Since I started this business, one thing I’ve worked hardest at every day is to make sure our space can be a place where people feel comfortable in their own skin. I want you to feel safe being whoever you want to be here (as long as who you are is not an asshole).
Equality is so important to me, both personally and professionally, and it’s absolute effing bullshit that blatant inequality & discrimination are still happening. In 2022, no matter how far we think we’ve come in our society, it is thrown in our faces time and time again that somehow, people still can’t just be people.
I’ve been reflecting on equal rights a lot lately (I mean, if you’re not, you really ought to be), and I want to share with you my journey in dealing with inequality and how it is reflected in how I run my business.
Fighting From the Start
Inequality by gender starts earlier than we even realize, and it sticks with us. I was an athlete from second grade through high school, and I could tell early on that the girls’ teams were treated differently than the boys’ teams: the boys got better uniforms, better buses, better gyms to practice in, and the girls teams consistently got the leftovers.
Right away, it was clear that our teams weren’t valued as highly, that we weren’t seen as “legit,” despite being just as talented and working just as hard, if not harder. It starts even at this young age, when kids are susceptible to believing what grownups tell them, for better or worse. It pisses me off that society has ways of messing with young women’s self worth by showing them that they don’t get what the boys get, and it sets us up to internalize this bullshit message throughout our lives.
It’s been many years since then, and now as an adult and business owner, I still find myself fighting to be treated equally. As I began searching for a brick and mortar location for my salon, it was shockingly difficult to find my perfect salon space. I had been working my ass off for two years to grow a full clientele, save as much money as possible, and prepare a full business plan to grow out of my basement salon into a bigger space. And then, after all that work and all that I knew I was capable of accomplishing, I still found myself working with people who didn’t take me seriously, who told me that salons were too high risk, and that the location I wanted did not exist. It turns out, it did, and luckily I was able to create the space that I wanted on my own terms. But I still faced huge challenges turning Peabody’s into what it is now, and I still face similar challenges today. Whether it was related to my industry, my gender, or something else entirely, I can’t be sure, but whatever the reason, it does not change my ability to run my business successfully.
Hair is Hair, You are You
Even how you get to live your life day-to-day is altered based on how you look, dress, or speak, and I can’t believe the shit I’ve seen over the years because of it. Now, our look is a big part of how we express who we are, and to some degree, we all respond to each other based on the self that we share with the world. But, as with anything else, it’s often taken too far and just becomes a way to disrespect and generally be shitty to one another.
Personally, I’ve always gravitated toward an alternative lifestyle, and my look has changed drastically over the years. But when I first opened Peabody’s, the culture of my industry gave me a certain expectation for how I was to look as a successful salon owner. Experience told me that “professional” meant long hair, a full face of makeup, the whole feminine aesthetic that really wasn’t for me. But I started to adopt that look because I wanted & needed to be successful, and I thought this was something I needed to do. In hindsight, the social experiment of changing your look is truly mind blowing…and not in a good way. Suddenly, men I’ve known for years treated me with a very different type of attention thanks to my new look, even though I was still Steff underneath it all. This new attention made me feel disgusting and uncomfortable, and it took me some time to understand the bullshit that was occuring.
It Takes A Team
I eventually realized that I didn’t have to choose – I could be a successful salon owner and still be Steff just the way I love to be, my authentic self in my own fucking way. And honestly, it was because of Peabody’s Parlor that I was able to come to terms with that. Because I had prioritized creating this inclusive, unique, very real space, I started to work with people who were unapologetically themselves, and they helped me to do the same. Even though I wanted Peabody’s to be an inclusive space, I still had an image in my head of what I needed to be to run it, and I was sacrificing who I was to get there. But thanks to the community I surrounded myself with, I discovered I didn’t need to do what other salon owners were doing – and in fact, I didn’t want to. Instead, I wanted to create a place where that shitty status quo was challenged and people could feel great about who they are, myself included.
Breaking the Cycle
You would think that in 2022, inclusivity would have evolved in our society. You would think that the conversation around inclusivity and diversity would have allowed us to move past this type of behavior. Even to say out loud that we are treated differently because of our hair or our style sounds like the utter bullshit that it is. But it’s still happening, and it’s infuriating. It’s also exactly why I started Peabody’s and why I work so hard to make inclusivity one of our core values: because your look should be a beautiful expression of who you are, and it shouldn’t dictate what rights, opportunities, or abilities you have in this world.
Gender inequality has shown up in even the smallest, dumbest ways in this industry, and since the beginning, it’s been my goal to change that. Early on in my career, I was cutting hair for two of our team members one night when I realized that, though I’d given them the same exact haircut, one would cost more than the other simply because one identifies as a woman and the other, a man. In a world where gender identity has evolved into so much more than man & woman, why the hell do we have gendered salon service menus? Because of this, Peabody’s intentionally offers completely genderless services so you don’t have to worry about a Pink Tax or booking services in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or misrepresented. Whatever your pronouns, you get the cut or style that you want, no questions asked.
In such a diverse world, it’s atrocious that some people are treated with less respect than others because of how they look or who they are. There shouldn’t be certain hairstyles that are considered “unprofessional,” or that certain looks make you more feminine or masculine when who you are and what you offer the world is so much bigger than that. To me, the best look is the one that makes you feel good, and that’s all I want for our clients. Whether that means you want long extensions or to shave half your hair off, it doesn’t change a damn thing to me. As long as you feel safe, celebrated, and most of all, you feel authentically you, then we’re all good here.
And as we continue to fight in the endless battle against inequality, I am proud to have created a place where equality is the standard, as it always should have been.