King of curls

Women with ringlets go straight to this Fitzroy hair­dresser

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - ANNA BYRNE

A RINGLET rev­o­lu­tion is un­der way in Mel­bourne, with one man de­ter­mined to res­cue the distressed tresses of every curly-haired cus­tomer.

Neel Loves Curls hair sa­lon in Fitzroy, which opened in 2013, has a wait­ing list of up to three months and sees more than 130 clients each week.

Women are trav­el­ling from in­ter­state and New Zealand, and from as far as the UK and the US, to have Neel Mor­ley work his magic on their heads. But there’s a catch: you can only go there if you have curly hair.

The first ex­clu­sively curly hair sa­lon in Aus­tralia is a shrine to corkscrew coils, zigzag waves and afros.

Signs in­side de­clare “I’m the Bey­once of my group”, while curly-hair mag­a­zines and books lie on the coun­ters. And there’s an ar­ray of whim­si­cal capes for cus­tomers to choose from, to cre­ate a hir­sute happy place.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent game to nor­mal hair­dress­ing be­cause peo­ple that are com­ing here have a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with their hair and have gen­er­ally had so many bad hair­cuts that they have given up,” Mr Mor­ley said.

“They have suf­fered through the trauma of grow­ing up in the ’90s when the Jen­nifer Anis­ton look was con­sid­ered the most beau­ti­ful, so I try to make it as invit­ing as pos­si­ble.”

Mr Mor­ley, orig­i­nally from Brighton in the UK, started cut­ting hair in Mel­bourne 15 years ago and says de­spite not hav­ing curly hair him­self, he felt curls were his call­ing.

“I re­alised most sa­lons were try­ing to get rid of curly hair, and curly­haired girls would leave the sa­lon look­ing generic, and I thought, ‘ Oh you’ve taken away all her char­ac­ter’.”

Mr Mor­ley, who has trav­elled to New York for curly-hair sem­i­nars and who has also had “afro train­ing” in Detroit, was forced to re­lo­cate his sa­lon to big­ger premises last year. He says its growth is en­tirely based on word of mouth and so­cial me­dia.

“Curly hair is a com­mu­nity; peo­ple with curly hair want to help some­one else with curly hair,” he said.

Julia Gal­lina, 17, from Mill Park, said the sa­lon was “life-chang­ing”.

“I never wore my hair down be­fore I came to Neel, I al­ways tied it up. I knew I had to change some­thing, be­cause I thought about it every sin­gle day, the way some peo­ple might think about their weight.

“Com­ing here was so com­fort­ing, it feels like I am a part of a mas­sive fam­ily,” she said.

Mr Mor­ley says it is not un­com­mon for peo­ple to cry with joy.

“It hap­pens quite of­ten be­cause they didn’t re­alise how amaz­ing their hair could look. I love it when 17-yearolds come in be­cause they have saved them­selves so much teenage angst.

“Then I have cus­tomers in their 60s and 70s, and I think, ‘Gosh, you have hated your hair for such a long time and it’s such a shame’,” he said.

Mr Mor­ley says young girls learn to hate their curly hair from a young age due to a lack of curly-haired role mod­els in main­stream me­dia — “Dis­ney princesses don’t have curly hair”.

“Peo­ple need curly-haired role mod­els. Game of Thrones has been great for my busi­ness be­cause male clients now want to em­brace their Jon Snow curls or their amaz­ing hip­ster ’fros,” he said.

Neel puts the fi­nal touches to Jamila Jal­loh’s curls. Pic­ture: DAVID CAIRD

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