To commemorate this milestone, the gender-neutral barbershop developed a photo series that explores journeys of self-discovery through hair

BY VAL ZELASCHI, PHOTOGRAPHS BY RACHEL HARDWICK (@RACHELHARDWICKPHOTOGRAPHY), HAIR BY LAUREN THWAITES (@WIZARDOFHAIR), MAKEUP & BODY PAINT BY PIXIE LAWRIE (@PIXIELAWRIE)

One of the UK’s longest running gender-neutral barbershops is turning 10 this year. To mark the anniversary, Barberette decided to celebrate their non-binary and gender-nonconforming clients in a photo series that explores their journeys of self-discovery through hair.

Klara Vanova opened Barberette in Hackney in 2012. As a short-haired woman with a passion for barbering, Klara believed that the industry was too rigidly gendered and there were not enough places for masculine women and non-binary people to get their hair cut. She wanted to create a space for people of all genders, styles and sexualities to be able to feel unapologetically themselves.

Ten years later, Barberette continues to offer a safe space for LGBTQI people and help them in their journeys of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Salon manager, Lauren Thwaites, expresses why Barberette decided to mark its 10 year anniversary by celebrating their clients. “We wanted to showcase some of the most marginalised people in our community and celebrate their love and their style and their awesomeness.”

The models were asked to answer a few questions about how they experiment with their hair and gender expression. They were then brought to the salon to get their hair cut and coloured by Lauren. “We had a lot of conversations with people through that,” says the salon’s marketing manager and in-house photographer Rachel Hardwick. “It was a nice collaboration, but it was also about being able to bring these stories to the forefront.”

After being styled, make-up artist and body painter Pixie Lawrie wrote some of the models’ answers on their bodies and Rachel took the pictures. The result is something incredible – a display of gender euphoria and queer joy. For Rachel, it was also a political statement. “It was about highlighting people who are trans and gender-nonconforming and explaining why we do what we do at Barberette and how important being able to experiment with your hair and style can be for people in terms of discovering their identity.”

A haircut can be a statement, a “hey, I’m queer, too” message to our siblings, but it can also be a way to reconnect to our body or feel more comfortable in it. Having a haircut done in a place where we feel free to express ourselves and experiment with our style while feeling safe and accepted can be a life-changing experience. 

For Barberette’s owner, Klara, that has always been the priority. “The most important thing that we do is for the client in that moment, in that chair to feel happy.”

Shae (they/them), one of the models who took part in the photoshoot says: “I recently went from having very ‘femme’ long hair for most of my life to a very short ‘masc’ cut, which was super scary because I didn’t know exactly how it would go. I opted to have Lauren at Barberette do it and almost cried because it was such an emotional experience putting trust into someone else to help me affirm how I felt inside on the outside.”

Liam (they/them) shares their experience: “Hanging out in queer barbershops (such as Barberette) as a young and newly-out queer and trans person was formative and so self affirming! Now after a decade on testosterone and forming an identity that’s much more genderqueer, it’s important for my hair to have a feminine edge to it.”

Adrian (they/them), who opted for a grey and mint-green mullet for the shoot, says: “I struggled with expressing myself growing up with a homophobic family and being one of the only queer kids in  school. However, I overcame this when I left for university and decided to spend that sweet student finance money on giving myself a new look. At the hospital, where I work as radiographer, I hope my queer look brings a sense of comfort to any other LGBT staff and patients, so they can feel they’re not alone.”

For Alistair (he/him), “Being someone with Afro-mixed hair, my hair in its natural form always attracted a lot of attention. Adding in being visibly queer, sometimes I’d feel uneasy about dressing up, in case it got me unwanted attention.”

Hawke (he/they) asserts that there is no “correct” way to be non-binary. “It’s also so important to me to educate people on their unconscious bias towards disabled people, especially in regards to them just being regular people like anyone else! I want to celebrate the fact I’m disabled and queer and show the world I can still be sexy and desirable and as visibly queer as I want to be.”

Looking ahead, the team hopes to keep giving back to the community by collaborating with their creative clients, showcasing their work, cutting hair for charity and helping out where they can.

DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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