Interview: Queer Cuts with Stylist/Barber Leah Shields

Welcome back to dapperQ’s ongoing queer barber and hair stylist interview series: Queer Cuts. This week we’re celebrating Leah (Lee) Shields, a Los Angeles-based hairstylist who can currently be found at the Blind Barber and Refuge.

dapperQ: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your salon.

Lee: My Name is Leah Shields, friends know me as Lee. I have been doing hair for eight years. I started out at Toni and Guy Academy with aspirations to work on fashion and movie sets styling women’s hair. As I progressed in my career, I quickly began to learn that “men’s” grooming and short hair was my niche. Two years ago, a client of mine brought me Blind Barber Pomade, and it definitely changed my life. I was, at the time, working for a salon that titled themselves as a barbershop, yet no certified barbers worked there, so we were constantly turning away shaves, fades, tapers and lineups – anything that required a straight blade razor.

With my research of Blind Barber and its establishment and products, I pondered my place in my career and decided to leave my current place of work to pursue a Barber License. It turned my stylist world upside down and taught me an incredible amount about barbering and the culture of barbering. I was able to incorporate what I learned with my said style and develop into an even better stylist/barber.

Upon receiving my license as a barber, I applied to Blind Barber and was immediately hired. Working here has changed my life. Blind Barber is not just a Barber Shop; It’s also a brand/lifestyle and has a speakeasy located behind. As people are getting their hair cut, after 6pm, you can walk through the closet door to the back, where we have a bar with craft cocktails and delectable grilled cheeses. It’s such a rad place to work. Our staff in the barbershop is made up of all genders and we cut anyone who is looking for a barber-type cut. I know many barbershops to not welcome “ladies” and it’s a shame.

Currently we have two New York locations and one Los Angeles location in Culver City. Soon enough, we will have an East Side L.A. location and I am looking so forward to that. Josh Boyd is one of our owners and our direct boss here at the Los Angeles location. Most weekdays, he is hanging and doing his work in the barbershop with his side-kick and our mascot, the Frenchie named Batman.

It’s very easy to make an appointment on our website, or you can call and speak to a shop keep 310-841-6679.

As far as the speakeasy goes. We are open every day at 6pm, except Sunday. Reservations are welcome for 8 people or more, as well as any other questions via our Manager, Allyson.

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dapperQ: Queer fashion sites like dapperQ and Qwear are often asked, “What is queer style?” Does it exist? And, if so, what sets queer style apart from other aesthetics? Along the same lines, many of our readers ask us about queer hair styles (e.g. is there such a thing and where are the best places to get one). Do you believe that “queer hair styles” are a discernible aesthetic? If so, what makes them unique?

Lee: I believe that queer style, basically, is not abiding to any norms; societal, gender, trends, etc. And yes, it exists. I wish there were more clothing though – masculine clothing – that fit female bodies, and not just slender bodies, [but] bodies of all curve types. I buy all male clothing and just alter it. Gets expensive, but ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. Style is very important to me.

As far as queer hair, for me, as a barber, I’ve experienced stories of uncomfortableness in barbershops amongst the queer community. There never has been any of that with me or my current barbershop. I believe a “queer hairstyle” is that of any human, whatever you want your hair to be. But as queers, we search for like minded individuals to help us achieve what we want and that is what I want to provide. I do hair, but my main focus is
making someone happy and feel good. You’re only as good as your last haircut after all.

blindbarberdapperqBlind Barber

dapperQ: What are some trends you are seeing in queer and/or masculine cuts?

Lee: The undercut has been very popular, as well as the fade, but both those styles are fading out a bit, pun intended. I see a lot of people shaving their heads or just letting it grow. Its a period of transition, but hair is never held to one trend. Styles will always come and go – rock what you want and what makes you comfortable and happy.

dapperQ: How do you understand and approach your clientele different from the ways a classic barbershop/salon does?

Lee: I am relationship focused. I like to build a relationship with my clients. Some clients even become like extended family. I never like to do what “I want.” If that’s the request of the client, I always ask key questions; “How do you style it on a daily?,” “Do you put in a lot of effort?, and, “What do you do for work?” Getting a haircut can be nerve racking so making the client comfortable and feel like they are understood is key. At Blind Barber, we also offer a beverage, alcoholic or non alcoholic. It’s a welcoming effort and creates a great environment for all involved.

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Leah’s work

dapperQ: What are your rates?

Lee: I charge 45 for all cuts.

Aside from Blind Barber, you can find me one day a week on the east side. I work at a salon called Refuge, in Highland Park. There, I do all types of haircuts, as well as color. www.yourfuturehairstylist.com is where you can check out my work and be linked to each business.

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