Community Salons: making hair care accessible to all

Jamie McCallum cutting hair
Jamie McCallum of Community Salons at work. Photo supplied.

When the pandemic disrupted the world, hairstylist Jamie McCallum decided to pivot and launch his own salon. 

“I felt I had to buy myself a job after the salon I’d worked at since 2015 (Hive) closed last spring, in the beginning of the pandemic. With the opening in my life that the pandemic created, I thought I would use my own space and freedom to jump in and do something unique,” says McCallum.

The concept behind Community Salons – making hair treatments accessible for all – has been in the works for years.

“Making this industry accessible for everyone has always been something I’ve wanted to do. The idea that it isn’t has always been a point of contention for me, ” says McCallum.

Community Salons is a full-service salon with a twist. The twist being that anyone can come in and get a free haircut when needed. No questions asked. 

“Whether you’re displaced, living on the margins, or just having a difficult time making ends meet. I offer clients or the public in general the opportunity to purchase increments, which I’ll match, or full haircuts. For example, I have a barber-style haircut for $22. Someone could purchase an increment haircut for $11 and I will then match that and put one haircut into the Community Hair Bank. Currently, there are nine haircuts in the bank that are accessible to anyone,” says McCallum.

It’s an accessible way for clients who have the means to contribute to see direct results of their generosity in paying it forward.

“Clients receiving free haircuts have been so appreciative and feel really welcome in a space and in an industry that they might not have otherwise felt comfortable patronizing,” says McCallum.

The reaction from existing clients contributing to the bank and from clients cashing in has been really touching.

“An old regular, client was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and fell on hard financial times. Now he gets a haircut for free. I’ve had one woman be so grateful she was brought to tears just to be treated so well; she’s never been in a salon before.”

This is just the beginning for Community Salons. McCallum plans to take his skills to remote communities via a virtual hair program.

“My goal is to reach remote communities with a virtual online hair program with access to myself and to my peers, where people can learn all the skills needed to be a fully operational hair stylist or barber, with little or no cost to them.”

He would also like to find an apprentice here in Victoria; someone who would like to learn a skill in order to improve their lives.

“I’d like to teach them at no cost, and to work with a social worker, dentist, counsellor, etc. and to make one individual feel supported. To help them with every aspect of their lives.”

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