UK salons are dragging their feet when it comes to equality for all types of hair, and this video is proof that things need to change.
We are huge fans of Freddie Harrel, the superstar influencer whose talents range from inspirational speaker to entrepreneur, as well as having bundles of charm, wit and infectious energy at her disposal.
Harrel’s signature style includes sharp tailoring, sporting niche brands and an injection of Parisian cool (she is French, after all). But she’s also known for her gloriously huge Afro, which she plumps up using hair extensions from her own brand, Big Hair No Care.
As not only a consumer in the black hair industry, but a business owner in it too, Harrel is extremely passionate about how underrepresented black women are in Britain’s high street stores.
Speaking to Stylist, she says: “A large percentage of women of colour feel like the high street doesn’t really cater to their needs, and the hair industry plays a huge part in the problem.
“High street salons all across the UK are still very dominated by images of white models, they don’t often know how to treat Afro hair and when they do they don’t really make it clear, it’s not really communicated well. And often they charge you a lot more.”
To test the equality levels of hair salons in central London, we teamed up with Harrel to go on a mission, and research how these salons react to an Afro hair appointment. Sadly, the results were not encouraging.
Setting off into an unnamed salon, Harrel who’s been fitted with a recording device, begins to explain what she would like: “I just work around the corner and I really need a deep treatment and a trim…”
Before she even has chance to finish her sentence, the receptionist interjects with a blunt: “Hair? No.”
Understandably confused, Harrel asks: “You don’t do anyone’s hair?”
To which she is told: “Yeah, we don’t do Afro hair though.”
The pattern continues throughout our mission, with Harrel being told that the salons either don’t do Afro hair at all, or if they do, they’ll charge her more money simply because of the way she is.
For example, one hairdresser challenges her, saying: “Not on your texture, maybe if it was slightly softer.”
Not only is this comment, erm hello, rude – it’s also untrue and unfair. “How can you know how soft it is?!” Harrel laughs back incredulously, clearly shocked by a stranger’s assumption that her hair is firstly coarse, and secondly that this makes it impossible to do.
There were few success stories throughout our day of filming, but thankfully there were two salons that had a progressive and correct approach to catering for people with all hair types.
“I don’t think Afro hair should be a problem, everyone’s trained to do it,” explained one receptionist. While another told Harrel that salons shouldn’t be charging her money simply because she has Afro hair.
“We’ve had quite a mixed feedback so far, we’ve been to a few places. Some were clear it’s a no, some wanted to charge more and some were more accommodating,” Harrel says.
Before concluding: “Turns out it’s not that straightforward to book a treatment or simple trim for Afro hair, which is the reason why we’ve launched the Stylist Hair Equality Initiative where we really want to urge salons in the UK, to treat and represent everyone equally. Because this type of hair is Britain too!”
Hair salons in the UK need to be prepared to cater for all women, with all types of hair, this is what equality means. Training all staff on all types of hair should be a standard, and treating all of these customers with the same level of respect and economical expectations is the only acceptable way of working. Let’s keep shouting this message and demanding more from this industry until the bar for hair equality is where it should be.
Watch the full video above to see all of Harrel’s interactions with salons.