Hairrari’s Founder On Creating A Gender-Neutral Barbershop
#WeNeedAButton was born out of the idea that queer, trans and non-binary people deserve to feel safe and be affirmed when they seek out medical care. It’s no surprise that our partners in this awareness campaign are some of the most queer-affirming spaces in New York City. Hairrari, a queer + gender-neutral barber-salon, is one such place.
Magda Ryczko, Hairrari’s founder and owner, spoke to WaxOh about her life and the creation of a business that is about so much more than hair. Interview below:
EL: Where did you grow up and what was it like?
Magda Ryczko: I was born in Poland and moved to New Jersey at age 11. Moving to the US was a big change especially without knowing the language and leaving friends and family behind, but I’m glad am here now, since being a lesbian in Poland wouldn’t be as much fun as it is here.
EL: What got you into doing hair?
Magda Ryczko: Hair wasn’t something I ever thought of doing but my mom does say when she asked me what I wanted to do when I was about 4 years old, I did answer hairdresser so perhaps it was in the cards. I was always into fashion, art and creative stuff, and once I met a guy at a bagel shop who I became friends with who suggested that I should do hair and the rest is history!
EL: Have you ever had a “transformational” haircut (a haircut that changed your life)? If yes, would you please describe it?
Magda Ryczko: I think I’ve had just about any type of hair imaginable but never really a transformational cut. When I was in hair school I was always the “model” since I was always willing to sit and get whatever they wanted to try so my hair just got shorter and shorter and I always liked the change and would “rock it.”
EL: What was the inspiration behind creating Hairrari?
Magda Ryczko: I wanted to make a creative space that is welcoming to everyone. When it started it was also a gallery so it was fun to have openings, music performances and shows to add to the creativity of our work. Throughout the years we attracted a lot of different people of many walks of life. And by me being a lesbian and specializing in non-gendered cuts and short cuts we also attracted lots of queer and trans people, thus labeling it a gender neutral barber shop. When training people we advertised free haircuts to a lot of queer groups, so that also has been a big part of our growth in the queer community.
EL: You now have 3 locations. Can you please give us a little history on which space came first etc?
Magda Ryczko: The first location was Manetamed in Williamsburg which opened in 2011. This was a gallery as well, a book store downstairs, and it started with 2 chairs. Now it has 5 chairs and it’s just a barber shop. In 2013 Hairrari Bushwick came to fruition. I opened the location on my brother’s bday. He passed away 2 years before that so it was a sentimental opening on March 12th. A year later, I was able to open Hairrari East Village with the help of my girlfriend at the time who I trained to cut hair and for whom I invented my training program, so it was definitely a turning point in my training career. 4 years after that I opened Hairrari East Village West which is an expansion of Hairrari East Village and that was in 2018. Overall it’s been an incredible 8 years of ups and downs (but mostly ups) and lots of learning, training, positivity, creativity, and lots of support and love from employees, friends and clients!
EL: I’ve experienced the magic of Hairrari and so have many others, but in your own words, what makes Hairrari so special?
Magda Ryczko: What I love most about Hairrari is the wide spectrum of people that make Hairrari the welcoming place that it is. My personal philosophy has always been very simple: treat people how you’d like to be treated and be accepting of all people, as long as they are not hurting anyone. That is the message we try to spread with the brand. I think what makes us special is that we are a safe space for all genders, religions, and sexual orientations and it’s ok for people to be open about who they are and what they want and not be judged. The Hairrari team has been a dream team and it’s a pleasure working with people who are on the same page. The clientele is always wonderful and we are so grateful for all the love coming our way every day!
EL: Why is it so important for queer/trans/non-binary people to have affirming spaces to get their hair done, work at, and hang out in?
Magda Ryczko: Everyone is unique in their own way and should be able to shine wherever they choose to go. Places that make it possible for people to be who they choose to be will witness the magic of people connecting. We all have troubles and worries in our lives but when we connect with each other in positive ways it makes our harder moments much easier and having support from your hairdressers, clients, or colleges is so important. I know it meant the world to me especially when times were rough. We’re hair for you! 😉
EL: You’re not just a haircutter and business owner, you also develop your own products. Tell us about some of your them.
Magda Ryczko: Dust Texture Powder is probably one of our best sellers. It’s a powder for thickening the hair or adding texture to messy cuts or volume to long hair. I wanted to invent something that’s not sticky and gives a natural look. Our style at the shop is natural, wash-and-wear looks so our products reflect that in some ways. We have all-natural beard oil and facial oils which I personally love for my face. Shampoos and conditioners great for dry scalp. Gay spray leave-in conditioner has been a winner and of course Magda’s Mist Salt Spray (I had to name it after myself by popular demand! ;)) We also now sell Hairrari scissors and combs, since we train people and host classes. We like to provide good tools since it’s been difficult to find the right tools for a good price. Basically we’re a one-stop shop! It’s fun inventing products since they can spread the message even further and I’ve been lucky to have worked with companies to develop products that I think are up to par to represent the quality that we provide in our shops. Soon to come are t-shirts and hats. We had hats with trans colors on them before and I think it’s important to recognize what is unfair in this world and try to improve it one person at a time, and one little deed at a time.
To learn more about Hairrari, visit their website.
To learn more about #WeNeedAButton, visit www.waxoh.com/weneedabutton.
Stay positive! XOXO