The need for more businesses aimed at lesbian consumers
I recently had a very frustrating experience while going for a haircut in Dublin. I have very short hair and prefer to get it cut in a barbers rather than a hairdressers for a number of reasons. For a start it’s generally much cheaper and I prefer the type of cuts that barbers specialize in. I had been going to the Waldorf Barbers on Westmoreland Street for about 6 months without any issue, but when I went to get my hair cut in February the (female) owner told me that they would no longer cut my hair because I was a woman. I was really annoyed but there was nothing I could do, the beauty industry is one of the few service providers that is allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender under the Equal Status Act so the owner was perfectly entitled to turn my custom away.
The whole experience got me thinking again about the need for a ‘lesbian barbershop’ in Dublin. Many short haired gay women I know complain about the difficulty they have in finding somewhere to get their hair cut they way they want it and at a reasonable price. While some are brave enough to walk into barbershops and take a chance they will be served, many continue to go to regular hairdressers and fork out the extra cost just because they’re female (most hairdressers charge more for a ‘ladies cut’ regardless of hair length or style than for a ‘men’s cut’).
A Twitter conversation with a fellow lesbian barbershop goer alerted me to just such a service: Barberette, a barbershop with a ‘gender free pricing and attitude’. Unfortunately for me, it’s in Hackney, London. On a recent trip there I popped in to say hello to owner and barber Klara and ask her about the business.
Klara explained that while her barbershop is open to everybody regardless of gender or sexuality about 80% of her clients are lesbian. Since she opened in September 2013 the shop has grown a large and loyal customer base. Business is so good that she recently took on another barber to cope with the demand. So could such a business model work in Dublin? Obviously it is a much smaller market than London, but perhaps a similar set up could work?
Another area where lesbians also feel underserved is in the fashion industry. If you are gay woman who prefers to dress in a more masculine, tomboyish or butch style your options for buying clothes, particularly if you are slim, are very limited. Wearing men’s clothes isn’t really an option if you have a waistline smaller than 30” (the size most men’s jeans start at) and even if the size fits, the cut still might not be right. More labels, or even better a clothes shop, that sells clothes that most lesbians actually want to wear is what I would like to see.
Just such a store opened last year in Portland, Oregon called Wildfang (the German word for ‘tomboy’). Wildfang’s press release says that it “seeks to corner the market on tomboy style by tapping into what they say is an unmet consumer demand for tomboy-inspired fashions.” While they don’t specifically mention that they are targeting lesbians, the use of a number of high profile ‘out’ lesbians in their advertising campaigns, such as US soccer star Megan Rapinoe and former L Word star Kate Moennig indicates who their core audience is.
While gay men have long been the target of marketers who wish to promote products and services, there remains a distinct lack of businesses or services that market specifically to lesbian consumers.
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