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Image: High Five Salon

“We wear our story for everyone to see,” says Sam Hills, owner of High Five Salon in Cincinnati. “We are all creative individuals and how we express ourselves visually says a lot about who we believe we are as people. We use our looks to mask insecurities, to depict a certain persona, and to keep ourselves safe from the scrutiny of society.”

Sam didn’t originally set out to be a hairstylist or entrepreneur. Yet, he was eventually led to open High Five with a mission: to tell people of their value. Because at its core, High Five is more than just a hair salon. Their motto, “Fresh Looks, Bold Love,” is brought to life by each team member as they seek to stand between his or her clients and the lies they believe about who they are.

“I just want people to walk out that door feeling more beautiful,” says Sam. But he tells me the salon’s “secret sauce” has less to do with hair and more to do with how people are embraced as individuals. He says that our hair can often reflect our identity. We can choose the shirt we put on or take off, but we can’t choose what grows out of our head. Our hair is one of the first things someone sees when they look at us and because of that, we want someone who can make that look perfect. But Sam says that a good hair stylist will take the essential attributes that are unique to one’s hair and accentuate them. It is not about fitting a mold or reaching a standard, but rather seeing someone as they are and affirming that. “We have to let the people who walk through our door know that we believe in them. We see their brokenness and we see past it. We want to show them the reality of who they really are. Because when someone feels received and loved, that’s when they really feel beautiful.

The problem is that society tends to tell us otherwise. “The struggle is real when it comes to reclaiming what beauty is,” says Sam. For every step we take, there’s a million other lies that push us two steps back.” He speaks of how the definition of beauty for every aspect of our physical appearance is already laid out for us by our culture. The perfect tan, the perfect thighs, the perfect eyebrows, the perfect nose, the perfect wardrobe. “We drink the Kool-Aid that [tells us] what perfection looks like.”

After talking with Sam, I couldn’t help but wonder: what if more salons took on and held true to this mentality? What if eventually every boutique, every nail parlor, every makeup brand and clothing line sought to use style as an outlet to embrace and highlight an individual’s characteristics, rather than mold her into something she’s not? What if fashion was used to give people creative freedom to be themselves, rather than force people into fitting into a certain cast of perceived perfection?

What High Five is giving their clients is in high demand. Its team members generate twice the amount in sales as the average stylist in America. There are plans to expand, to multiply, to start a school. Additionally, they have recently launched a brand called Heirloom, which is helping to make brides look and feel radiant on their wedding day. And with each person and each haircut, they are slowly reclaiming what beauty really is.

Learn more about High Five Salon
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