The barbershop remains a crucial part of identity-making among black communities, with cultural relevance that’s made a mark on national popular culture. A unique meeting ground between the private and public space where black masculine Americana is both preserved and reproduced, the barbershop remains unwelcoming of the queer community.
In a concerted effort to allow barbers fluid accessibility to a larger customer base, shops are reaching out to their niche market by opting for social media platforms to connect with LGBTQ customers. Needing to shine light on an industry that doesn’t just sell style, but self-esteem, award-winning documentarian Derrick Middleton is developing Shape Up, a new social media and appointment booking app geared towards helping black LGBT New York natives find hair stylists committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment.
The mobile app was conteptualized as a function that joins the historical significance of The Negro Motorist Green Book and Yelp, providing a directory of LGBT-friendly barbershops nearby using smartphone GPS technology.
The app allows for direct consumer targeting and communication can be created and streamlined between business and user, while opening itself up to serving as a space that enhances cause-building, socio-political messaging, while undercutting minority marginalization. In this sense, hair continues to be a statement.