New year / new hair / new you

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When did hair get so loaded with cultural meaning – particularly for women?

In the 1910s the first short, or ‘bobbed’, hair appeared in the West, a female style which proved to be highly controversial. For a young woman to be deliberately rid of her long hair, her ‘crowning glory’, was a fierce statement of independence. A decade later this new ‘do was popularised by film stars such as the vampish Louise Brooks and the exquisite Coco Chanel, cementing it as edgy chic.

‘Bobbed’ hair was a symbol of a frightening cultural phenomenon, the new emancipated woman. Who knew that something as simple as a haircut could carry so much symbolism? Even in the 21st century for a woman to shave her head, get a crew cut or deliberately create an ‘unpretty’ look is still giving the proverbial finger to proscribed notions of female beauty.

Hair has an intriguing emotional dimension as well; women in particular often act out significant moments of life change via a dramatic cut and colour. “Shave it all off and dye the remaining stubble purple!” If it’s that time in your life where you need to make a dramatic hair statement, or you’ve been looking for a professional stylist, the West End has an edgy new salon you need to know about.

Claire Hardy opened her stylist and barber shop, Hardy’s on Hunter, late last year after working in the hair dressing industry since she was 14 years old and clocking up years of experience in other Newcastle salons. It was time for her own salon and she knew what she wanted, one with a playfully unconventional look, an eclectic vibe and a location on Hunter Street. Where else but the West End?

Claire was adamant she didn’t want a sterile salon, but one with an intimate atmosphere; in fact one which didn’t look like a hairdressing salon at all. Fernley Constructions Newcastle took her vision and ran with it, completely transforming the shopfront (a former tattoo studio) by ripping up the floor, knocking down internal walls, setting in benches of reclaimed oak and laying floor tiles which have the look of polished cement.

The result is a salon which feels like a homey bar, a place to hang out, listen to music and play the piano – yes, the salon has one in residence. Claire knew it had worked when curious local started putting their heads in the door to check out the latest addition to the neighbourhood, assuming she’d opened a café or small bar.

Her clientele are evenly split between men and women and she’s seen her share of hair styling requests based on emotional make ups and break ups in her clients’ lives. What’s surprising is that many of her male clients come in for advice as well. Whether they are heartbroken or nervously going on a first date Claire provides them with a friendly ear and I am sure that it helps, just a smidgen, that she’s as pretty as pixie.

Claire welcomes local residents, salon regulars and random poppers-in, her salon is clearly an easy-going place to have a chat, play music or just visit, regardless of whether she is doing your hair or not. She’s delighted that Newcastle West residents have proved so friendly and it seems the feeling is mutual. Claire says that she’s changing lives one haircut at a time and I’m proud that she’s doing it right here in the West End.

Hardy’s on Hunter, 764 Hunter Street Newcastle West. Phone: 0417 663 011 Email:

Follow her on Instagram: @claireemilyhardy. Here’s a great song which celebrates the hirsute:

A wonderful website devoted to vintage hair fashion is:

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me:; 0413 250155


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