Confessions of a Hijabi: The Quest for a Haircut

By Ginella Massa

Every couple of months I'm faced with a dilemma I can no longer avoid. I try to put it off for as long as I can, but eventually I can't fight it any longer and I must face the inevitable: I need a haircut.

My tresses have grown out into that awkward stage where the layers are barely distinguishable and the mop on my head is something akin to a mullet. I'm desperate for a decent cut.

Sadly it's not as simple as walking into the nearest Supercuts, or making an appointment at a chic salon downtown. As a hijabi, I cover my hair in front of men who are not related to me. So I'm left with two options: find a private female-only salon. Or... gulp... cut it myself.

Over the years I've had various encounters with female stylists. I've driven out to Rexdale where private salons have popped up to accommodate large Muslim populations in the area. I've been referred to friends of friends who run businesses out of their basements. I even found a trendy salon in Mississauga that offered a private section away from the prying eyes of passers by.

But between distance, price, or quality of haircut, I have yet to find the perfect hairstylist for my grooming needs. As a woman of colour, I also have the added stress of finding someone who knows how to deal with my particular hair type. A few years back I thought I'd finally found THE ONE - a little corner shop in Scarborough run by an Ethiopian lady. Good price, good location, good cut. But sadly, she closed down after a few years and I was back to square one.

Some of the best haircuts I've had are ones that I got while travelling abroad. In Dubai and Istanbul I was able to get great styles at great prices -- the Islamic influence in both countries make private salons, and other female-only services like gyms, spas and swimming pools, easy to come by. I remember getting an awesome cut and colour in Dubai (yes, hijabis colour their hair!) and wishing I could freeze that moment in time. I knew it would only be a few months before it was gone forever and I was back in Canada looking for someone to recreate it for me.

As children, we've all learned the #1 rule in life (some of us the hard way): never cut your own bangs. Unfortunately I've broken that rule time and again. Every once in a while, annoyed and desperate, I reluctantly search for a YouTube tutorial (thank God for the internet!) and reach for the trusty pair of haircutting scissors I purchased a Walmart. For a while, I became the resident hairstylist in my family, offering trims to my mom and sisters, with varying results. Luckily, we can hide the not-so-great haircuts under our hijabs while we wait for them to grow out.

The last hair cut I got was just a few months ago. The stylist seemed afraid to cut too much off, even after I'd asked for it to be short. "But why short?" She asked. "It's so nice!" Just the opposite of most stylists who get a little scissor-happy when you ask for "just a trim". As a result, I left paying for a cut that barely looked like it had happened.

As I write this, I still haven't figured just what to do with my current mess of locks. "What's the big deal?" Some may ask. "No one's going to see it anyway." And it's true. But I'M going to see it, and so will my family and female friends. Any girl who's ever painted their toenails in the winter, only to cover them up with socks and boots knows it's more than just showing it off to others -- It's about feeling good and doing something for yourself.

Sigh.

What's a girl to do? Maybe I'll just shave it all off. After all, it's just hair, right...?

Share your haircut horror stories (hijabi or otherwise) in the comments!

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About the Author

Ginella Massa is a Canadian journalist, producer, and media trainer. She became Canada's first Hijab-wearing reporter in 2015. Ginella  has worked for CityNews, CTV News, Rogers TV, and NEWSTALK 1010.  She frequently writes about issues affecting Muslims in North America. 

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