I have just got out of a very long term relationship… with my hairdresser. Despite 13 years of a tender understanding, Antonio and I didn’t make it through lockdown. I was left alone, hair slowly growing into a tangled, matted nest. Ends dead and roots neglected. The picture of self-care.
This was the state of me when I walked into The Riah Hair Studio in Kemptown last week, my hair looking for love and more than just a touch of redemption. There I met the one and only Dan Chapman, founder of the hair studio and instantly… my hair had a crush!
So began the affair. After setting me down and giving me a general fussing over, we had a long chat about my hair and what it needed to recover and be it’s luscious self again. But more than that, we spoke about who I was, what I wanted my hair to reflect about me, and how it can do that in every life setting – casually, when I’m out-out or when I need to concentrate (I’m a stick it in a pony and get on with it kind of human).
This may seem like a lot for just a haircut, but for me, it was a blessing. I had let my hair rule me and become this untameable lion’s mane – but what I wanted is something fun, low maintenance and obviously a bit queer. Just. Like. Me! Because Dan took the time to get to know me, to relate to me and swap our stories, he brought out those things in me and made it a part of my everyday life, with no effort needed on my part to express myself… First thing in the morning, wearing nothing but my bed head while I brush my teeth, I am filled with joy and excitement because I can look in the mirror and see me as I know me to be! Maybe this is something a lot of people don’t have to think about, but gender expression and queer identity is a fun, experimental part of my life – and Dan has just given me a whole new set of toys to play with.
Dan opened The Riah Hair Studio during lockdown, and did so with the intention to give everyone who walked through his door a unique, inclusive experience, just like I had. He works hard to challenge the binary that so often exists in the hairdressing industry – where people are still being taught gender specific hairdressing – how to “feminize” or “masculinize” a face, rather than using neutral language such as “blunt”, or “soft” to describe a haircut. You can see this in his pricing too, you won’t find different prices for a men’s or women’s haircut, just a fair price based on what services and skills have been used to bring out the best in your hair!
Having grown up in a family of hairdressers, Dan has been immersed in the industry from a young age, and absolutely smashed it across multiple platforms including salons, photoshoots, catwalks, competitions and TV – he’s done it all, and is only 26! You may have already seen some of his sculptural hair pieces on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, on the likes of Lawrence Chaney, A’Whora and Bimini Bon Boulash… their prehistoric amoeba look – that was Dan’s hair piece!
And it looks like we’ll be seeing even more of Dan’s work on the new season…
But Dan stays true to his roots – as much as he loves creating hair sculptures as his side hustle, and as much attention as he is getting for it, it is cutting and styling hair that he is passionate about. You can feel that in the space he has created, it is truly a one-of-a-kind, intentionally relaxing place that I will be coming back to over and over again – if nothing else but to brush up on my queer history!
(Ask Dan where the name “Riah” came from for a start!)
Now, go out there and be your best, beautiful, humxn selves – this is the best city in the world to be out and about in, so have fun with it!
Dan has also started @theriahproject with aims to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ wellbeing and self-care, and queer identity expression. He hopes to build up and empower our Brighton community through the medium of “what you can afford” haircuts and monthly meet-ups!
Check out theriahhairstudio.co.uk to book appointments, to find out when the next Riah Project meeting is, or to play Snake in all it’s 8-bit glory.