Revisited: Beauty Has No Gender

In this best-of episode from the first year of Outgrowth, Jaime revisits our conversation with Kristin Rankin of The Dresscode Project. Originally aired August 31, 2020.

Does your salon still charge different prices based on gender? What does your salon culture communicate about your values? As we examine traditions of the past, salon owners take the necessary steps to be more welcoming, inclusive, and accessible for clients of all gender identities. Our guest Kristin Rankin shares the mission of The Dresscode Project to promote gender-affirming salons.

Show Notes


The Dresscode Project – Resources for creating safer spaces
Instagram: @thedresscodeproject

Annual Membership – Support The Dresscode Project

Pronoun Masks:

The 519 – Organization supporting the LGBTQ2S communities


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Edited for length and clarity.


JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty. I’m Jamie Schrabeck. And it’s my pleasure to introduce this week’s best-of episode. When given the chance to revisit a topic from our first year, I immediately chose this interview with Kristin Rankin of The Dresscode project. Through personal details and professional experience, Kristen shares their journey from stylist and salon owner to forming a global alliance to make salons more inclusive of all gender identities. As Congress considers the Equality Act to extend protections to the LGBTQ plus communities, we can do our part to eliminate gendered pricing and other discriminatory practices in our own businesses. Listening to Kristin and using the resources of The Dresscode project will inspire your efforts. Let’s grow together.

JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth, Kristin.

KRISTIN: Thanks for having me so much.

JAIME: On background, I first met you in January at ISSE Long Beach. That’s an event that’s hosted by the Professional Beauty Association, and it’s the only event that I was actually able to attend and teach classes thus far this year. And it just so happened that I was able to attend your class, and I’m so grateful I did, Kristin, because what I learned in meeting you and listening to what you shared was something that really inspired me. So that’s why we feel so fortunate that you’re here today to reach our listeners. We want to model best practices in this area. So let’s have the pronoun conversation first. Why is this important and what pronouns do you prefer?

KRISTIN: Thanks so much for that lovely introduction, Jaime, and thank you so much for asking my pronouns as well. So I prefer they/them. And those are the pronouns that I currently use and, you know, it can always change for someone. When I first had the conversation about pronouns with myself even, I decided that I was gonna use two sets of pronouns, that I was gonna use she/her and they/them. And for me, I believe that was almost like a transition period of using she/her for people who were used to using those pronouns with me, not so much with myself. But then, just in the last little while, I’ve started to transition into having people refer to my pronouns as they/them. So, that’s what mine are and the reason why they’re so important is basically just out of respect, really. When you think of how society is and has been historically, we definitely have come from, and generally still do come from, a place of heterocentric normal positions. So in general, what that means is that it’s a very heterocentric world still, just meaning that mostly things are assumed around a heterosexual way of being. So you might see someone in automatically, we’re just all positioned and in a sense trained to just automatically think they’re straight. And then the person has to come out to you, right? But it’s very rare that a straight person ever has to come out to anyone and say, by the way, I’m straight. So for us, it’s just having that conversation around pronouns is another way to show that we’re open, that we’re inclusive. We respect you and we want you to know that we welcome everyone in our salons. So that’s really why we generally like to make sure that, maybe it’s not practiced every day, but that people who work in Dresscode Project salons understand what that is, why it’s being used, and how to use it.

ASHLEY: Thank you for that explanation. We’re learning a lot about the emotional labor of having to explain, and teach, and constantly make that space for yourself and for others. And we are very thankful for that conversation and for your time in doing that as well. I’d love to learn a little bit more about your history in the beauty industry and kind of how you got to today.

KRISTIN: Well, thank you. So I became a hairstylist about 15 years ago and it is my second career. I have a degree in film studies, but I actually have a history with hair since I was a kid because my mother was a hairstylist for 44 years and she owned her own salon. In fact, she  came out of high school at an early age. She was 17 when she came out of high school and she knew right away she wanted to be a hairstylist. So she went to a beauty school in the hometown that I’m from. It’s called Hamilton. It’s about 45 minutes west of Toronto in Canada. And she went to this little hair school called Bruno’s Hair School, and she became a hairstylist, and she started working, and then she opened up her own salon. And then she had two daughters. I was the first born and then she had my sister two years later so she decided to sell her salon. And so my sister and I grew up going to the salon like, literally, after school, every day, we’d be there waiting for her. I can remember, distinctively, the smell of old perm solution. I remember sitting in the chairs in the salon and being able to spin around. My sister and I used to sit in the old hair consoles they had for drying your hair, the bucket consoles that you put down on people. It was such a big part of my childhood. And so when I knew that I didn’t want to be in film anymore, but I still wanted to do something creative and something that was always challenging me, but also always just giving me different experiences every time, my mom just said to me one day, why don’t you get into hair? And my first thought actually was, why would I do that? I don’t identify as a feminine person and that’s what that meant to me at first. And then I just thought about it and I thought, maybe it’s a great idea and I applied to a hair school. Two weeks later, I got into it and then I moved to Toronto so that I could go to that hair school. I finished hair school in a year, which was what the requirement was for that course, and a year later I opened up my first hair salon. And I have had a hair salon now for 12 years.

JAIME: Kristin, did having that experience in beauty school reinforce what you expected the beauty industry to be in that it was emphasizing the feminine?

KRISTIN: I remember the first day of beauty school and I was sitting there, and I was older than everyone else, and they were smaller classes, and I just thought, you know, we were all introducing ourselves and stuff like that, and I just thought, what the heck am I doing here? Back then, I really identified sort of more as like butchier lesbian and I thought, how did I end up here? Like, what am I thinking, you know? But I immediately just put my head down and I dove into it. And the more I did, the more I recognized that it really was something I enjoyed, like it brought me a lot of like peace in a way, and I also just excelled at it. I remember the first practical exam we had to do. We had to do a perm roll and I thought this is going to be the end of me. Like it was not easy. I did not like it. It’s very tricky. Anybody that’s done a perm roll before, it’s very, very tricky. It’s gotta be really precise in a lot of different ways and I thought this is going to kill me. This is going to ruin my exam and I got into this whole panic mode. I remember that weekend before the exam, I went home to my mom’s and we just like practiced perm rolling, because my mom was an old school hairstylist who had been doing the same hair on the same heads of hair for 20 plus years. And a lot of that included once a month, a lot of her clients would get a perm. And my mom could roll a perm, have the solution on that head in like 20 minutes. So I thought, if I’m going to learn how to do this, I’m going to learn it from her. And I went back, and I aced the exam, and it was all because of her. So I think, in a sense, what it did was it took away that fear of being seen as like a girly girl or, you know, oh, you’re a hairstylist. And I recognized that it was just something I was good at, and I could be what that, whatever that, was to me.

ASHLEY: Moving through your beauty school career and then into a pretty quick transition, it sounds like into salon ownership, did you always start out having gender-neutral pricing and services or did that thinking evolve?

KRISTIN: The thinking definitely evolved. And, you know, I think that’s what’s so interesting  because I have always identified as a queer person. I grew up in the closet. It definitely was not a time where being gay was cool or, you know, just different or accepted. So I didn’t have that experience of being able to be who I wanted to be when I was younger, or date who I wanted to date, or anything like that. And so, I think having the ownership and being able to just express myself in that way, and move through it is what really got me into that. And so, the reason I’m going into background of always being gay is because even as someone who always identified as a gay person, I still came out of hair school with these preconceived notions of what a haircut was, which was a men’s cut or a women’s cut, because that’s how we were trained in school. So I opened up my own hair salon. I slapped a rainbow sticker on that window so everyone knew that they were welcome. I was in a fairly new neighborhood at the time in Toronto called Leslieville. And there were a lot of queer people that lived in that neighborhood. And I wanted them to know that I’m queer and you can come here and everything’s good. And I still had prices that reflected gender, and I had an email about two years into ownership from someone who identified as a lesbian and had short hair like I have myself, and it was a really nice email. And they said, I love coming to your shop. I love that you have a rainbow sticker. I love that you’re open. I love that you’re queer. I love that the space is queer, but your prices don’t reflect everything else that you’re trying to share. And it just stopped me in my tracks, and it made me think, and the person actually said to me, I really want to support your shop, but I just can’t anymore because I can’t come there and pay haircut prices that are for women and not instead of like what my hair actually is, which is short hair. And I took that email in, I emailed that person back, and I was like, thank you so much. You’ve given me so much to think about, things I didn’t even think about as a queer person. Like that just shows how heterocentric we’re made to think in society today, and I immediately wrote on our Facebook page. It was December and in December I wrote this sort of big mission statement type of posts and I said, I just want everyone to know that I’m going to be changing my prices to reflect length of hair, not gender, and this is why. And really it’s for the better and it’s for a bigger cause. And I think it’s going to be great, and it got a little bit of press in ways that I wasn’t even involved in. And, but other than that, nobody complained, nobody really said anything except for positive things. That person came back to my salon, and it just stayed like that, and that’s how it was.

JAIME: The response to that change should encourage our listeners to embrace that and I’m sure we’ll discuss that later in our chat today about some strategies on how to introduce that when perhaps your entire structure is not built for that. But let me ask you this, is that the beginning of The Dresscode Project or did that come later? And how did that come about?

KRISTIN: Yeah, that definitely was not the beginning of The Dresscode Project. That came about three and a half years ago now. I was in my salon cutting hair, and I had a transgender woman sitting in my chair, and it was like any other service I’d ever had, and she left and she paid and it was great. She seemed really happy and I felt the same way I would feel about anyone else that seemed really happy when they left my chair. And the next day, I got a tweet from her and she was a fairly active activist on Twitter about transgender rights. And she had a good following, a lot of people, and she just wrote to my hair salon that it was the first time she’d had a haircut and felt like a woman. And it really hit me in two different ways. First, I thought I was happy. I was like, wow, I’m so glad that I was able to provide that for her. And you know when you’re a hairstylist, and you’ve cut someone’s hair, and they’re really excited, and they go that extra step by messaging you, or emailing you back, or writing a nice review, or tweeting you, or whatever the case is, it feels so good. And I mean, part of what we’re here for is for really making people feel good about themselves. Cause it’s in a sense, it’s selfish because it’s so gratifying. But in the next breath I really had this absolute extreme different reaction which was that I, I felt terrible and I, I was ashamed that I am in an industry that I really have grown to surprisingly love. And found my place in this industry at the time, at least I thought I had found my place, and people in my community were still suffering through discrimination in an industry that I now love. And so I really struggled because I thought I have a community that I’ve always identified with and that I love, and I have an industry that I never identified with, but I now love and I really felt like there was this split and I didn’t know what to do. And through the conversation that I had with this person, it was revealed to me that she had been out as a transgender woman for five years. So to me that was like either she had not had a haircut. She was trimming it herself so she didn’t have to go to the salon, or she’d had really bad experiences where people were not recognizing her for who she was. And I just thought like, something really needs to be done about this, like this industry needs to change this aspect of it. And then I just didn’t do anything at all about it because like I think so many people are trained to be and kind of how we are as human beings, you just kind of think someone else will do something about it for you. But it was the thoughts that I was having in my head, and I wasn’t really sharing it with anyone except for the people in my life, and I just found that I was constantly thinking about it. I would be at social events or just whatever with myself, with my partner, and I would be thinking about this interaction and how I needed to change and to make that change. And I thought like, how can one person do that? And then I just sort of put that away and thought like, I guess I won’t really know unless I try, and so that’s when it all began at that point.

ASHLEY: Your organization uses the term safer space. Help us understand what defines a safer space.

KRISTIN: Yeah. First of all, we use the term safer space because we personally don’t believe that any space can be completely safe and I think it’s a very dangerous statement to say, safe space. So we say safer because we do the best that we can in trying to organize the people who are in our organization to understand what we need from them to create safer spaces. And that’s really where that term comes from is just that we’re trying to make this space inclusive and safer for everybody that comes here, but we recognize that we will always have work to do. And that really it will never end.

JAIME: Kristin, tell us more about the kinds of resources that The Dresscode Project makes available.

KRISTIN: Well, first and foremost, like how Jaime and I met, was in California in January at the hair show. And one of the things that we do is we go around to different functions and we talk about what it is that we’re doing. So while Jaime was there teaching, I was also there teaching and I was teaching a class called, How to Create Gender Affirming Hair Salons, and essentially what that is just giving people a bit of an overview about what a gender-inclusive hair salon is and what a gender-affirming hair space means. And just talking about terminology and talking about things that might come up when you’re trying to be an inclusive space, especially where the LGBTQ2S communities reside, and other training that we do and actually we’ve really revamped it this year. We were able to sort of take advantage of this unfortunate situation we find ourselves in globally in being in moments of lockdown and definite isolation. And we are able to revamp our website. Our website originally started out solely to have a directory and the directory originally served in two ways. The first and foremost being that salons could go to our website, and they could get training from us, and they could then be listed on our directory. And then secondly, people who are looking for gender-affirming hair spaces could type in their postal code or their zip code, and they could find a space on our website that would match them to show that there’s this many salons in your area within this distance of you that you could go to and experience a safer space, a gender-affirming experience.Sso that it was the first reason to have our website. And recently I’ve brought on these two folks who are just really incredible with so many different things, Annie and Erin, and they’re honestly just, they’ve become such an important part of The Dresscode Project, and they’ve helped me revamp the website. So now the website actually is more of a resource for our members to have at their fingertips the information that we provide. So now, I think it’s about four times a month, we’re doing question and answer Zoom calls with me so that anybody who is a salon owner and also a Dresscode Project member can get on there and just be like, Kristin, I need to know this, or I have this experience, what can I do? Or, I have the guide, and I found this in the guide, and I really want to talk to you about it. And then we also have two times a month where we do education. And that education is it’s specified in that one hour. So the first one that we’re having, next week actually, is how to make your space inclusive, what that means, and what length not gender means, because that’s a hashtag that we have, I don’t want to say created, but we definitely utilize a lot. And what we’re saying to people is that length not gender and hair has no gender. So that’s kind of where we reside right now is our website is becoming a gigantic resource for us. Instagram is a really big resource where we talk to people and we educate them about what it is that we do. We also do, we did anyways, we don’t really do it now because of the pandemic, but we also did in-salon training. Actually, we’re trying to really get into the education aspect of things right now. Because of the experience that I went through as a hairstylist and my realization when I got that email so many years ago about someone not being able to support me because of my pricing and my gendered pricing, I realized that where we really need to hit it, and we need to take a step backwards, and look at where we need to go now, and that’s within school systems. I really believe that the hair school systems are where we need to go so we’re going to be approaching more and more people about that. We did a class with the Arrojo School last month. We’re in talks right now with Redken and L’Oreal to train their trainers on how to be more gender inclusive and use gender inclusive language when you’re in salons doing training. And those are a lot of the things that we’re doing and have on our plate for 2020 and 2021 right now.

ASHLEY: It sounds very busy, but very worthwhile. I would really love to hear your thoughts about salons that cater and market themselves to a really particular heteronormative sort of cisgender standard, like I love sports and this is a salon for men and extension boutique-type things that are really just marketed towards women. They’re very pink. They’re very exclusive in that way. I know that that’s kind of the opposite end of the spectrum of what you’re talking about and, if that’s the standard, how do you help people understand? It feels like those spaces were created specifically to make that clientele feel comfortable and in doing so are being very exclusionary, so how do you bring the balance?

KRISTIN: Yeah. I mean, it is definitely a little bit of a tight rope that you walk with those spaces.  Because first and foremost, I think it’s just human nature that if somebody comes at you with a criticism, their natural reaction is going to be defensive. So you can’t really come at them and be like, your space sucks. You only provide services for bros. This is such a man cave, I don’t think that I would react well if somebody came to me and said, why is your space so queer? You know, like, I don’t think that, that I would have a good reaction. I mean, I know I would because I do training, but if I didn’t do that, I might, my reaction might be like, huh, why don’t you just leave? And that’s not what we want to happen. We want people, everyone, to understand why this is important. Like so many causes going on today, I just think that, regardless, like even outside of the hair world, having spaces be accessible to everyone, regardless whether it’s gender or race or their own accessibility, you just should try to be as inclusive as possible. From the human side of things, I do not see a benefit in not being inclusive. Spaces that are not inclusive usually are that way because of history, because it protects cultures that are exclusive and sometimes very dangerous. People that have let’s say short hair that are say maybe a lesbian, and so they were born female. They have female body parts. Their genitalia is female, but they may be, or they identify as like a butch lesbian, or maybe they identify as a nonbinary androgynous individual who resides on the side of masculine presenting. And they want to go to a barbershop because they like the experience of a barbershop have, I’ve spoken to so many folks like that who can’t go to a barbershop because they are turned away, or they’re treated poorly, or they feel really judged and uncomfortable, and it flares up their anxiety, and then their dysphoria flares up. So it’s an incredibly uncomfortable experience for them. And that in itself is a reason to be inclusive to all of that, because as human beings, that’s how we should be. If you don’t look at it that way and you want to look at it from the business side of things, which you should always do as a business owner, why would you want to turn away money? Really, when it comes down to it that way, gay money is just as good as any other kind of money. And why wouldn’t you want that person in your space? Usually it comes down to them being protective of their space, someone that I just described as coming in there and threatening that protection, and then the other people that are usually in those spaces which are typically cisgender male identifying people are, really, they get very, like, what are you doing in my space? So it comes from like the business owner has to be the first to do it. And it is slowly happening and it’s definitely a slow burn because I think that’s where most of the work needs to be done. Historically those patterns and that way of thinking have been just drilled and drilled and drilled. I mean, when you think about when hair salons started, I mean, hair salons were for women and barbershops were for men. And it was where the men went to get away from their wives and is where the wives went to get away from their husbands. And back then, in society, we widely only recognized that there were only the binary of genders, and anything else was not really widely accepted, and that’s the history that we’re coming from. So it is a really big fight. But I think that you need to be inclusive and open and hear what they have to say, and then just say to them, this is why we’re doing it, and why can’t, why isn’t that okay? Like give me five good reasons why that’s not okay, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

JAIME: Kristin, if this kind of leadership starts with salon owners who may be listening to you and realizing this may be the way I need to evolve, this may be the next step, what would you encourage them to do first?

KRISTIN: I would encourage them to go to one of the spaces and get a haircut themselves. Because I think there’s a fear that we’re coming in this big queer machine, and we’re trying to roll them down, and we’re trying to make their spaces be better for us. And it really isn’t that. It isn’t about acknowledging only queer people. It’s about acknowledging humanity and just being a better person. And I think there’s this fear that if they change this, then maybe they’re going to be looked at as being more gay, or maybe they’re going to be looked at as caving in, or maybe they see themselves as like not being true to the clientele that have come to them in the first place. So I think maybe if they were able to step outside of themselves and their shop, and go to a shop and get a haircut, I really think that’s a good first step because you can do that in such an anonymous way that you really don’t have to put yourself in any harm. And you can go in there, and get a haircut, and you can just see what it’s like. And I’m going to tell you this, cause I do this regularly, it is no different than any other experience. The only difference is they will almost likely never feel uncomfortable because we’ve made them feel uncomfortable. They’ll feel uncomfortable because they’re stepping outside of the circle they normally reside in and it’s new. And anytime any of us do anything new or try to create change, there’s that moment of being uncomfortable. And you have to sit with that moment, and you have to recognize it, and you have to have a relationship with it to move on from it. And if they can do that, then they will be able to get through this, and they’ll be able to evolve, and their business will be better for it.

ASHLEY: With regard to pricing, how do you recommend salons and beauty pros adapt this to their service menus and what words do you use on your service menu in order to be as inclusive as possible?

KRISTIN: I recommend that first of all, the way they can adapt is by making a statement. This is why we’re doing this. It’s for this reason and it’s not going to affect anyone that’s already coming here. It’s not going to change anything for you. What it’s going to do is make this more accessible to those folks who didn’t feel like it was before. So we’re opening our space because we want to be considered a modern salon. We want to be a forward-thinking salon or barbershop. We want to be able to say that you can come here and get a haircut, and we’re not going to cast judgment on you. And the way to do it, I personally think the best way to go about it is by using social media and your website. Twenty years ago, the first face of your salon definitely was your receptionist, right? When we had receptionists. A lot of forward-thinking, modern, progressive salons these days that don’t have a receptionist because first of all, a receptionist is absolutely a cost. They don’t see a lot coming back from it. So you have a stylist that’s working for you. You’re making money off of them, and I’m speaking purely from a business point of view right now. So having that receptionist there really is a big cost and it is a debt to your company. So removing your receptionist is something a lot of people have been doing. So the first face of your modern, progressive salon or barbershop is usually your website, your Instagram, and Google and Yelp reviews. These are the three things that I find are being utilized most right now. Also, because a lot of people that are now coming to the salons like us are usually between the ages of 22 to 34, and those folks are in generations that absolutely look for businesses to support through Instagram, Facebook, your website, and then reviews, absolutely 100%. So these tools and platforms are now the first face of your salon. So changing your price menu is the first step that you want to take. And you want to splatter that all over everything you use, social media, website, all of it. And you want to have a little paragraph about why. Because I can tell you this much, it has been proven that people that are supporting and really concerned about their looks and the beauty, which is the industry we’re in, are definitely utilizing these tools. And if they open your website and your website still says a men’s and women’s cut, they will close that website down, and they will go to another one. And they will look for something that represents them because people are spending their dollars way more responsible these days than they used to. And they want to spend their dollars on businesses that reflect them in some way.

JAIME: What advice would you give a salon owner concerned about offending their existing clients by embracing this mission? How do you advise them to deal with any pushback? 

KRISTIN: Yeah. I mean, the harsh answer to that is, do you want to support people who are not inclusive? Do you want to be part of the problem of society today? Or do you want to be part of the solution? That’s the harsh answer to it. It is a real answer though. The business answer is to explain to your clients why this isn’t going to affect them, and usually through conversation, which we are kind of masters of as hairstylists, we really know how to consult with people. We know how to get answers from people that we really need so we know how to provide the service for them that they want. We’re really great at listening, negotiating, in some ways manipulating, so that we can do what we need to do. And there’s no difference here. You know, if I changed my price menu to reflect an inclusive price menu, and someone comes to me and says, wait, why don’t you have men’s and women’s cuts anymore? That really bothers me. I guess my first question to them is going to be like, why does it bother you? It doesn’t really affect you. And, if they’re like, well, it bothers me because now I feel like gay people are more important than me. No, why? Why do you feel that way? What makes you feel that way? Usually it’s a threat. They’re seeing what you’re doing as a person who’s trying to be progressive and inclusive as a threat. Usually that’s threatening them because it’s putting them in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar position that they’re normally not in. And so they really are asking questions and they may not even know how to ask it properly. They may not even know that the way they’re asking it could be seen as very offensive. Because truthfully, as straight people, you’ve never had to consider that. A straight person has never had to consider whether they might be asking offensive questions or not, especially if you’re straight and white. And 20 years ago, a queer person might’ve stood there and answered those really uncomfortable questions that they would get asked, like, why are you gay? Or like, when did you decide to be gay? And you know, we would put up with it, at least I would put up with it, because I wanted to educate people. I always thought, like, I could say, it’s none of your business, or I can tell them and hope that I’ve just created an ally. So that’s kind of the place I still come from in my business. I’ll absolutely explain to you why I’ve made the decisions I’ve made as a business owner and I will hope that you support me. But if you just can’t see around that corner and you can’t be progressive as I am, then I suppose we have to part ways here and it’s super unfortunate. But I can tell you that in the amount of time that I’ve been doing this, and I’ve changed this, and people have seen that I am someone who has a like a foundation that now is creating these inclusive spaces, it has been so rare that I’ve run into this problem. People ask because they’re curious, and they want to know, and maybe sometimes they don’t ask it in the most politically correct way, but they’re asking, generally, because they want to know. And if you just help them get there a little bit, usually it’s a really good outcome.

ASHLEY: So Kristin, if we are then extending your mission to other parts of our industry like skincare and nails, have you found any particular challenges in moving this mission into those parts of the industry that are just different from the hair world?

KRISTIN: I don’t think so because when you look at all of it, right? I mean, like I said, one of the hashtags or taglines that we do use is hair has no gender. And the reason we use that is really, actually, from a scientific point of view, which is where hair comes from. I think it always surprises people when they find out that you went to school, and you had to take anatomy and physiology and chemistry, and they’re like, but you’re just a hairstylist. And you’re like, yeah. And this is actually what just hairstylists have to do all the time, And nail technicians do something entirely different that a lot of people I’m sure don’t know and understand. And as do makeup artists, as do people who get into like eyelashes and tattooing, and all of that. All of these different things, nails, hair, eyes, like fashion, clothing, none of them have a gender. It’s really straightforward. It’s really a basic concept. Why apply a gender to something where there is none to be had? And there isn’t one that exists. I know a lot of really awesome people who wear what they want to wear, and go get the services they want to get because of who they are as a person, and they do not allow gender to define them. And I just think like if the beauty industry could see that, our beauty industry that’s already worth so much money, would then become worth so much more money because you’d be so much more inclusive. And we would allow men who identify as men, who are cisgender men, come in, and maybe get a hand treatment or a foot treatment, and feel good, or someone who is female identifying go to a barbershop because they want that experience rather than a salon, or someone who doesn’t have a gender that they actually identify with because they’re gender queer or gender fluid to not have to go somewhere to get their nails done, or their hair done, or their makeup done, or their waxing done, and have to explain who they are, because it’s nobody’s business. We’re there to provide services and that’s it. That’s what it really comes down to.

ASHLEY: Going back to something that you said earlier, Kristin, about beauty schools, I agree with you. I think that that’s such a great place to start because habits are formed there, whether they’re good or bad, and I guess, in your experience, what could beauty schools do better in training their students to create safer salon spaces and understand that their services and really beauty has no gender?

KRISTIN: To be honest with you, they really need to get us in there to help them with this education. We’re currently creating a curriculum that can be implemented into beauty schools. It’s in the works right now. It’s going to take some time, but we have done all the research. We’ve done all the work, but we’ve been at this for four years. We have talked to so many people. We’re constantly looking at the information. I have a board of members who are actively involved in helping us find this. A charity here in Toronto, one of the biggest ones in Canada in terms of like providing education, training, and understanding of the LGBTQ2S communities and their needs are, is someone I partnered with at the very beginning of doing all of this to create our gender-affirming guide for hair salons. It’s an infographic guide that we created with this charity called The 519 here in Toronto. And we took four months to put together what it would be like, and we need to create gender-affirming hair consultations, and stuff like that. So we have all of this information, and this research, and these resources put together, and now we’re putting that together to create a curriculum that can be inserted into every hair school in the world so that they can actually train their students in a different way to see how gender is super important to the beauty industry and how they can start here instead of starting in the old way of learning. And it doesn’t really change anything, all it does is add. And it takes away things that were just not really adding to a better place for humanity in the future.

JAIME: We’ve seen more recently the subject of domestic violence and human trafficking added to CE requirements in those states that have them and to just the general curriculum that’s being taught in beauty schools, so do you see this curriculum being something that could be at the beauty school level and perhaps part of a CE requirement to address all of those individuals who already have their license?

KRISTIN: I think that’s awesome. We don’t have that here in Ontario. I can’t speak for every province, but I think that would be something that should absolutely be added. And now that’s on my list of things here. And I love that when you go to update your license, you have the requirements of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I think that anti-racism should be added into that, and I also think that gender affirming training should be added into that, a hundred percent.

ASHLEY: Well, I think we’re on the way or moving in the right direction with something like the Crown Act because I do see a lot of media attention around what they call a dress code violation, and that just really kind of bridged the gap for me to see, like, why does it stop there, when it could go so much further and really kind of wrap it’s arms around everyone?

KRISTIN: That’s just, it, isn’t it? I mean I feel like we’re learning so much on a regular basis. Like as a queer person, there are still so many things I’m learning about queerness as a spectrum, and we’ll always because it’s also ever changing. And as someone who identifies with being an ally to the Black community and the POC community, I am constantly learning every single day and will continue to, and I think you know that domestic violence and sexual abuse should absolutely not be ignored in any of that, either in all of these things should be included in our training. Not, in any training, to be honest, but we are beauty industry professionals, because it exists. And it’s also a way for us to recognize it, isn’t it? Like if we’re given this training, we recognize these things, then we can be more proactive against them and help to reduce, and hopefully one day, without sounding too naive, eliminate them.

JAIME: It’s like every time we talk, our list grows longer.

KRISTIN: I know we keep doing that and I’m okay with that. I feel like I don’t really ever want to retire. So I think this would just be good things for, for many years to come.

JAIME: Well, and it will have a lasting impact, not just on our industry, but on society because as beauty professionals, we interact with so many different people.

KRISTIN: Yeah, we see so many different people from all walks of life. So it only makes sense that if you’re going to stand there and say that you’re a white hairstylist and you’re anti-racist that you should also probably think about maybe being gender inclusive, and also a safer space for folks who are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence. Why doesn’t that make sense? I honestly believe it’s because, and I think that this pandemic has also shown, that people who identify as females, there’s still no gender equality there. It isn’t, as you said, Jaime. This pandemic has shown us that domestic violence is back on the rise. I think with the United States, especially, you know, it really has a big impact on Canada and it’s definitely right now a very interesting time in the United States and really reflects us as well here in Canada. But  what is happening right now and the person who happens to be residing in the White House right now has definitely allowed for a lot of domestic violence, racism, homophobia, transphobia to rear their ugly heads back in society. And I think we just need to recognize that those are not places that are good for us. And I mean, does anybody else wonder why we’re in the state that we’re in at the moment? Things were definitely a lot different eight years ago.

ASHLEY: I completely agree with you, and we, I mean, we get political on this podcast, but we also understand as two white cisgender women that our voice can only go so far and we can only speak from our personal experience which is why we’re so happy to have different voices come and explain really to us and for us, why this is important and why we need to do the work. And I love what you said about feeling uncomfortable and sitting with it because it is very much a thing. And I think we’re all really feeling that to some degree, for whatever reason this year,  whatever our personal circumstances are, but I would love to find out how our listeners connect with The Dresscode Project and how they can show their support.

KRISTIN: Absolutely, and thank you for asking. So we have a website. It is, and they can show their support by going there, and just finding out who we are. They can also be supported if there’s someone who needs support by going to our directory. There’s a button that says find a salon, and it’s somewhere you can go, and you can type in your zip code or your postal code, and you can find a safer space salon or barber shop near you. If you want to find more about who we are on Instagram, we’re at The Dresscode Project, Facebook we’re Dresscode Project, and our website has so many different resources on it now. One of the other things that we’re also doing, just on that topic is, we recognized that this was a great opportunity  right now, because we have to wear masks, to try to attempt to make pronouns more regular so that they’re not so scary for people, and that they’re more visible, and they become part of the normal conversation. So we are providing on The Dresscode Project in our shop, we’re providing masks that have pronouns on them so that it becomes like a regular part of conversation, like, oh, look at that person has the pronouns on their mask. Cause you know, I think we all know that masks are going to be with us for a little while. Now we also do have a donate button because we are not-for-profit and we’re working towards becoming a charity. And so if you would like to donate and you don’t really know how else to be supportive other than by putting a couple of dollars behind it, then we do have a donate button, and any donation is a hundred percent appreciated, and we’re very grateful for it. And if you want to learn more, you can always reach out to us. There’s definitely intake forms you can fill out and we’ll get back to you. You can ask us questions by dming us on Instagram. Those are the places where you can find out exactly what’s going on in our lives.

ASHLEY: Well, Kristin, I want to first thank you for giving us your time, and explaining your mission, and your journey to this really inspiring and fabulous place of The Dresscode Project,   and the very important work that you’re doing. I’m hoping that this will be an evolving conversation, and that you would be willing to come back, and discuss it even further with us in another episode.

KRISTIN: I would love to. I really hope it’s also evolving ongoing conversation and I know that I’ll continuously be doing it, so I’ll always have a lot to say about it, and I’d happily come back, and hopefully talk about the progress that we’ve been able to achieve, and the change that we’ve been able to make. But thank you so much for having me and being interested in wanting to hear about it because you and Jaime in your own way have as individual people taken, initiative and decided to do something that you might have not done a couple of years ago and heard, heard something, learned something that maybe it’s not your every day. So even those actions are actions that are important as well.

JAIME: Well, thank you again, Kristin, and we look forward to having another conversation with you sooner rather than later.

KRISTIN: Thank you both. I really am looking forward to being able to work together more in the future.

ASHLEY: Another enlightening conversation with a fabulous guest.

JAIME: I get so jazzed about these things every time I listen to Kristin speak. I feel like I should drop everything, and just devote my time, and it just makes sense.

ASHLEY: It really does. It seems like a very easy shift to make within ourselves and within our salons.

JAIME: And speaking of shifting, I think as we look ahead to whatever our future may bring,   we need to come together as a community and that’s exactly what we’ve created with Outgrowth Insiders.

ASHLEY: Today is the last day to enroll in Insiders, and then it’s gone until 2021.

JAIME: Once the door closes, we’ll be busy doing what we’re going to do, and that is to move forward, ourselves and the industry.   

ASHLEY: Head to for more details.

JAIME: As always, you can follow us and comment on recent episodes on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast.

ASHLEY: Until next week.

JAIME: Be smart.

ASHLEY: Be safe.


Described as the best beauty podcast in 2021, Outgrowth Podcast is for hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, massage therapists and lash technicians. Hosted by beauty industry experts Ashley Gregory Hackett and Jaime Schrabeck, PhD, this salon industry podcast has helpful  interviews with guests that teach topics from increasing salon clientele, salon marketing, covid guidelines, beauty industry insights, starting a salon, renting a salon suite, salon Instagram tips, and how to run a successful salon. Join us for weekly episodes of hair podcasts, nail podcasts, esty podcast, and more.

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