Similar to fashion, hair is one of the most important forms of self-expression. People wear their hair in many different ways, from short and kinky to long and straightened. Individuals may dye their hair, wear wigs, or place bows, combs, or other objects atop their heads. The breadth of hairstyles is reflective of the diversity of the human race.
Thankfully, the CROWN Act recently passed the House of Representatives and will soon be reviewed in the Senate. For those unfamiliar, the CROWN Act, short for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, was first introduced in 2019. This congressional bill seeks to ban workplace-related prejudice and discrimination regarding race-based hairstyles, such as protective locs and braids. Hair discrimination is real and disproportionately affects Black individuals; indeed, according to the 2019 Dove Crown Research Study, Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair. The CROWN Act is an important step in allowing everybody, especially Black women, to feel welcome and safe regardless of the hairstyle they don.
While significant progress has been made at the legislative level to combat hair discrimination and help make the US a more welcoming place for all hairstyles, there are several steps businesses, particularly salons, can take to better cultivate an atmosphere of inclusion. The following informal guide outlines a few of the ways salons may work toward inclusivity in their business practices.
Hire stylists who have experience with Black hair.
Walk into your neighborhood Great Clips or Supercuts, and you’re unlikely to find somebody who can style Black hair—at least not well. This isn’t so much a problem with individual businesses as it is with the cosmetology industry in America, as many beauty school students never gain experience styling Black hair. This trend effectively enables white-staffed salons to deny service to Black customers due to their hair being “too difficult to style.” Many Black women have, unfortunately, been refused service at high-end salons because of their natural hair.
The easiest way for a business to address this racist trend? Hire stylists who can work with Black hair! The burden shouldn’t be on the customer to search out who can style Black hair and who can’t. Ideally, Black customers should be able to visit any salon without doubts or fear that their hair won’t be taken seriously. Not only would Black individuals feel safer and more welcome at a greater number of salon spaces; these businesses would also be able to reach an important demographic and increase their profits.
Offer products for all hair types.
If many salons cannot or refuse to service Black customers, it comes as no surprise that these same businesses often don’t sell products that work with natural hair. Stylists generally have useful advice to impart regarding which hair products to use and which to avoid, so it’s common to leave a salon visit with a bag full of products to take care of your new do. However, salons may not sell products that are appropriate for certain textures, especially Black hair. When stores like Target and Walmart already carry limited options—and sometimes none at all—for Black customers, it’s doubly frustrating to not be able to find appropriate hair products at the local salon.
In addition to hiring stylists trained to work with Black hair, salons should carry products for all hair textures. Again, the burden shouldn’t be on Black customers to figure out where they can purchase items that fit their hair texture; an inclusive salon welcomes all hair types and treats them with dignity. In 2022, it shouldn’t require detective work to be able to find the right shampoo and conditioner, right?
Support LGBTQ+ customers and their hairstyles.
While we’ve focused on Black hair for the majority of this post, as Black individuals experience the highest rates of discrimination for their natural and protective hairstyles, we also want to highlight the queer community. Like the kaleidoscope of LGBTQ+ identities, queer people don a multitude of hairstyles, at times flouting gender norms. Some lesbians, for example, prefer to wear their hair short, while some gay men sport longer hairstyles. These are only two, very limited examples, but the point is that queer individuals may have hair that contradicts societal expectations. As such, a salon should support queer people however they want to style their hair. Are you a woman who wants a buzz cut? Great. Are you a man who wants an ombré? Fantastic. Are you a non-binary individual who wants an asymmetrical cut with highlights? Phenomenal.
Inclusivity at salons may range from offering a wider variety of hair products to hiring staff members trained in styling Black hair. The recommendations we’ve included in this informal guide won’t necessarily happen overnight, but we hope they help salons—and other businesses that work with hair in some way—consider how to make their practices more inclusive. Every type of hair is beautiful and should be celebrated. It’s a shame that only in 2022 are we in the process of passing a bill to ban race-based hair discrimination, but it’s an important start. Salons can build off the momentum of legislation like the CROWN Act by taking concrete steps, as outlined above, to celebrate individuals regardless of their hair texture or style.
Know of a salon doing great work related to inclusivity? Leave them a review on the Inclusive Guide at inclusiveguide.com.
In addition to the harmful impact of implicit ableist practices, beliefs, and ideologies, there are a myriad of physical barriers that continue to perpetrate structural ableism. Structural ableism takes on many forms. From the abhorrent Chicago Codes of 1881, which prohibited the public appearance of individuals with certain physical disabilities, to the lack of wheelchair accessibility in a restaurant bathroom, ableism has long permeated time and industry.
The American Disability Act (ADA), modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination based on disability and provides a guideline that covers employment, access to government services, and spaces with public accomodation; such as restaurants. However, these institutions continue to neglect some of the most literal forms of implicit structural ableism– physical and informational inaccessibility.
Here are a few examples of physical and informational ableism that produce tangible discrimation that harms the disabled community.
Insufficient Physical Accessibility:
Restaurants that don’t have adequate seating arrangements such as height, spacing, accessibility for wheelchairs, adaptive equipment such as braille menus or access to sign language are just a few ways that implicit ableism functions in dining spaces. As well as owners that put off installation of wheelchair accessible bathrooms or a ramp at a step entryway.
Photo from “?@$&! I can’t get in!” blog.
Each unnecessary barrier in an organization, a business, or public space actively limits disabled folks mobility. Further isolating and putting yet another community out of reach. Albeit subconscious or overt, these physical barriers send a message that disabled people are not wanted and not welcome.
In 2020, the Colorado Restaurant Association was informed that a Douglas resident with visual impairment had been filing lawsuits against Colorado businesses, including restaurants, due their websites being non-compliant with the American Disabilities Act.
Though the ADA was written before the internet was a widely used resource, websites are considered to be spaces of public accommodation– therefore, covered under the ADA.
Failing to provide communication and information through alternative formats, such as websites and digital media, continues to impoverish and isolate people with visual, hearing, and communication disabilities.
Photo from Brewability
Although the American Disabilities Act is one of the most comprehensive forms of civil rights laws to pass legislation in U.S. history, structural ableism continues to marginalize disabled communities across expression and industry. People with disabilities deserve access to have the same ease of access to an excellent dining experience as anyone. Making public spaces and businesses accessible should be considered a standard vs an accommodation.
Inclusive Guide hopes that we have your support in our journey to make accessibility a standard in the restaurant industry. Know of a restaurant doing great work in accessible dining? Submit a review at InclusiveGuide.com.
Adams, Philip. “How to Find WheelChair Accessible Restaurants Near You.” ?@$&! I can’t get in!, 24 Jun. 2016, blog.icantgetin.com/wheelchair-accessible-restaurants-near-me/.
Accessed 16 Mar. 2022.
Pulrang, Andrew. “Ableism Is More Than A Breach of Etiquette.” Forbes, 17 Feb. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2022/02/17/ableism-is-more-than-a-breach-of-etiquette---it-has-consequences/?sh=5d1d10b77b7f. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.
Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-336, 104 Stat. 328 (1990). https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.
Crop tops for men. Button-ups for women. Gender-neutral underwear. In the Year of Our Lord 2022, it’s obvious more than ever before that fashion is for everybody. For too long our country, as well as various societies around the globe, have clung to unquestioned constructs that limit the possibilities of fashion. But folks like Harry Styles, Janelle Monáe, and many others, especially those within the trans and non-binary communities, have shown us the fabulousness of wearing what you want, when you want—no matter society’s arbitrary standards or gender designations for clothing.
Though the Pandora’s box of fashion continues to crack open more every day, there’s still a long way to go. At Inclusive Guide, we’re well aware that the better, more welcoming fashion world we envision won’t emerge overnight. Individuals may choose to flout societal expectations and express themselves in beautiful ways, but the fact remains that most retailers and fashion designers have work to do to make their clothing options more inclusive and accessible to all. We offer the following short and informal guide so that businesses may start to think about incorporating inclusivity into their practices and decision-making.
Carry a range of sizes to accommodate all body types.
Ever found a cute top at a store, but it’s not in your size or it just doesn’t fit right? It’s frustrating! Sure, you can go to a tailor, but that costs extra time and money most folks don’t have. And that doesn’t account for those who need to size up their clothes. Carrying an assortment of tall sizes and XL options (and that means the 4Xs, too!) would not only make customers happy but also benefit a company’s bottom line—indeed, the average woman in the United States wears a size 16, which is roughly equivalent to a 1X.
However, this doesn’t mean maintaining the status quo of only offering plus sizes for clothes that are dark, loose-fitting, or overall drab in appearance; everybody deserves to feel sexy regardless of body type. And if you’ve been to any brick-and-mortar retailers recently, you might have noticed the plus-size section off to the side, not integrated with the rest of the clothing options. That ain’t cool. All clothing sizes, from petite to 5X and larger, should be both available and easily accessible within stores.
Rethink gendered displays and marketing.
In a perfect world, clothes wouldn’t be gendered, period. There’s nothing inherently feminine about a dress or masculine about a suit. Yet, like public restrooms, clothing displays at practically every retailer are separated into men’s and women’s sections. This setup alienates trans and non-binary customers, as well as those who may be gender-nonconforming and simply want to don a different style. Collapsing the gender divide across both brick-and-mortars and online retailers honors the diversity of gender expression while also reaching a market of LGBTQ+ individuals often disregarded as consumers with buying power.
Because the gender binary is so ingrained within society, it may not be possible for a store to go completely gender-free in its clothing displays. If this is the case, a business should at least emphasize in marketing efforts that its products are available for all. A bigger step would be hiring gender-diverse models to showcase clothing options. And there are always gender-neutral items for businesses to carry, such as TomboyX underwear or Phluid Project makeup.
Provide options for disabled individuals—or offer to tailor their purchases for free.
Clothing for disabled people is often referred to as adaptive and usually entails alterations made after a garment is already produced. Inclusive fashion, however, should be the reverse—clothes designed from the outset with disabled individuals in mind. While these garments are, unfortunately, only beginning to gain traction within the fashion world, businesses can support disabled folks by offering what inclusive options are available, such as Care + Wear, which features designs with chest port access, or Friendly Shoes, which sells Parkinson’s-focused footwear.
If not possible to carry these items, a business could provide their disabled customers with free tailoring services. Because every person’s body is different, some off-the-rack options, no matter how they were designed, might not fit certain individuals’ needs. In this case, tailoring might be the only option, but disabled people shouldn’t be required to bear the financial burden of altering their clothes, especially when the fashion industry has overlooked—and still overlooks—disability in clothing design. This isn’t a perfect solution, but in the absence of available (and affordable) options, the least a business can do is demonstrate to disabled customers that it cares about their needs and is willing to support them however it can.
Inclusive fashion requires a major shift in existing business models. Clothes should be available, accessible, and ultimately comfortable for all people, not a narrow set of individuals often represented by models of European descent with slim bodies. A few steps toward inclusivity on the business end include carrying a range of sizes, rethinking gendered clothing displays, and offering garments for disabled individuals (or providing disabled customers with free tailoring services in the absence of such items). These steps don’t capture the entirety of what must be done to make the fashion industry inclusive, of course, but they’re a start.
We hope you support us in our journey to promote inclusive fashion across brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. Know of a business making strides in inclusive fashion? Leave a review today on the Inclusive Guide at inclusiveguide.com.