This post came about because for years I had been wanting to find a man who would be interested in letting me give them a very classic-ly female hairstyle. I was curious to see how it would feel to both of us. When I asked Braeden and he obliged, and we met at his salon so I could give him a floral beehive, a beautiful and healing story emerged in our conversation. This interview is a little capture of our conversation at Urban Hideaway Hair that day.
Once in a while, a person comes along who really helps us understand the world around us better, and Braeden is one of those people. He sets a beautiful example by being true to himself and embracing the societal ‘gray area’ by moving fluidly in between genders to suit the calling of his own soul. This is stunningly powerful healing antidote to the paradigm in our culture that tells us we need to choose one way or the other.
The truth, and where the beauty lies, as Braeden illustrates, is within the contrast of opposing forces in that beautiful free gray space where we can all explore who we truly are. Why choose one or the other when you can have both?
In a world with a maddening lack of safe and sacred spaces to truly be ourselves, Braeden has created a place to exist within a spectrum, to embrace our true selves, to experiment with our identities and learn to embrace all sides. He has made his life’s work about helping people heal their sense of identity through the craft of hairstyling in a sacred space that he created himself.
Babes, I give you……………
A Beehive, Finding Identity, and Raising the Vibration with Stylist/Healer Braeden Blunt
To begin with, tell us about your hair career, when/how you started, who influenced you, and where you are now.
My first real exposure into the professional world of beauty was when I was living in San Francisco and working for the Aveda Institute in administration. But I would say that my hair story really began with my mother. She survived a major brain injury that left her unable to physically function in ways that most people take for granted, like doing her own hair and makeup, for example. At the age of 20 I became her full time caretaker, and I quickly discovered that helping her with a simple hairdo and a little bit of makeup made a HUGE difference in her self esteem and attitude throughout the day. Over time I learned as many little beauty tricks as I could to help her feel a bit more “normal”, more like her old self. Our morning getting-ready routine became our special bonding time, and she would frequently comment to me…”Braeden, I don’t know why you’re not doing this for a living!”
Of course, we never take compliments from our mothers seriously, they love everything we do. …Now fast forward a few years later and guess who was enrolled in beauty school?
You really change and evolve so much over time as a hair artist and professional, but I can honestly say that my motivation for being a stylist now is the same as when I cared for my mother. I believe that the real beauty of this daily job is helping people heal and find the courage to face the day because they love who they are. They perhaps just needed you to remind them that they really are beautiful. When people can perceive themselves differently in a positive way because of you, that’s a very powerful and rewarding feeling.
What inspired you to go solo and start your own studio?
I would like to think that I recognized a demand in the world for something less superficial than what people have become accustomed to expect from the salon world. I think that people are growing tired of hype and gimmicks, and being told that they need to buy more crap because they aren’t good enough. I think people are hungry for something more authentic and wholesome.
I also just really felt a huge motivation to create! And not just within the hair service itself.
I am passionate about creating a safe space where people feel comfortable to look within. I believe that true beauty and healing comes from within, by learning to love and accept yourself, and by turning down the noise and garbage from the outside world.
I wanted to create a wonderland of imagination and possibility, a place where people felt inspired to look at their own lives differently.
What are your thoughts on gender and hair?
I feel like contrast has been a big theme in my life. Particularly in regards to gender. I grew up in a household and a small farm town that was constantly forcing me to choose a very black and white reality. I feel like society puts enormous expectations on people to either foster their masculine OR their feminine nature. Throughout the process of discovering my own gender identity I ultimately decided … screw that! I’m tired of black and white! I suppose I have sort of made it my personal mission to show others how to bridge the gap between black and white. I believe that everyone has both a masculine and a feminine nature, and the spectrum may vary greatly person to person. I was born anatomically into a male body, but from a very young age recognized a very dominant feminine energy within me. Over time I learned to love and value both aspects of my nature, and I am so grateful that I didn’t listen to the voices of society telling me that I had to choose one or the other to be happy. This contrast that is within each of us creates a balance, a well rounded individual, and this is the culture I strive to create through hair.
I think how we wear our hair is an expression of how we feel about ourselves.
We use our hair to creatively enhance different aspects of ourselves and to make us feel a certain way. I love that we are seeing a lot of cultural norms around hair being broken, bent, and shifted. I think that gender bending has become a great way to get people to think about the gray areas of life differently.
Tell us about your experience with your own hair, which is stunningly beautiful.
I really try to keep things very simple with my hair. Yes, it is long, but I find that long hair is actually much less maintenance than having short hair. I used to do all kinds of crazy things with my cut and color when I was a teenager, but have found that I prefer to keep my hair much more natural these days. There is a lot going with my style and my image as it is, so although my hair is long and well taken care of, keeping it simple is the name of the game for me. The changes I make to my hair are subtle, and I am always considering things like the health of my hair and how naturally it will grow out without a lot of fuss.
Healthy hair is beautiful hair, there’s just no way around that one. So the more we tweak and change our minds and stress the hair out, the more we have to compensate for how we are asking our hair to perform for us. I like to imagine other’s hair (and my own) as a living, breathing plant. If you feed and water it, prune it, love it, and nurture it … it will blossom into a beautiful and fragrant climbing rose. If not, then you may be dealing with something more like a dried up cactus, or other type plants that are accustomed to trying to survive in harsh conditions.
It all comes down to the decisions we make about our hair. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “why do I feel the need to change my hair color again? Why do I suddenly want to chop it all off? Is it an emotional reason, am I dissatisfied with something in my life and just trying to take control by making a change with my hair?”
I know this was the case in my own hair experience as a teenager making all kinds of crazy hair choices and changes. If we always make decisions about our hair based on emotional reasons, then more than likely we will be dealing with cactus hair before too long.
I always try and challenge people to look within before they try and micromanage what’s happening on the outside.
What is your specialty with hair?
I love texture! I work a lot with curly hair, and I really enjoy that, but I also love creating and adding texture with haircutting. I approach haircutting very much like sculpture, and adding different texture gives your work a special signature and unique feel.
In terms of hair color, I am a maniac for balayage! I love how free form the process is, and how the hair literally becomes your canvas. It can be bold, it can be subtle, it can be natural , it can be whatever you want it to be… its just beautiful.
Who are your muses, inspirations?
My muses are a collection of all my favorite creative arenas. I am inspired by architecture and design, by music, by controversial art and art that forces us to consider things from a different perspective. I am inspired by love and relationships, by the earth, by spirituality, by philosophy, by literature, by photography. I am inspired by things that make life rich and wholesome. I am very careful, selective, and intentional about what I put in my mind. Our actions and life are a reflection of our minds. If you want a beautiful existence, then you fill your mind with beautiful and uplifting content.
How do you think that our hair is tied in with our identity? Do you have any examples of hair being very powerful to telling our story of who we are? Transformation?
My own hair story has greatly shaped me into the person I am today. However, at the end of the day, hair is just… hair. Sure, it has a huge impact on how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you, but it doesn’t *define* you.
Growing up in the Mormon church boys were not allowed to have long hair, it directly defied their strict gender roles. I always wanted to have long hair, so as soon as I left the church in my teen years I stopped cutting my hair. It was a long painful process. And not just because I had an enormous curly mop that I had no idea what to do with, but also because I noticed that as a male (back those days anyway) people treated me quite different with long hair. Sometimes good, sometimes not. It was a real struggle for a while to figure out how to feel comfortable in the gray area, especially when most people were so *un*comfortable with me.
Eventually I learned that my hair wasn’t the problem… *I* was the problem. Once I figured out how to be comfortable with myself, and love myself, I noticed a huge change in how other people perceived me.
Today, I love having long hair, not as form of identity, but rather as a way to push people a little bit outside of the generalizations they make about others. I would be perfectly comfortable with myself if I shaved my head tomorrow, but I like that having long hair really allows me to push the limits a little bit.
I think it’s different for everyone, but hair is funny… it’s one of the few things on our body that we have control over, so we use it to send a message to others about who or what we are. And sometimes we don’t have control over our hair situation. So sometimes the message we send to others is that “I’m doing the best with what I have, and you know what, I still love myself even though I have very little control”. Which sometimes is really the more powerful message.
Tell us a little bit about your mission with your new salon?
Put quite simply… Love, respect, responsibility, sustainability. I think my actual mission statement spells it out pretty nicely.
MISSION: Urban Hair Hideaway is committed to taking innovative strides toward putting new ideas into action. Our business practices are synonymous with our life practices; acting with integrity and healing the world we live in by creating beauty wherever we go and with whomever we meet. Conversation about awareness, self improvement, and positive change is always on the tip of our tongue, and wherever possible we lead by example. From the environment we create to the services we perform, all of our actions reflect our efforts to raise the vibration of humanity and the planet.
When you are not doing hair, what are your other passions?
When I’m not doing hair I really attempt to slow things down and reconnect with myself and nature by working in the yard, taking long walks with the dogs, spending time out at the cabin in the mountains, doing yoga, and just trying to pause and really observe the beautiful moments as they happen. There are so many beautiful moments when you just slow down enough to catch them. When I’m not doing hair I am always seeking knowledge and balance.
Who/what do you feel most gratitude for?
I would say that who I am most grateful to are my parents, each for very different reasons, completely independent of one another. But both in their own way have been very significant teachers in very unconventional ways. My journey with each of them has taught me so much about myself; what my strengths are, and what could use some work.
The thing I am most grateful for is actually my struggles. I think that struggle has a way of showing us what we’re made of, and also it can magnify the beautiful moments and make them so much more special. Sometimes our greatest struggles can also be our greatest gifts, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Babes, we are all multi-faceted beings and the cost of trying to conform our identities against the stirrings of our souls to appeal to other peoples sensibilities is painful on a level that most of us can’t even access because it is so deep. Take a minute with that one.
But we can heal, and sharing our stories is such a part of that healing process.
Braeden, thanks for reminding us that our identity is a matter of our own unique personal self, it is a sacred thing, and it can be both firmly fixed and beautifully fluid all at the same time. We can be all of the things if we want, at different times and in different ways. We salute you big time for sharing your story with us.