head out of her own need. This “judgment-free, genderless parlor” is only the beginning.

Photo courtesy of You and Sundry. 

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This Genderless Barbershop Builds Community One Haircut At A Time