Changing the Industry Definition of a Female Barber: Taylor Leven
The world of barbering is without a doubt a male dominated profession. And while that may not change anytime soon, one female barber named Taylor Leven is working hard to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to be able to express their creativity behind the chair.
At 25 years young, Taylor just opened her own barbershop called Headspace. Taylor is also a Booksy Ambassador and a Wahl Pro Select Team member. Her career as an educator has taken her to various cities across the globe. Most recently, she stepped on stage to teach industry newcomers in different parts of Asia, including major cities like Tokyo, Japan.
Social media followers regularly applaud Taylor for her undeniable talent with the tools of the trade and for her ability to creatively market her work online. But despite all of her gifts—Taylor confronted an unheard of amount of rejection, whenever she applied for barbering jobs.
Regardless of her setbacks, this passionate female barber and business savvy shop owner currently spends her days and nights confidently yet casually inviting guests into her gender neutral shop, where she promotes inclusivity while celebrating different cultures.
Taylor has one simple yet essential goal. She wants to help bring people in the industry together through her greatest joy and life’s passion—styling hair. And while doing just that, she takes steps to make sure other people don’t have to experience the hardships she encountered.
Step inside the colorful world of Taylor Leven. Keep reading to learn about her efforts to challenge stereotypes and push boundaries. Taylor is a beacon of hope in a world that’s full of complex issues. Her dedication to sparking social change earned our attention and deserves yours. And that’s exactly why we selected Taylor for our Women’s History Month campaign.
Confronting Prejudice as a Female Barber
Before creating the business Taylor literally calls “home,” she spent over five years perfecting her craft and making her mark on the industry. With a dual license in both cosmetology and barbering, Taylor made a name for herself by mastering short haircuts and longer length styling.
“My whole career molded me to become the person that I am today. Clients can go to a salon and they aren’t able to get short hairstyles. Or they can go to a barbershop and aren’t able to get longer length styling. Those people have found me as a homebase, because I have experience and knowledge in both areas,” said Taylor.
Although Taylor desperately wanted to create a space for her growing customer base—women who wanted shorter cuts and men who gravitated towards longer hairstyles—she also needed to find a shop that welcomed her as a female barber and celebrated her talent.
“When I became a barber, I applied to every single barbershop in the city of Chicago. And they all laughed in my face—literally. But I just knew this was what I wanted to do. And I honestly let it motivate me,” she said, adding that people kept telling her she’d never make it in the industry.
Those harsh opinions provided the motivation Taylor needed to open her own shop, where she could showcase her talents, better connect with the barbering community, and give other professionals the opportunity that no one ever gave her.
“Over quarantine, I just had all this time to reflect. And I realized I was unhappy where I was at. But I also realized that the things I needed to feel fulfilled, I couldn’t find in any other shops that I knew of. So, I realized I needed to create what the industry is lacking,” she said.
Creating a New Shop Called Headspace
Without hesitation, Taylor admits that part of her decision to open Headspace came from the harsh reality that she’d have to create her own path, if she was going to make an impact as a female barber in such a competitive industry that’s typically dominated by men.
Everything came to fruition for Tayler while she was walking past an empty building advertising that it was for sale. Taylor made an appointment to view the space. Then she signed a lease the day after stepping inside. And Headspace officially opened a few months later in January 2021.
“I think the biggest thing is people want to wait until they’re ready. But you’re never going to be ready. You’re never going to know everything. There’s always more to learn. It’s just like in life with your health, with your spirituality—it’s a wave. It’s a roller coaster. Life’s an ever-turning tornado, a world-wind that you just have to make your way through,” she said.
It’s rare for a young professional to step out on their own to open a business. But it’s even less common for a female barber to open a shop in her mid-twenties. Tayler decided to do just that. She opened Headspace in Downers Grove, Illinois—the suburb of Chicago was where she was born and raised. And while creating this space to best serve her clients, she took her own experiences into consideration.
“It was really important for me to create a safe space, where anyone could walk through the door and feel at home and feel like this is a family. I want everyone here to live wildly and fearlessly, because I’ve never really felt like I could do that in other shops. So, that’s how I wanted to modernize the barbershop world,” she said.
Adding the Finishing Touches
For Taylor, opening her own business meant creating a shop that would reflect the concepts of inclusivity and acceptance that she wanted her space to project. To make that happen, she chose an androgynous look for the space, so that anyone who walked into the shop could feel at home.
The wood floors are a neutral grey color. And the minimalist shelves indiscriminately support potted plants, along with professional grade products like beard oils and shampoos. Each staffer stands proudly in front of a wooden station, where essential barbering tools are the only things available—barbicide, combs, clippers, and a range of different guards.
“This is one of the only jobs where you don’t have to put on a mask to go to work. You don’t have to change your verbiage. You don’t have to change your clothes. You just come as you are. And that level of peace is something that you couldn’t put a price on,” she said.
Hiring staffers who could internalize this mindset, love the work they do, and connect with the people they serve was also important to Taylor. So, she hired a room full of professionals from different social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. But she made sure that each one of her staffers believes in providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who could be marginalized.
“The biggest thing for me is personality. I think that anyone can learn how to cut hair, but you can’t teach someone how to care about other people. You can’t teach someone how to just be a good person. And that’s always been the number one thing for me. Because in a space this size, everyone feeds off each other. So if the energy’s off, we’re all going to feel it,” she said.
Challenging the Mindsets of Others
Moving forward for Taylor means confronting some of the issues that held her back in the past. And that's because others may be going through the same struggle. So, her goal is to continue to empower others and inspire confidence through every cut, shave, and style.
Taylor projects that same message onto each staffer she employs or mentors. Taylor also believes that having the right mindset is the only thing holding most people back. So, she encourages her mentees to summon enough willpower to just get up and say, “You know what? I’m gonna do it.” And that’s because Taylor believes everyone has a gift. And those gifts need to be shared with the world.
With regards to the industry, Taylor closed by saying that she hopes her space inspires change in regards to how people view one another. She wants to see more equality and more people connect on common ground. And she wants to help more people in this industry truly understand one another.
“I think it’s a very vast separation. It’s either, you do men’s hair, you do women’s hair. And that’s what people ask me. ‘So, do you do men’s hair or women’s hair?’ I do—everyone’s hair. I don’t separate. I don’t segregate. We’re all human. What hair we wear on the top of our head has nothing to do with our gender. And I just think that needs to change,” she said.