Not a hair out of place: Gender-neutral pricing comes to Edmonton salons

A growing number of salons in Edmonton are making a point to offer prices based on style of cut, rather than the client's gender.

Several Edmonton salons now advertising prices based on length of hair rather than gender

Niuboi, a performance artist in Edmonton, struggled to find a salon or barber who charges the same price for all genders before finding Adara Hair. (Liam Mackenzie)

A growing number of salons in Edmonton are making a point to offer prices based on style of cut, rather than the client's gender.

Adara Hair became the first salon to advertise their new pricing scheme three years ago, and more recently, Ponytails + Horseshoes and Beauty Parlour have followed suit.

The discrepancy in prices and attitudes at many salons and barber shops can put off customers looking for a trim without judgment. 

"I went to lady salons for many years even though I had a short haircut and I was getting charged $60 to get essentially a men's cut," said Julie Ferguson, a performance artist in Edmonton who goes by the stage name Niuboi and identifies as non-binary.

"I shaved my head because I could just go to a barber and pay $20, but then the problem was that I was going to predominantly male spaces where they just didn't understand who I was and were always awkward about it," Niuboi said.

"When I would say, 'This is what I want' — and I said this very clearly — I wouldn't get that 'Absolutely sir' attitude and would get more 'Oh, are you sure that's what you want?'"

Niuboi stopped going to barbers after learning about Adara Hair's pricing scheme.

Niuboi said it's an issue many people in the city, whether non-binary or trans, encountered frequently, often because hair stylists are trained to cut hair for either men or for women exclusively and are unsure how to adapt to a different set of clients.

"It's a big step in the salon industry," said Daniel Bullock, a hair stylist at Ponytails + Horseshoes.

"When they see that we have gender-free pricing, [they see] that we're not going to judge them based on some preconception of what would be a masculine versus and feminine haircut and we're just going to listen to what they want," Bullock said.

Bullock said he's heard from people within the queer community about the growing movement toward offering these services, though he isn't aware of any barber shops in the city advertising gender-neutral pricing.

'New sense of beginning'

Whether it's a change in season or a life change, summer is a busy time for many salons with people looking to freshen up their look, said Jennifer Storey, owner of Adara Hair.

"For people who are transitioning or finding themselves or going through something new in their life, [a haircut] can be a whole new sense of beginning," Storey said.

Since 2017, all Adara Hair's stylists have had safe space training, its website says. The salon is also part of the Dress Code Project, a directory that lists salons offering gender-neutral pricing across North America.

In addition to being inclusive, the gender-neutral pricing was motivated by a desire to charge all clients fairly, Storey said.

"We felt there something that wasn't quite right in the industry," she said.

The price-change discussion first came up when she and a male colleague at the salon noticed that they had the same style of hair.

"We had the exact same haircut, except I had a fringe and he didn't, but if we'd both walked up to a salon, and even our salon at the time, we would have been charged different prices and that just didn't seem right."

Storey said finding salons with equal pricing is still more difficult than she'd like to see.

"The industry has a long way to grow," she said.