Muslim women crave stylish hairdos, Observant women who wear the hijab are hard-pressed to find the salon experience in a male-free environment
In a fit of desperation last summer, Rownak Chowdhury washed her hair, stood in the middle of her kitchen floor and handed her mother a pair of scissors.
“Just chop it,” she told her.
It was hardly the ideal salon experience but, for Chowdhury, it was the quickest and easiest way to deal with hair that had grown long, heavy and scraggly under her head scarf.
“This is what I do when it gets really bad,” says Chowdhury, recalling the incident. “It was just the chop across but it did the job – kind of.”
Like many who wear the hijab, Chowdhury couldn’t find a high-end salon that could give her the privacy she requires as a conservative Muslim and the stylish haircut she wants as a young, modern woman.
“It shouldn’t be this hard for a Muslim woman in Toronto to get a good hair cut,” says Chowdhury of her years of searching for a salon, from Yorkville to Markham. “We just want a place where we feel normal, and can get our money’s worth.”
Instead, she and many others across the city have accumulated a war chest of hijabi horror stories – tales of having men walk in on them, of being shunted into basements and backrooms, of mediocre haircuts or worse, and of being forced to pay a premium for even this accommodation.
Many yearn for what a high-end salon can offer. They want to feel good during the process, and come out looking even better.
Sisters Zenab and Syma Khan had that experience when they lived in Winnipeg, so they were eager to find a salon when they moved to Toronto six years ago. The result was frustration.
Syma called all the salons in Yorkville and a few on Yonge St., most of which had been rated the best in the city.
“They were really nice when we asked them but, since many of them have an open-concept layout, they couldn’t really accommodate us,” she says. “But they said they would if they could.”
Zenab found that not everybody was as understanding. One salon in the Manulife Centre rebuffed her, saying, “Why do you even need to cut your hair?’”
“I was very surprised,” Zenab says. “I thought that in Toronto, because it’s so multicultural, such a request would be normal. And it’s a silly question. Of course, we cut our hair. Just because they can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
“We’re just like other women. We want to look good for ourselves.”
Four years ago, through word-of-mouth, the Khan sisters decided to call Civello and were told they could be accommodated at the chain’s Rosedale location.
When they arrived, they were ushered into the upstairs attic and had the entire room to themselves. Stylist Samina Khalid assured them that all the men in the salon were told not to come upstairs. Then they were pampered.
“I could tell that this was a big deal for them,” Khalid says. “We’re lucky that our building is large enough that we can provide this service.”
Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/yc5c679