King of curls
Women with ringlets go straight to this Fitzroy hairdresser
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