“I had a mullet,” Burns said. “Most of my friends had skulls. We just looked crisp and punky.
Some of these hairstyles are back. If you look Burns Instagramyou will see a lot of iconic haircuts from the 70s and 80s.
“So many of these iconic rock stars, musicians, poets, they had these looks and people were kind of intrigued or offended by them, but they definitely identified as a certain type of person,” she said. “I think shags and mullets and all those weird looks have almost reinvented themselves over time because people want to be seen as they are, especially these days.”
Queer hair studios are popping up all over Colorado
Burns isn’t the only hairstylist in Colorado creating a safe space for gay people. Maeve Londono owns MAL Queer Hair Studio in Boulder with their partner, Mateo Londono. Both identify as queer.
When Maeve was a kid, they wanted a short, faded cut, which many would consider a men’s haircut. Nobody would give it to them.
“[My stylists] were like, ‘Oh no, honey, you don’t want clippers on your head. We are going to give you a beautiful, soft and feminine haircut,” they said.
It didn’t look right to them, so they started cutting their own hair. This is a common coming-of-age experience for gender non-conforming children. Now Londono cuts hair for a living, hoping to help people in their community avoid the same stigma as hairdressers.
After cutting her hair in a Florida neighborhood known for its LGBTQ+ community, Londono moved to Boulder. They were surprised that the city, which is generally considered young and progressive, didn’t have a dedicated queer hair studio.
“I kind of realized that we needed a space where people could feel safe and comfortable talking about how they want to present themselves,” they said.
Londono customers pay close attention to the types of people who will be attracted to someone with their haircut. A radical style can help prevent embarrassing misidentifications, especially in the dating scene.
“A lot of my clients will honestly say, ‘Give me a haircut that will stop straight cis men talking to me,'” they said. “They are looking to attract other people to their community.”
Londono is not about asking customers what number they want and then cutting. They have long consultations on the shape, length, texture, color and density someone wants.
These intentional conversations naturally blend into personal identity more often than not, which can create a more balanced relationship with customers. Ultimately, it’s the whole point of providing a safe haven to help people find each other.
Different communities have different needs
Londono and their husband Mateo hope they can go beyond haircuts and address hair issues specific to the queer community.
Mateo, a trans man, faced hair loss after starting testosterone therapy, which many stylists haven’t experienced themselves. He started wearing a mattress topper, which looks like a little wig, after the transition. The effect was immediate.
“I just feel younger, more energetic,” he said.
The experience inspired the couple’s goal of eventually offering a service focused on hormone-related hair loss. These types of businesses aren’t common, especially in areas where trans people may not feel comfortable going out publicly.
Many queer people of color face a similar lack of services focused on their specific needs. The queer hair studio scene is overwhelmingly white, and people love Rhonda Curly can struggle to find places that know both how to cut textured hair and create a safe space for queer expression.
Curley recently opened Curls, Kinks and Coils, a hair salon in Denver’s 16th Street Mall. She hopes to serve people like her and teach her children why this work is important.
“When [queer people of color are] confident, they just shine a little brighter and then they can have an easier life, which is hard enough being BIPOC and being queer,” Curley said. “So let’s make it a little easier and at least make ourselves look good.”
A bill prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s hair passed the state legislature in 2020. Still, Curley says many people of color are reluctant to embrace their natural hair even though the law protects it. She says she used to share that mentality but learned to love herself.
“It’s so freeing to step away from it and start really living your life and finding that love for yourself because you can’t love yourself when you’re trying to be someone else. “said Curley.
That self-esteem can come in all shapes and lengths, and for some people, that means getting the crispiest, punkiest mullet money can buy.