WHAT ARE YOU WEARING RIGHT NOW?by Naomi Mannino
In a discrimination case recently initiated by Bushra Noah, a young Muslim woman, against Sarah Desrosiers, owner of Wedge Salon in King´s Cross, London, the tribunal decided to award Noah compensation for “hurt feelings” after Desrosiers refused to hire Noah once learning that she would not remove her hijab, or headscarf, during working hours. Desrosier argues that the hijab is simply not in line with the image of her salon, which she says specializes in “urban funky” cuts. “I sell image — it´s very important — and I would expect a hair stylist to display her hair because I need people to be drawn in off the street,” Desrosiers told London´s Evening Standard. “It´s the nature and style of my salon that brings people in and someone having their hair covered conflicts with that.” The British media heatedly debated whether or not salon owners have the right to insist on a dress code for their employees in cases such as this. But many American stylists and salon owners are one-sided on this issue as well. For example, when posed with the question on Twitter there was the tweet answer “Uniforms in a hair salon? Are you serious? True hairdressing is creative and artistic! Let stylists be themselves.” And on the other side of the spectrum an Aveda Salon in Mount Dora, F.L., who tweeted, “We embrace ‘Aveda Black´ as our dress code, always appropriate: fashionable, classic, trendy, professional, and oh, so sexy.”
A UNIFORM DECISION
Of course, owners have the most at stake when it comes to implementing a dress code. It helps identify stylists with the salon´s image and brand, and it can foster a sense of camaraderie. And while it makes perfect sense that outfits should complement the salon´s decor and promote its image, there are other issues as well. It turns out that health is also a consideration. According to recent scientific studies, over their lifetime stylists accumulate a dangerous amount of particles in their lungs from working with hair. Many fabrics — such as denim, loose knits, or static-prone jersey — hold on to these particles in their fibers, even after dry cleaning. That´s why some salons, including the French chain Jacques Dessange, require their employees to wear a uniform made of dirt-resistant cloth. But, it´s no different in France: The Frank Avogadri chain, unlike Jacques Dessange, refuses on principle to require uniforms. Stylists, these managers believe, are creative artists who have the right to dress according to their own tastes and whims. It´s no surprise that most stylists regard a uniform as a threat to their originality and individuality. And most stylists, after all, want to appear fashionable. So then who are all the hairstylists exposing their armpits and cleavage in tank tops while leaning over clients and wearing ratty, ripped jeans, and worn-out shoes with their hair tied up carelessly in the ugliest ponytail imaginable? Salon owners say these are the biggest offenses and most dress codes are actually a “what NOT to wear.” Krista Martin, owner of Metro for Men in Irvine, C.A., says, “I don´t see why we have to express our creativity in ripped jeans, ugly sneakers and tied-up hair. If you want to charge $100 or more for a haircut but you can´t dress the part and show it off, who is going to pay you? Dressing and looking sharp is essential to our industry and salon owners have to set the standards!” Philip Pelusi, owner of 14 salons including his newest Tela Salon in New York City, The SPACE Education Center in Pittsburgh, P.A. where he teaches his signature Volumetrics hair cutting technique, and creator of the P2 complete haircare line recently stressed in his new Art of Business Management class for salon owners at the Premier Orlando Show in June, the importance of looking the part in establishing salon systems that work. “You have to set high standards for your staff so that they express your brand from their appearance, their attire, their expert hair styling skills and their verbal skills. Look around your salon right now and ask yourself, ‘what message am I sending to my staff and then to my guests? Does it match the brand image I want?´ ”
A BLACK & WHITE ISSUE?
Most large salon chain owners and many independent salons alike embrace black as a basic for the salon dress code, some adding a little white or a salon name imprinted T-shirt insisting that it identifies stylists in the salon, sets a uniform image and tone and is always professional and chic. Owners admit, like Jennifer Mapp, brand manager for The Ratner Group who owns 830 Hair Cuttery Salons, 47 Bubbles Hair Salons and 12 Cielo Salon & Spa locations, “Some stylists do complain. They would rather be able to wear whatever they want — but we find that the head-to-toe black sets the tone and identities the stylist because they stand out. But we do encourage them to style it however they want to show it off and put it together, even using colorful accessories!” Karie Bennett, founder and master artist at Atlelier Aveda SalonSpa in San Jose, C.A., agrees with black as the chicest most professional basic and adds, “You can be just as creative wearing all black — but channel it into your work — we should just be talking about the client. It´s not about you — its about the client!” On the flip side, Krista Martin explains, “Before I bought the salon, I worked for the owner who had a strict dress code that was black slacks and white button-up men´s shirt and tie — We all just looked like waiters which we hated! So when I bought the salon I decided business-dressy was the image I wanted to portray because our clients are business professionals who come in dressed in suits. My stylists love getting dressed up for work!” Most salon owners, having been stylists themselves, know what stylists need to be happy, but they also want a unified look in the salon. Sandra Andrews, owner of Hair Changes Salon in Schaumburg I.L., instituted a color of the month a few years back, and on Saturdays, their busiest day of the week, stylists all dress in a top of the color of the month, and the salon is also decorated in that way. “It´s colorful, bright and makes everyone happy,” says Andrews, “even clients will come in wearing the color of the month!”