The history of hair salons in New York City (NYC) is a fascinating! Interestingly, the first hair salons to open in NYC were not “salons” at all but barbershops. In the early 1800s working class men in NYC would frequent barbershops to treat themselves to a haircut, shave, shoe shine, smoke a cigar, have a drink, and socialize.
In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that we saw the transition of barbershops to salons in NYC. Despite aggressive advertising campaigns to market to women and encourage them to get out of the house to get their hair done, many salons, in NYC and around the country, had a difficult time getting women into their establishments. Although it’s widely accepted today for women to go and get their hair done, during the 1800s, it was quite scandalous for women to have their hair done in public. Back then, affluent women would have their hairdressers make home visits and working-class women would do their hair themselves.
That all changed in 1888, however, when a self-made Canadian entrepreneur, Martha Matilda Harper, decided to open the first public hair salon called “The Harper Hair Parlor” in Rochester, NY. The hair parlor was conveniently located next to a music school, where women would drop their children off and often wait for them out in the cold to complete their music lessons. Seeing this as an opportunity, Martha started inviting the ladies into her salon to get warm, serve them coffee and cookies, chat them up and, eventually, convince them to get their hair washed and styled in public! Once word of Martha’s salon got out, it quickly became a safe and comfortable space for women to gather and share their thoughts, outside the company of men, setting the precedent of the hair salon being the community hub for gossip and fellowship.
Eventually, “The Harper Hair Parlor” grew to five beauty training schools located in several states including NY, WI, and GA (to name a few). It was at these schools that the “Harper Method” business model was perfected. The Harper Method provided brand name hair salon products, hair salon training, and hair salon advertising materials to salon business owners and became the framework for the franchise business model as we know it today! At its peak, The Harper Hair Parlor grew to over 500 franchises around the country (including NYC). The salons were owned and operated by working-class women, like Martha Harper, who wanted to own their own businesses and control their own destinies!
From around the 1900s to the 1920s the popularity of salon services such as perms, hair color, up-dos and blow outs among women, gave way to a huge spike in the popularity of hair salons. In fact, it’s estimated that over 25,000 hair salons sprung up in the United States during the roaring 20’s, many of which were in highly populated areas like NYC.
Today, there are thousands of hair salons across the country, and several hundred in just NYC alone. With so many choices in hair salons, you are sure to find a hair salon and hair stylist in NYC to suit you.
Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with the best hair salon in NYC!