Dan W Chapman, hairstylist and wig designer, owns LGBTQ+ Riah Hair Studio in Brighton, United Kingdom. Here, he discusses why he's passionate about educating the beauty industry to get rid of gender prejudice.
I set up Riah Hair Studio because I want non-binary and transgender clients to walk in and have an enjoyable experience. Gender prejudice is so built into our hairdressing training and terminology that we don't even realize it. For example, many hairdressers speak a lot about "feminizing" or "masculinizing" a haircut, whereas they could instead describe styling by using words like "blunt" or "soft" cuts. Most salons also have fixed gender pricing for men and women, which I personally feel is unnecessary. A hair salon doesn't need to be gendered—you can differentiate your pricing based on the expertise and technique, such as clipper work or scissor work.
It saddens me when my clients tell me they've spent hours worrying about their hair appointment for fear of being misunderstood. Hairdressing should be about embracing people, not making them feel intimidated. Hairdressers need to understand what language might be triggering. We don't need to "genderize" our customers' haircuts for them—it's their hair.
Oftentimes, people assume that queer people have "weird" hair; I think that's because we don't want to necessarily be "generic." In our own way, we're breaking down the beauty standard. We don't need Kim Kardashian telling us who is beautiful—we decide what's beautiful and what's on trend. It's actually empowering to use your hair as a symbol of your refusal to subscribe to gender stereotypes.
Throughout most cultures, hair is a huge statement. It is used as a tool to translate who you are and what tribe you belong to. Hair is on your face and on your head; it's one of the first things people notice. How you wear it puts you into a certain social category, but it's not forever—hair grows back. This means you can experiment with it in any way you choose, and without fear.
About Dan W Chapman
Dan W Chapman is a hairstylist, wig designer and owner of LGBTQ+ Riah Hair Studios in Brighton, United Kingdom, with nine years of hairdressing experience under his belt. He has worked across music videos, fashion campaigns, catwalk shows, and styling wigs for drag queens and burlesque performers in Brighton and London. Chapman's wigs have recently appeared on the popular TV show RuPaul's Drag Race UK.