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The Dresscode Project helps people feel safer when getting haircuts

Words by Tess Becker

Across the country, states are banning gender-affirming care for minors, and other states like Missouri are placing heavy restrictions even on adult care. In the meantime, organizations across the US and the world are trying harder than ever to affirm and support trans and other queer people. 

One such organization is the Dresscode Project.

The Dresscode Project started as an initiative to create ‘safer spaces’ for queer people in salons and places where people get their hair cut. 

“Our mission is to educate and empower hair stylists and barbers to give people haircuts that help them look the way they feel,” they write on their website. “We envision a world where every hair salon and barbershop is a gender-affirming, safer-space for LGBTQ2S+ clients.”

The founder, Kristin Rankin, has always enjoyed haircutting and finds that one of the most affirming things someone can do is get a good haircut. 

They site an interaction that they had with a trans woman client as inspiration for what they do now.

“I was just cutting her hair and it was like any other service. And then the next day after she tweeted to me that it was the first time she'd had a haircut and felt like a woman,” Kristin tells Smiley News.

They were disheartened that the communities that they’re a part of, the queer and haircutting communities, didn’t seem to overlap so they wanted to make a difference.

“It made a lot of sense that folks that identify outside of the gender norm regardless of whether it's gender nonconforming, non-binary, transgender, whatever it is if it's just outside the traditional idea of what male and female is, then it was problematic,” Kristin says. “They weren't able to get a service that made them feel like the person they are.

“So I just started talking to people started inquiring started talking to friends and doing research and honestly, it just sort of snowballed into this.”

It all came to a head in 2017 when the project finally launched. 

The project vets different hair salons and shops around the world then to create safer spaces for all types of queer people. 

“We have over 550 salons in our organization, and they all get vetted,” Kristin says. “When they sign up to become a Dresscode Project member, they take a little quiz so we can kind of get an idea of where they lie in their knowledge of the queer communities and then we send them a bunch of information on what it is that we require in order for them to be a safer space.”

To make their services more accessible Kristin started the Gender Free Haircut Club Day.

“I started to realize that there were a lot of folks in the queer communities in particular that were marginalized in some way or another and they did not have the accessibility to go into salons for whatever reason to get their hair cut,” they say. “So for us, we wanted to create an event that was free of charge, and was in a gender-affirming space, so they wouldn't be misgendered and could feel safer.”

The Dresscode Project is always expanding, trying to find ways to help trans and gender non-conforming people around the world. Pretty soon they’ll be welcoming their first member salon in the UK. 

In general, Kristin and the Dresscode Project just want to make a difference and help people feel like their fullest selves. 

“If you're open-minded and see you can be part of the change,” Kristin says. “It's super easy to do. It just takes one person to say hey, ‘I don't like how our menu at the salon has gendered pricing, or they have washrooms that are specific to genders, or anything like that.

"So I think what I want people to really take away is that we have a lot of resources that we work really hard to get to people and if you're willing to be that person that wants to see your salon or your hair space, do a better job.”

Find ways to support the Dresscode Project on its website.

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

American Civil Liberties Union. This is one of the largest civil liberty defense organizations in the US. Find out more and support them here

Human Rights Campaign. This is one of the largest equality-focused organizations in the US. Find out more

The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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