With the rise and fall of “hipster” culture in Melbourne’s inner north, we’ve seen the uprise of old-school hair (and beard) grooming establishments aimed solely or primarily at men. Many of these spots intentionally adopt a blokey atmosphere where “men can be men”, drinking beer, getting hot shaves and side-eyeing photos of vintage cars and hot chicks on the walls.
Those who are not so keen argue that these types of venues encourage sexism and internalised gender roles; many have experienced this for themselves.
I have friends in the queer community who have felt uneasy or unwelcome in male-centric barbers around town but also didn’t feel comfortable in a typical femme salon setting. I’ve known female-identifying people with short hair who have been charged more for their cut simply based on their gender. I’ve heard stories about refusal of service, up-charges or lack of comfortability within a space all because of a merchant’s idea about what sort of gender representation they want in their store.
At Captain Darling Barber Shop in Preston, there is none of that. Jillian Price, who has been running the space since December of this year, consciously crafted a shop that welcomes all people and offers affordable cuts for each of them. Her vision was a response and a rebuttal to the notion that haircutting establishments should maintain an air of exclusivity.
Captain Darling is queer-friendly, child-friendly, community-focused and intimate. In the brief time I spent at the shop, I witnessed neighbours wandering in to say hi or book appointments and school kids in uniforms stopping in for temporary tattoos. Jillian has a young child herself, so she understands the need for a spot that welcomes adults and their kin alike. She also rocks a short pixie cut and has for most of her adult life- another personal influence that sparked her desire to offer an alternative to the mainstream salons that dominate the industry.
Captain Darling is, both conceptually and aesthetically, a bright, welcoming space.
With big, front-facing windows, a rotating wall of local art, white-washed walls and bubbly, vintage-inspired décor, the space itself is one that screams kitschy-cute. But it did not require a top-dollar fit out nor a superficial hype-up to reach the level of popularity it now has. What has seemed to benefit Jillian and her business the most is the simple recognition of client needs that were not being met elsewhere. It doesn’t hurt that she has a natural eye for design and a crew of friends and acquaintances who were willing to help her build the space of her dreams.
But it’s only with continued community support and encouragement that the business will grow and Jillian’s trajectory of inclusivity can continue. So if you believe in her model and want to stop by for a cut and a chat (or tat), hit up Captain Darling Barber Shop.
You can find the space at 180 Gilbert Road, Preston. Operating hours are Tuesday through Saturday, morning to early eve.
Feature Image Credit: Instagram