Kristin Rankin Dresscode project panteneProject

Pantene USA is bringing Pride into the salon.

For this year’s Pride Month, the hair-care brand is donating to The Dresscode Project, which helps facilitate gender-inclusive haircuts and services to LGBTQ people. Pantene USA is offering eight $10,000 grants to different salons with gender-inclusive practices, which can be nominated through Instagram. The brand is also donating $30,000 to The Dresscode Project to waive membership fees for up to 150 salons.

The Dresscode Project, at its core, is an alliance of salons offering a gender-inclusive experience to LGBTQ clients. “It started because I had an experience with a transgender client, and the next day she tweeted to me that she had never before had a haircut and been made to feel like a woman in a hair salon,” said Kristin Rankin, founder of The Dresscode Project. “We say we allow people to look the way they feel.” 

Gender-inclusive services can range from changing the language used to describe hairstyles — veering away from masculine and feminine descriptors and focusing on structure — or changing hairstyle names on a price board to include alternatives to traditional men’s and women’s haircut pricing. The alliance also gives its members a guide to gender-free hair consultations, which also gives general guidelines for gender inclusion in the salon channel. “You really are left out if you aren’t binary,” Rankin said.

Rankin is no stranger to the brand. Pantene Europe has been partnering with The Dresscode Project since 2018, but the partnership hadn’t been brought Stateside before this year. Another one of their international efforts includes the Power of Hair campaign, an ad featuring transgender women that was broadcast across Western European countries last year. Rankin serves as a global ambassador for the brand. 

The impetus for the donations, however, wasn’t just Pride Month. The coronavirus pandemic, and the salon closures that followed, dealt a steep blow to the professional channel. Rankin mentioned mass unemployment as part of the rationale behind a monetary donation. “We took COVID-19 and utilized it to make sure we were doing something that actually makes a difference,” Rankin said. “COVID-19 really solidified that what we were doing was on the right path.”

Although Pride Month is coming to a close next week, it may not be the end of Pantene’s partnership with The Dresscode Project. The organization facilitates free haircuts for LGBTQ people who can’t afford to go into salons, called its gender-free haircut club, which relies on donations of time and space from stylists in its network. It occurs once monthly in select cities. “I like to call it The Dresscode Project’s side hustle,” Rankin said. “We are working to do something with Pantene to make it more organized worldwide.”

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