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The Barber Micki: Embracing Authenticity and Reshaping the Hair Industry’s Gender Landscape

It’s Pride month and this week, we’re spotlighting one of our LGBTQIA+ clients, The Barber Micki. Micki is a non-binary barber providing a safe, inclusive space to receive empowering, gender-affirming haircuts in South Seattle. They are transforming the haircare landscape one clip at a time, ensuring every haircut is a source of pride for each client.

Hair is said to be the ultimate form of self-expression and a vital element of personality. For those who identify outside traditional gender norms, haircuts can be a transformative choice that empowers them to embrace their true selves. The world of hairstyling is oftentimes gender-based, most notably in barbering which is traditionally seen as a male-dominated perspective. Micki Yeates (she/they), the owner of The Barber Micki, knows the struggle too well. Being non-binary themself, she brings a fresh perspective to the salon, as well as a mission that goes far beyond providing skillful haircuts.

The Barber Micki is a gender-affirming hair care experience, offering fades, short textured cuts, scissor cuts, and long shaggy looks. Most of all, Micki provides great cuts in a safe, inclusive space where people of all gender identities can feel comfortable, supported, and free to explore their unique, authentic selves.

“Hair doesn’t have a gender, so the collective industry needs to move away from that. It doesn’t matter how you identify. You should be able to walk into a salon and get a haircut, free from judgment and true to your individuality. The Barber Micki is that space.”

A New ‘Do

Micki has worked in the hair industry for a decade. Born and raised in a conservative Mormon household in Utah, Micki’s passion for hair was inherited from their grandmother, a longtime hairstylist with 45 years of experience. Despite growing up surrounded by styling products and hair care equipment, as well as Micki’s personal experience with family haircuts, Micki says they never considered hair care as a profession. "I was two years into college, and I absolutely hated it. My mom suggested that I try doing hair. I thought it sounded fun to cultivate a career where I can work with my hands and be on my feet. It also aligns with my learning style, so I dropped out of college and went to beauty school.”

Beauty school turned out to be a wonderful fit for Micki’s unique perspective and personality—but not a perfect fit. She built a diverse skill set working with hair across the spectrum and discovered she had a natural talent. But the program was heavily focused on color and chemical services, and it wasn’t long before Micki realized their true passion lay in shorter haircuts, a narrow niche for non-male stylists.

“I figured out shorter haircuts were my jam. I loved being able to do a mixture of clipper work and scissor work. There are a lot of salons that want you to do everything, but I wanted to fine tune my skills, specialize in what I love to do, and give my clients a better experience.”

On the Fringe of a Change

After graduating, Micki was at a crossroads. They could return to hyper-conservative Utah and most likely find themselves pigeonholed into a traditional high-end women’s salon. Or Micki could make their mark where barriers could be broken, and existing norms could be challenged. Luckily, Micki’s aunt resided in Washington State, and offered them a place to stay. One day later, Micki packed their bags, transferred their license, and moved to what would become their permanent home with a welcoming, like-minded community.

A few months into working as a stylist at Sport Clips, Micki slowly began to explore their own gender identity. She realized she was queer and non-binary, a rarely spoken of concept in Micki’s hometown and a community that was mostly absent from the usual clientele of Bellevue and Issaquah. It was a major revelation that spurred Micki’s eventual move to South Seattle and introduced them to a new community of clientele. Even further, there was a need in the community for the specialized skills Micki possessed: gender-affirming short haircuts.

“I was able to surround myself with people I identified. I had no idea a different city with a different clientele would change my life and introduce me to my community. They helped me develop my queerness, become more comfortable with being nonbinary, and feel authentic. I finally found a home and sense of belonging which is what we all need.”

Cutting-Edge Inclusivity

Entrepreneurship wasn’t a natural choice for Micki, but leadership was. During their 7-year tenure at Sports Clips, Micki wore a multitude of hats, including store manager, marketing manager, and hair educator. In addition to Micki’s specialized skills, their unique experiences and understanding of gender diversity enabled Micki to connect with clients on a deeper level. In 2019, Micki expanded their operations, incorporating part-time work at Rudy’s Barbershop where she gained a following, including on social media.

Finally in 2022, Micki arrived at the destination of a decade-long journey. After years of working for other salons and barbershops, she wanted a barbershop of their own. One that could meet the hair needs of the LGBTQIA+ community. A truly inclusive space.  As a non-binary person, Micki understood the importance of providing a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. As Seattle’s premier queer barber, Micki recognized that by proudly embracing their own identities and creating safe spaces, she would become an advocate for others, inspiring individuals to explore their own authentic selves.

“I thought I would be content working for somebody else, but something switched, and I realized, this is my skillset, my craft, my people. Creating a business that uplifts and gives back to my community—it just made sense. So, I jumped right in.”

The Frizz of the Biz

Micki had a vision and a mission but wasn’t sure of the initial steps. She was able to rent out a booth with The Harlow Collective, a women-owned artist collective in Georgetown. Part hair salon, part tattoo parlor, the collective allows artists to work from their location as commission employees and eventually graduate into renting their own booth. In addition to the incredible mentorship and experience she has gained; the collective represents a major stepping stone towards a brick-and-mortar space for The Barber Micki. “The collective is a ton of artistic minds working out of one space, and so we're all influenced by each other in different ways. Even though we're doing different styles of hair, tattoos, drawing, or make-up makeup. We're all there to support each other artistically and authentically.”

With a booth rental under their belt, Micki knew the next step would be access to capital. As a new LLC, Micki wasn’t eligible for traditional loans, so she reached out to Business Impact NW. She had heard of the organization through word-of-mouth from several of Micki’s clients who found support from Business Impact NW and are now running successful businesses. She received one-on-one business coaching and financial guidance from the Washington Women’s Business Center and began initial steps towards applying for a loan.

“No one in my family has opened small businesses and beauty school didn’t teach us the process of getting financial support. I'm fortunate that I can just rent a booth, but now that I need my own space, I need extra support and that's been my biggest barrier. I found you because one of my clients said, ‘they really helped me’ and I trust my community.”

Grow Your Roots Out

Micki has high hopes for their future storefront. She dreams of The Barber Micki expanding into a community-focused queer space. One where queer artists can set up art shows and LGBTQIA+ authors can host book readings. A salon that not only reshapes the haircare industry but drives societal change and encourages conversations about gender identity, diversity, and acceptance. In a world that is continually evolving, The Barber Micki is a beacon of progress, a hope for a future where everyone can freely explore their unique identities, and a powerful reminder that embracing authenticity is both liberating and empowering.

“I want everybody that sits in my chair to leave feeling confident and inspired. They're not just getting a great haircut that makes them feel good. They're also feeling empowered by me and my goals and our conversations that we have. Just that friendship and community that we've been able to cultivate. I have clients from all over, even some in Alaska. I have so much pride for my community and all we’ve built.”

About the author

Janelle is a storyteller through and through. She was raised in a family of entrepreneurs who owned and managed a series of small businesses, including a Hawaiian restaurant, a video store, and several real estate properties. Growing up in a low-income community but attending schools as a minority in affluent areas, she struggled with the inequities she faced each day.

Janelle graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, specializing in screenwriting and playwriting. She has worked for a number of nonprofits and has remained steadfast in her commitment to using her craft to support the missions of each organization, and uplift underserved communities throughout the Bay Area.

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