Like a rumbling underground revolution afoot in the streets of a timeless city, the journey of BISHOPS CUTS/COLOR has been nothing short of disruptive and extraordinary. Meddling where others dared not, BISHOPS created a compelling alternative in the hair-styling industry, redefining the traditional hair salon experience with its audacious aesthetics, a la carte gender neutral pricing, and focus on welcoming people in their communities with unwavering acceptance and inclusivity. BISHOPS is not just ahead of most trends for businesses – they are creating them.
Chronicling the Journey of BISHOPS
The story began in 2001 when the founder, noticing a gaping chasm between pricey good haircuts and somewhat average affordable ones, became hell-bent on exacting change. BISHOPS Cuts/Color was hence born with a singular aim – to offer unpretentious, affordable, and accessible haircare for all. Fast-forward two decades, this humble hairshop business, which offers both salon and barber services, along with treatments, styling, line design, extensions and more, has blossomed into a household name in markets needing them most.
With a firm conviction focused on serving people – both clients and staff – the barbershop-salon offered an inviting space for a collective creative force to thrive, unmoored by traditional conventions and norms expected in the beauty industry. Stylists and barbers can wear what they want – no uniform or rigid all-black outfits required – and can be unapologetically themselves – no covering of tattoos or removing of piercings or downplaying of their own personalities. Clients feel this while in the chair, and because of it, in turn feel more comfortable experimenting with new looks and styles that enhance their own sense of self. BISHOPS encourages everyone to be who they want to be, judgement free, and has been at the forefront of bringing this brand belief to new areas for 20+ years.
Now, as we all look to 2024, BISHOPS Cut/Color stands alone in the bullish beauty business, waving its flag of ingenuity high and proud. Its growing presence across 40% of the states in this country and tentative ventures into more markets are indicative of a kind of a global salon revolution, and BISHOPS is leading it from the front, promoting eco-consciousness, appropriate pricing models, and innovative hairstyling on the go.
BISHOPS Culture: Interweaving Edginess and Inclusivity
In the fast-paced landscape of the fashion industry, the blend of traditional skill and anti-establishment ethos that BISHOPS offers is a welcomed breath of fresh air. The salons boast a palpable atmosphere of inclusivity, where everyone, irrespective of their gender or hair length, is not just warmly welcomed but actively encouraged to experiment with their look, introducing them to new products, treatments, and brands such as Barb, evo, Uppercut, JVN, Aqua, K18 and more.
Far from being just a place to get a haircut, BISHOPS has evolved into a creative vista where clients, the artistic team, and a brew of fashion, culture, and music blend into a hypnotizing concoction. The space teems with defiantly asymmetric aesthetics, vibrant walls, inspiring visuals, and foot-tapping tunes played through BISHOPS TV – it is a purposeful all-out assault on the senses that’s uniquely them and positioned perfectly to be part of the community in which they exist.
Analyzing the Edgy Hair Trends Popularized by BISHOPS
Having already garnered substantial recognition in the industry and countless Best
Of awards in the markets in which they operate, BISHOPS isn’t just a hybrid salon, but rather a way of life, as expressed by many of the owners and managers with which we spoke. Its contribution to the hairdressing world through the adoption of ingenious techniques and cutting-edge services is influential. The outcome is a spectrum of styles that is as diverse and individualistic as the people BISHOPS serves; from flamboyant rainbow hues to an elegant balayage, the daring undercuts or a scintillating pixie hairdo, scalp treatments and molecular hair repair, and the more recognized by those not in the industry, beard trim and bang cut – group them all under the indomitable BISHOPS experience.
Real-world Impact of BISHOPS Cuts/Color
BISHOPS isn’t just about the transformative trends and techniques it introduces; its influence extends to how clients perceive and present themselves. It’s about not just looking good, but more importantly, feeling good. Transformations have breathed new life into individuals, with their newfound appearances filling them with renewed confidence. It makes them feel not just accepted but celebrated, propelling them to express themselves in vibrant new ways. From celebrities to regular clients, everyone, once they step into a BISHOPS, is assured an experience, unique and personal, that makes them feel undeniably fabulous.
But it’s not just the clients in chairs feeling great about BISHOPS, as location owners feel the same about the businesses they are building. Dawn Morris, owner of BISHOPS University Place in Tacoma, WA shared her story.
“A few years back, my husband and I decided that we wanted to open a business in our community. We searched through quite a few franchise opportunities before we found BISHOPS. When we visited the headquarters in Portland, we knew we’d found the right place for us. We loved the creative people and the chance to develop a business where everyone was welcomed. As a mother, I particularly liked the opportunity to establish and foster a hair business where the staff looks forward to going to work. Our oldest daughter, Lindsey, was a stylist. Before she was killed in a tragic accident, I watched her struggle to find a salon to work in. Either the environment was so negative, or the pay was sketchy, or…Lindsey finally stopped doing what she loved- making others look good. As a former teacher, I know that the environment people work in is important. My first priority was finding a place where staff would feel safe and where we could network easily with other businesses. My second priority was finding a manager who shared my vision of creating a space where everyone is welcomed and valued, staff as well as customers. I could not be prouder of our manager, Gwendolen! She has put together a staff of professional people who love to come to work. Because of that, customers will often tell me how much they love to go to BISHOPS University Place. “Such a positive, fun place,” is a frequent comment.”
Creating an environment where people want to be – clients and staff – was expressed to us time and time again in our conversations with BISHOPS owners. Dawn told us, “Two of our employees have been able to buy their first homes while working for BISHOPS University Place. I wish Lindsey could see what’s been done for other creative people like her. She would love it!”
These sentiments of uplifting everyone with which they interact are echoed through the network. When asked why they chose BISHOPS, Karman Stahl, owner of BISHOPS Clifton Heights and BISHOPS Oakley in Cincinnati told us, “I was looking for my own business and was presented with BISHOPS. Of all the options I was looking at BISHOPS resonated with me. I knew there was a major gap in the Cincinnati market for a cool place for people, especially young people and/or the LGBTQ+ community, to get their hair needs taken care of because my own kids experienced it. The choices were either a high end, expensive, spa-like experience, inexpensive chop shops or barber shops. None of them enjoyed getting their haircuts and only went out of necessity. I also felt an immediate connection with the brand. We share a value system. This brand and I had found each other, and we both believed that accessibility should not be a privilege but a right. A brand that shared my passion for people and our community.”
BISHOPS is unique as a brand, as their pricing is the same across the board for services. Instead of pricing for men’s, women’s, kids’ services, clients are charged for a buzz cut, short cut, or long cut, or any service they request regardless of how they identify. Some salon owners for other franchise brands believe this leaves money on the table, as women will often pay more for their hair needs. When presented with this, Karman responded, “This is the ONLY model for hair as far as I’m concerned. Why have my short-haired female identifying friends always paid a premium to be female? It makes no sense to me in the same way it makes no sense that my clothing, which is smaller than my husband’s, costs me more to dry clean.”
This positioning related to fairness and equality in all things, but especially pricing is a major tenant of the BISHOPS ethos. Karman continued, “We’re here to celebrate our differences – let’s be different together. We also go out of our way to be good humans, and everyone feels this in their interactions with our team. I have always felt different, even though I pretty much look like a typical midwestern middle-aged straight white woman. I worked hard in my career and rose to the top and didn’t like what I saw or felt when I got there. I knew there had to be a business that I could build and instill (and share) the values of love, kindness, and acceptance to our employees and to the people we serve. We’ve done that successfully most of the time and I will never tire of trying.”
It is this unwavering commitment to service that separates BISHOPS from others, and it’s clearly demonstrated by the franchise owners in the system. Twenty-one of the BISHOPS locations nationally have female operators, who often bring a different set of skills to the management table. When asked if being a female franchise owner impacts the culture of the shop, Karman replied, “I don’t really know what our employees think, other than I hear them whisper sometimes that some of them think I’m a badass. LOL! I don’t know if it “changes” the culture by being a woman in charge, because it IS the culture. We are grateful to our core for every client that crosses our threshold to spend time and money with us. We are compassionate, we are empathetic, and we are fierce. One of my greatest joys over the years has been working with young women and teaching them what it means to be a powerful warrior and how they can be one too. It’s become a really important part of the impact I need to make through owning a few small but fierce hair shops.”
Other female owners with which we spoke doubled down on BISHOPS resonating with their own life lens. Alison Laevy, owner of BISHOPS Lowry in Denver, Colorado told us, “We chose BISHOPS specifically because the mission, vision and values aligned with our own. We love the inclusivity, judgement-free environment and especially the gender non-binary pricing. We love the idea of empowering people through building confidence in the way they look, matching their appearance with who they feel like inside. The non-binary, a la carte pricing was especially important to me. Clients should pay for the services they use, not based on gender or age. Transparency is critical, so folks know what to expect. My experience had been that hair salons provided services that charged women more and you don’t know how much until you pay. It’s good business to be fair, consistent, and transparent in pricing.”
The point of women being charged unfairly in the beauty category seemed to impact local owners’ own decisions about choosing BISHOPS. Some told us it absolutely had an influence on their choice to open a gender-neutral concept and BISHOPS was an opportunity to right some wrongs they saw existing in the marketplace. When this was mentioned, Alison let us know, “It’s hard to say if being a woman impacted the decision to purchase BISHOPS because it is so intrinsic to who I am. I majored in women’s studies in college and earned a graduate degree in labor relations. I am a huge advocate for working women. I share that with my staff, and they know I want them to have the same rights, benefits, and opportunities I had in my career. I try to empower them to demand that in every job. I am transparent about pay and benefits and offer a path for professional stylists so they can have a fulfilling career and plan for retirement, and as a woman I’m sensitive to the fact that women experience disparate treatment at work, even in predominantly women-dominated industries. There is a bias even toward male stylists who often get bigger tips and more requests. One woman client even said to my female manager, “I prefer to go to a man because he needs a career.” It was like something out of Mary Tyler Moore, 50 years ago. I want my women stylists to know they can be financially independent and not rely on a relationship to meet expenses and then some.”
Because of these beliefs and leadership behaviors demonstrated by BISHOPS owners, the brand is not just making waves, it’s causing a veritable tempest in the world of hair services. The ascendancy of BISHOPS has been marked by a tangible ripple effect that is inspiring other emerging salons and barbershops across the globe. Today, BISHOPS isn’t just a haircutting authority, but rather a setter of trends and breaker of norms. As a result, new salons opening worldwide continually look to the BISHOPS model for inspiration, aiming to replicate its vibrant atmosphere, hair-styling innovations, and commitment to inclusivity as a standard to strive towards. BISHOPS CEO and Brand President Leigh Feldman says it best, “Everybody needs hair services. That’s not going to change. However, BISHOPS is actively changing the expectation of what a haircare experience can be. We see a future where consumers will always choose the socially conscious, community-oriented, fun-loving, artist-driven brand over the boring options. If you can see that too, join us, either as an owner providing a safe space for expression, or as an artist in a locally owned location who is passionate about hair and people.”
To learn more about BISHOPS Cuts/Color, visit www.bishops.co