If there’s one thing to know about Jamie DiGrazia, it’s that she’s dedicated to her community. The long-time stylist and business owner is making waves in Chicago with her salon, Logan Parlor, that also doubles as a safe haven for LGBTQ+ folx. At her salon, individualism is celebrated and guests aren’t charged for their gender but their hairstyle, thanks to her gender-neutral pricing system. But she’s not just committed to helping the LGBTQ+ community, she is also working to impact the greater Chicago community as part of her new role as WAHL Professional’s Retail and Business Educator. When she’s not educating barbers and stylists, she’s also advocating for WAHL’s Fade It Forward program that provides barber scholarships to underprivileged Chicago youth.
We had the chance to speak with Jamie about how she got started, her new role at WAHL Professional, and her inclusive salon, Logan Parlor.
The Tease: At what point did you figure out that you wanted a career in the hair industry?
Jamie DiGrazia: When I was young, my aunt did hair and I kind of knew since then because she would come over and visit our family. She did hair and she had this awesome green Camaro that she would drive to our friends and family’s houses. I just thought that she had the coolest job. Like, she got to hang out with all of us and then, you know, make us all look good. I was just like, “This has got to be like the best job!” So, since I was really little, that’s what I always said that I wanted to do. When it came time to start thinking about after high school and college, I was like, “I guess I’m going to beauty school.” That’s the only thing I ever thought I would do.
Was there anyone who inspired your work or career early on? If so, who?
Jamie: I would say Sam Villa would probably be the person just because of his brand and he was able to speak in a language that I understood. Sam has his own brand of shears and tools. The reason that I got into him was because when I first started out, my wrists would really hurt. He had shown me during a class in New York how to properly hold things and then he ended up, years later, designing a whole line of tools that were ergonomically correct. I bought all his tools and shears and I’ve haven’t had a problem since then. So, he definitely helped me logistically with my actual tools but then also technically with how to use them. He’s definitely had the biggest impact on me and my career for sure.
You just started a new gig as the new Retail and Business Educator for WAHL Professional where you’ll be educating barbers and stylists on how to use the WAHL 1919 product line. How did this partnership come about?
Jamie: Well, it came about when we were at the ISSE show in Long Beach. I ended up standing in line at a Starbucks next to the education director. We were both stuck there and we got to chatting and I’m like, “I love WAHL. I’ve been following them my whole career. It’s all I used for tools.” So, we just got to talking and we were there for NAHA so we were talking about that and she’s like, “We have to work together one day.” It turns out that she was also from Chicago and she started coming to Logan Parlor and getting her hair cut with another person on my team which was really cool. We kind of made that connection and then I was like, “I want to work with you guys too. I just don’t know where it fits.” So, we kept in touch and literally a year and a half later, they were like, “We figured out how we want to bring you on board.” And it was for the relaunch of their product line. The reason I’m excited is because WAHL is a company from Illinois and it’s family-owned. It’s from here and I just trust them as a tool company.
In your role with WAHL, you’re constantly educating others. How important is continued education to a barber or stylist?
Jamie: It’s the most important, especially in our industry. I mean, the trends keep changing and you have to be able to evolve and grow with them. So, education – especially business education – is where we’re really going to have an opportunity to touch people because there’s so much technical skill out there. Even on Instagram, you can watch a tutorial on how to do a quick style. You can create things just by playing around with a product and you can kind of self teach a lot that creativity. But, when it comes to business skills and looking at your career, not only as a creative career but as a business, I think education could just impact a lot of people.
WAHL announced their Fade It Forward scholarship program that provides barber scholarships to Chicago youth in underserved communities. Could you talk a little bit about this program?
Jamie: So, I’m super stoked. This is like the icing on the cake for me, personally. I didn’t even know about it at first and then when they were presenting me with this opportunity, they started sharing it and I was like “oh my god.” I was already on board but, then I was like this is amazing. That’s why I think I’m so proud to be a part of it. Being from Chicago and living here knowing that some of the inner city kids just don’t have the same opportunities and that they are going in and helping kids that are actually in need is amazing. You know, it’s not like anyone can just apply for the scholarship. It’s made to impact someone’s life dramatically. It’s targeting people that these scholarships will be life-changing for and when these individuals go through school, they’ll help them through mentorship afterwards with other barbers. So, it’s not just like here’s your barber’s scholarship. They are seeing them all the way through.
The purpose is that youth can go and then open a barber shop in their neighborhood and be a mentor to other people or impact their own neighborhood. So far, I know they’ve done four people in Chicago and I know there’s perspective of moving into other cities like Saint Louis and Cleveland. They want to expand it. The first goal is we need to be able to fund the scholarship. Barbers and stylists that use 1919 products are going to be able to directly contribute. Like right now I have the products in my salon and when I sell it, I’m telling my guests about the program and how cool it is that the purchase of their pomade is actually helping underprivileged kids to go to barber school. That’s a big deal and it just feels good to them as well as us as a shop.
Your salon, Logan Parlor, has really become a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago. What inspired you to become a salon owner?
Jamie: You know, you always think that you can do something different or better. It’s like if these people can do it, why can’t I? I had worked in some places that I learned a lot from of what to do and maybe some of what not to. It was just something that developed over time. I think that I always had that attitude of owning my own business because I worked for my family. I would just watch my uncles grow their business. I worked every job inside their restaurant from like the dishwasher to, in the end, managing the downtown location. So, it’s kind of like this would just be the evolution of I think being a hairdresser. It was just the next step in my career. And with that, you start thinking about what you would want your company to look like and that’s kind of how we got to where we are at.
When you were first opening your salon, did you always intend for it to have a super inclusive atmosphere?
Jamie: Yes, definitely. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, it was really important to me that when we were servicing people that we weren’t gendering them. You know, if someone has short hair, it’s not a men’s cut. It was about really trying to dissolve that lingo and it’s been working. There’s actually a lot of salons just in our neighborhood in Logan Square that have adopted that kind of pricing structure. Because so many are doing it, it’s almost like the other salons have to. It’s like expected now which is great. But yeah, in the beginning, I just wanted to make sure that we had an inclusive pricing structure so that when people come in, they would feel more seen and not just seen as their haircut.
What inspired your gender neutral pricing structure? I read that your salon was one of the first to implement this concept.
Jamie: There’s another salon in my neighborhood, Barbara & Barbara and they were open before us so, technically they might be the actual first. But, I was working in salons before I opened and I would have to walk up to guests and be like, “Can you charge them for a men’s cut?” when they clearly just didn’t identify in that way. That’s just not cool. So, I knew when we opened that we had to do something different and that we couldn’t charge that way. I’m hoping that barbershops will adopt it too instead of being such a “boys’ club.”
How has the current coronavirus pandemic impacted your salon?
Jamie: I mean, it was pretty devastating when it was happening. I just wish that I would have known that we would be out three months. I think that I would have put that time into creating other things but, that’s not important now. What’s happening now is interesting because I feel like we’re just doing the same -we’re just doing hair but with masks on. We’re following all of the guidelines. We rearranged the salon and moved the stations six feet apart. We put up some drapes and took out a shampoo bowl just to make some more space for people. There’s also less waiting inside so it does feel less like a fun community space where people are engaged and talking to each other. We’re just trying to give people the space they need right now. With that it’s just been difficult right now because we’re running at a lower capacity because we’re mandated to but also because the demand is lower right now for our services in general. For the people that are comfortable coming in, we’re doing our best to serve them in any way that we can.
We’re thinking about expanding our services to be more convenient for the people who feel safe to come in and we’re doing everything that we can to keep the space clean. But, now I think the opportunity is to really deliver to the people who are coming. People just haven’t been touched and probably feel like taking care of themselves. So, a lot of people are more excited to get additional services. Eyebrow waxings are huge because it’s like all we see of someone’s face right now. One of our girls is doing something called eyebrow lamination. We have some stylists on the team that are doing eyebrow services and extensions. We’re even thinking about offering natural manicures. Little things that we can do to the people who are there that will make them feel good and allow the team to still remain busy.
What has been the biggest milestone in your career so far?
Jamie: I mean, winning a NAHA award was pretty cool. I think that was a cool recognition, but my milestone would be running and keeping my business alive for seven years and just thriving in this climate. I’m pretty proud of reopening and trying to turn everything into an opportunity. There’s been a lot that has shown itself during this time. But I think the biggest thing is just coming back and meeting that challenge. Nothing is more fulfilling and rewarding for me. It’s cool to win a hair competition and stuff but being able to support my team and create jobs – that’s where it’s at for me.
What advice would you give to any young or aspiring hairstylists?
Jamie: I would say definitely just know that you will always be learning. There’s no end to that. Be sure to focus on one thing at a time. Also, find mentorship in a person or brand or whatever that looks like for you. My first piece of advice right out of school is to definitely do an apprenticeship with someone that you trust and who shares your same belief system. You kind of want to get in where you fit in, I always say. Find the salon home that is the right fit for you. I’m a big fan of growing as a team so surround yourself with people that you can be inspired by and grow with.