When Lucky Longo first walked into a barber shop to get her short hair clipped and shaped, she was turned away. Barber shops tend to be run by men for men, and just as salons tend to be a hangout for ladies, the barber shops tend to be a hangout for manly men and dudes. Which usually results in a very gender-divided place on both ends of the spectrum that most people don’t think about, including owners who don’t make a conscious decision to exclude anyone when cultivating the culture inside of their salon or shop.
So, when thinking hair - which is a defining part of most people’s appearance - it’s just taking a moment to step back and look at the vibe of a hair establishment. All those years ago, after being turned away for a cut, Lucky left the barber shop confused. She had short hair. Wasn’t a barber a specialist in cutting short hair?
Getting turned away was the genesis for the seed of an idea to open A Lucky Cut, the quietly cool, “good vibes” barber shop on Main Street near the library. You may have wondered about the shop as you wandered by, but have never walked into because it is very seriously reserved as an appointment only, one-on-one establishment.
Maybe Edgy Hair Cuts And A Barber Concept Intimidate You
I’ll admit - I’ve been watching the hair cuts on A Lucky Cut’s Instagram come out. All of them - from the fades on the dudes, to the fade swoops on the little dudes, to the incredible short cuts, the head shaves to super-long layers to all out transformations from long hair to short.
But I was too intimidated to consider going in. Which, it turns out, is completely ironic and the opposite of what A Lucky Cut wants to put out there to the world. This was until Lucky Longo herself reached out to A Little Beacon Blog during June, which is LGBTQ month, to let us know that she is a barber shop who specializes in cutting the hair of transgender and gay people who otherwise are not comfortable going into a traditional salon or barber shop that may feel too girly or too manly to them. A Lucky Cut positioned itself as an in-between place that is very hip and cool and comfortable.
A-HA! I was intrigued - and still a little intimidated because the language and culture for trans life is new to me, so even asking the questions for an interview had to be carefully crafted so as not to offend - or so I thought.
But First… Before ALBB’s Interview, Listen To Kingston Radio’s Interview
Turns out, Kingston Radio also wanted to explore the gender-slanted salon and traditional barber shop experience, and interviewed Lucky on their show for the episode “Queer Hair Roundtable!” It’s a great listen that interviews three hair stylists who cut hair of everyone, where you’ll discover just how young the hair passion starts in a person, and what it may feel like for a gay or transgender person walking into a salon or barber shop, where gender probably wasn’t considered when building the brand, but is ingrained into the experience of that salon or barber shop, leaving some people feeling uncomfortable in the chair.
Meet Lucky Longo, Creator and Owner of A Lucky Cut
We’re going to let Lucky take it from here, in a Q&A style interview. Her voice is pretty real and her spoken word good to read, so you’ll be able to absorb it direct, not sliced and diced in quotes.
Q: You are known for cutting hair of transgender people. Is there a reason for this? Do they feel comfortable and safe with you, as opposed to a “traditional” salon, whatever that means?
LUCKY: Yes. I believe people come to me for comfort and safety. I have a very chill environment, and I try to create a safe space to share feelings. [This is a difference from your] non-traditional barbershop so people aren’t gawking at you during your cut. I am appointment-only, and I feel very sacred with that time. Private sessions make that helpful. During transitions, people are faced with new things like beards and hair loss, and I guide them, teach them, and talk about what to expect.
Some new styles are based around wherever their transition is bringing them. Even young and newly identifying people come to me for that “edgy cut,” something to make them feel good, almost as if they slipped on a new crown. I take my job very seriously for this topic specifically.
Q: “Edgy hair” (aka hair shaved on one side, long on other), what is that style? Where did it come from?
LUCKY: It comes from people being bold and wanting to have an identity. Sometimes it comes from people who have thick hair and they say “fuck it… I want half.” Sorry, I was projecting. I did that. But I had both sides shaved and grew it long. But shaved side is definitely edgy and fun and you can do stuff with it.
Q: Anyone can sit in your chair and get an amazingly styled cut. Man or woman. Long hair or short. Man transitioning to woman, or woman transitioning to man. Hair is in and of itself a major emotional piece to someone’s identity. You are working with someone in a journey, and you’ll encounter them again on their journey and things could be much different physically and emotionally for them. How do you help them feel comfortable finding themselves in your chair as you help with the crown (hair) part?
LUCKY: Oh wow. Everyone is so energetically different here. With what and where they are in their particular journey. It’s my job before I even begin to cut anything, to feel them somehow. I get deep fast so I can find what they want, hear what they need, and know how they want to be seen. I like when people bring photos. Even though people apologize usually at first, because someone teased them for it I suppose. But I love a photo to go off of. It’s just one more idea or clue to where I take it. I always hug everyone before they sit down usually.
Q: Did you always cut hair?
LUCKY: I studied graphic design at Pratt right out of high school and worked in animal hospitals during that time. I tanked miserably after three years and shit got too computery, so I went in hard with the vet tech stuff while living out in Brooklyn and tapped out emotionally and cut hair at night with dreams of getting out of the city. I apprenticed at night at Dickson Hairshop for two years then went on to the Barber Academy and moved out of the city. I did both for a long time, until one day I just said “fuck it” and traveled with Coal and cut hair all up and down the Hudson Valley, starting 100 percent in 2008.
Editor’s Note: Lucky grew up in hair salons, and declares them her comfort zone (as you’ll hear in Radio Kingston’s episode). But it took her a while to settle in to her permanent position behind the chair. Lucky did a lot of hair clippering during home visits. Some of her trans and gay clients were not comfortable leaving their homes to come into a traditional salon or barber shop. As is common with hair stylists, when Lucky left or moved, many of her clients followed her wherever she went. During Lucky’s travels up and down the Hudson River, she fell in love with Beacon and set up a hair salon in the old Beacon High School, which she describes as “a speakeasy private barbershop right inside of the old guidance counselor’s office.” Recently, she moved to Main Street, in the little brick building near the public library and Glazed Over Donuts.
Q: What was it like when your barber shop was in the old Beacon High School?
LUCKY: So good. I shared space with Mimi Longo, the musician, so between us there were always people in and out all day and we would hang hard even after work in our space.
Q: You describe yourself as a Lady Barber. What does that mean for someone visiting your shop? Do you do men’s hair only? Do you do women’s hair?
LUCKY: I am just not a man’s barber. I cut everybody’s hair. I exclude no one from my chair. It’s a place to create the safe space to become more you. So I really help try and embrace that feeling. There is no room for judgment there. It’s a predominantly men’s trade. But I like to make it known that I’m a woman just mostly for the other person’s comfort and preference. I have had men turn me down for a haircut when I am in a walk-in barber shop because I am a woman.
Q: What is the difference between a hair salon and a barbershop?
LUCKY: The million dollar question. Sounds so simple but it’s really very broad. The difference between the shops and not just the workers is, usually barbershops are walk-in and people come and go way faster than a salon, where [the client is] getting more services. Barbershops are usually predominantly full of men.
Q: As a lady barber, when you cut lady’s hair, do you wet it? Shampoo it? Blow it dry?
When I cut long hair on any gender, I don’t wash it. As a barber, I spray wet it. I blow dry it after. I don’t do blow outs or curls and shit like that. People are coming and paying for just a cut. Usually you’re paying more for that [extra styling stuff] anyway. Most people just go home and shower anyway.
Q: Can you trim long hair? Or do you just cut it all off?!? Just being real here…
LUCKY: Good question. And no way. I envy long hair. People think I just do drastic cuts only, but it’s not true. I cut all hair. Long. Short. Trims. Big cuts. Bangs. Beards. Sometimes people even apologize when they come in. Like, “sorry just a trim…” As if I’m bored. But I love my job. [I’m here to] make people feel good. Be more themselves. Whatever that is for them. No judgment.
Q: Continuing in my realness… What if my hair is too boring for you? Mine’s just long and straight (well… it’s confused between frizz/curl/straight). I don’t know what direction to go. But your cuts are intriguing.
LUCKY: I love what I do. And I love the opportunity to cut anyone’s hair. I know how long people wait for my appointments, so I don’t take anyone’s patience lightly. I know they waited to get to that chair. And if you want just a trim, I respect you for liking your hair enough to want it done right. [Edgy] or not.
Q: As a woman who wants to get short hair, do you think women in the same circumstances feel more comfortable in your establishment then with a traditional barber who tend to have men?
LUCKY: Oh, of course. That’s definitely the consensus! Usually the traditional barber cuts hard lines [that] aren’t long-lasting and don’t serve the softness of a feminine touch to a short edgy haircut that some women prefer. But nonetheless, whatever you want and whatever woman you are, any person just wants to be heard. And not assumed what they want.
Q: You’ve gone “even more epic” by having two Beacon-famous stylists in your place - Kendra and Eileen - who do color. What does that mean for your lady barbershop? Is it a hybrid salon/barbershop?
Great question. It’s still a barbershop ‘cause it’s where I work. These ladies - I am lucky enough to just share my space with here and there. And they have their own clientele.
Q: Is unisex a word anymore? Mr. Bell’s storefront window says “unisex” on his storefront window, as women and men stylists have both cut all hairs there. Is there a new word now?
LUCKY: My mom was a hairdresser and I grew up in all her salons seeing that word. It feels old. I don’t know what word I wanna use. But I usually just answer “I cut all the hairs. Get in my chair.”
Just for fun, click on the picture below to get to the speed video of her mom cutting Lucky’s hair.