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is the hair industry male-dominated?




Hi there! This is Hikari.

The other day I modeled for an assistant working in the Hair salon of the sister of a friend of mine, who had to take a test in order to become a stylist. It was a really precious experience for me, as it was the first time modeling and it allowed me to see a little bit how does the salon industry work. By the way, in order to pass the test the assistant had to cut my hair in a way that would have looked good on me.

そして、わたくし、人生で初めて髪の毛が赤くなりましたー!!やったー!ずっと20センチュリーウーマンのアビーや、レディバードに憧れていたので笑 やっと!ついに!!!って感じでとても嬉しい。

Also, I dyed my hair red for the first time in my life!! Yay! I have always admired red hair from seeing it on movie characters such as 20th century woman's Abby and Lady bird, haha. I feel like, Finally! At long last!! It makes me very happy.


I remember that around February of this year, when I wrote about getting a short haircut on honeyhands, I said that I wanted to dye my hair blue or red. Although I wrote that I was still uncertain if it would look good on me (looking up pictures on Instagram everyone looks so cute, and I couldn't imagine how it would look on myself…) and of other people's reactions. It was hard to make a move. So it makes me happy that my wish got fulfilled in an unexpected manner!


Leaving aside the looking good/bad question, I am very satisfied with it. Every time I look at myself in the mirror I become a little bit happier, and i feel like I like myself more. Doing my makeup and dressing up is like an antidepressant for me.


Back to the main topic, there was something during the test that made me feel uncomfortable. All the judges were male.

The hair salon I modeled for is part of a chain that has a lot of stores around the Tokyo area, and the people who judged each of the assistants’ tests held a position called “art director”, which means they're among the best stylists. I was shocked by the fact that none of those so-called art directors was a woman. Interestingly, 70% of the assistants who were undertaking the test were women.


I noticed that the situation was extremely similar to what happens in my university. I'm studying composition in a Japanese art university, and the professors are all male. Surprisingly, my university has not yet produced a single woman professor. I wonder where did all the women go… Up until now, I thought that it couldn't be helped if an academic discipline such as composition was still a man's world. One of the reasons is the fact that ever since I first set foot in this world I've always taken for granted that it was male-dominated, and my perception was paralyzed by this experience. Writing it down like this, I realize how scary that is.


There is also the fact that you need some time to become a professor, and among the generation that is now teaching in universities (in their fifties if they're young, most of them are around sixty) there were less women that went on with graduate school. However, the same happens with hair salons, which feel definitely closer to daily life than academia does. Suddenly it felt scary to live in a country where the people who judge, create social structures and dominate are (almost completely) male.


This experience made me realize that although we might have given up saying that there's nothing that can be done, or we might pretend not to notice because we feel powerless, there are many situations in which unfair power balances make us feel hurt. Usually, the fact that we live in a male-dominated world becomes so obvious to us that we don't even question things. I assume that the fact that society is structured this way makes it also hard for men to recognize how skewed this power balance is.


It makes me sad to have to write things like these, but there was a silver lining. After the cut test each one of the assistants had to do a presentation about the themes and concepts behind their works, and many of them were inspired by strong women figures or by the idea of genderless fashion. Among them there was also a person who noticed the fact that there were no female art directors and choose the advancement of women in society as concept. I thought it was amazing that they could so spontaneously present these themes and create works that really reflected their thoughts without thinking about the eyes of the people who were judging them. It made me think again of how important it was to do so.


People can't easily rebel against power structures. It is exactly because of this that those who have power have to think deeply about the effects they have on other people and society. We also have to carefully examine those effects.


Last but not least, I hope that all the assistants who are working hard till night will be able to succeed as hairdressers. I hope they will be fairly judged and that they'll reach the place in society they deserve to reach.

Images by Hikari Sawada and 20th Century Women

English Translated by Eli

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