Jamie Lynn and Aaron Claxton are something of a dream team. With a bevy of talented stylists – ones who put their art and customer care first – the co-owners opened The Shop at Shaw in 2018. In the year they’ve been open, the team has cultivated a different kind of salon environment. Cuts are genderless, the salon is receptionless, and creativity and inclusion are just as important as making sure you leave with a style that reflects your individuality. We chatted with Claxton (better known as AC) and Lynn about what makes their salon so pioneering, their passion for hair, and how they hope to encourage positive change and lead by example in the world of hair and beyond through their business.
On Tap: What first drew each of you to hair?
AC: As a kid, I always cut hair – like in my basement. I was in a lot of rock bands, so I did a lot of mohawks and some weird design stuff. My mom said I couldn’t live in the basement and play the guitar and not go to school or work. So, I walked into the [hair] salon where my girlfriend then – wife now – was getting her hair done because she was a hair model for a show. I looked around and was like, “These people are like me.” They’re listening to music. There’s this cool vibe. They’re not behind the desk – they’re being social, they’re being creative. I started sweeping the floor there the next weekend and continued to work on music, and then obviously just focused on the hair.
Jamie Lynn: My background is actually in art and I love everything aesthetically pleasing. I have a very visual eye, and I am very creative. I just kind of segued into hair. I always wanted to do it. I really like makeup [and] everything from fashion, so I just pushed myself and made myself do it. I was running a beauty salon out of my college bathroom. I thought I had another career in mind but then I was like, “Oh wait, I think I like this a lot.”
OT: How did you come together to open The Shop at Shaw?
AC: We came together because I had already found the space. I was building it out and ready to go. I was looking for someone to be my right hand – someone who could be down here all the time to kind of run the show, which is what Jamie does. Two of my best buddies from high school [the Wilder brothers] own two restaurants here in Shaw: Chaplin’s and Zeppelin. They used to come to me for years. But then once they got super busy down here, they started seeing Jamie. I was looking for someone [to work with] and they told me, “You’ve got to meet this lady.” So, we went and got a drink.
JL: I had a vision of shaking things up – changing and curating things into a new idea of what a business behind hair would be. We’re receptionless [and] genderless. We let people run their own business within ours and we are all artists first, so everybody that we hire is an artist. Anything that anybody can bring to the table in that regard moves us forward.
AC’s Work Must-Haves
Hattori Hanzo shears
Wahl 5-Star Cordless Magic Clip clippers
My amazing crew
My amazing work environment
AC Can’t Live Without
My wife Erin
My three kids Colette, Charlie + Maeve
Boat + fishing gear
OT: Tell me more about the services you offer, especially the genderless cuts. Why was it important to you to set up your services this way?
JL: The biggest thing [with] the genderless [cut] is looking a little bit at the pink tax, [and] knowing that this was one of the last things that was acceptable for a woman to be charged more for – no matter the length of her hair or the length of time it took. It’s a no-brainer. We actually based it on the length of time it takes to do your hair. We’re kind of forgiving in any area when people book wrong – we just have to re-educate them. So saying, “This is actually what it means to cut medium-length hair, so it’s a medium-length appointment.” But it could also still be a long appointment. I tell people that have two inches of hair [but still] want to spend some extra time with me to book a long appointment.
OT: Do you find people are more comfortable with genderless services and feel empowered to embrace styles that truly make them feel like themselves?
JL: We definitely have targeted a very gender-neutral clientele. It’s really rewarding the first time you see somebody that got to book a medium haircut and they identify as they.
AC: It’s pretty rad, and as Jamie said, just a no-brainer. It’s just fair.
OT: Getting your hair done is both personal and an art form. How do you help your clients express themselves when it comes to hair?
AC: Part of it has to come naturally. Not everybody’s cut out for this. You can give some guidelines to people and you can get guidelines from people about what’s okay to talk about what’s not okay to talk about – What do you bring up? What do you leave out? – but I think 90 percent of it is you.
JL: I think it’s communication – having a clear understanding and building a relationship with trust. Make sure that you’re on the same page before you actually go in and touch somebody. Your head is a very intimate area. It’s also just admitting when something’s not your skillset. That’s how we end up really working as a team. Not everyone’s strong on the same thing. Even though it’s considered one industry, we all have different areas within that industry.
Jamie’s Work Must-Haves
IGK Jet Lag Dry Shampoo
A good Spotify playlist
Jamie Can’t Live Without
A solid true crime podcast // documentary
OT: What’s been the most unexpected thing you’ve experienced since you got your start in this field?
AC: Just how great everyone’s done in the first year. I am proud of Jamie and myself and our staff. Also, just the amount of love we got from the neighborhood right off the bat. I knew people would grow to like us, but it was like instantaneous love and it’s been awesome.
JL: I came from Logan Circle and I was there for seven years, and not a single person in the neighborhood knew my name. Before we even opened here, this entire neighborhood was so receptive and knew our names and couldn’t wait for us to open. It’s more of a community feel. Everyone was like, “We want to partner with you [and] see what we can do for you” and we were like, “Is this the city?”
OT: What is your hope for the future of hair, both as a business and how people approach their individual styles?
JL: I would like for it to grow to be more inclusive [and] more well-known for the art behind it and what it actually takes to become a great artist behind the chair.
AC: More inclusive with more safe and creative spaces. We got more involved with not just the art of doing hair but music, painting and all kinds of creative stuff.
JL: Instead of just going in to have an appointment, a lot of our guests come in earlier. We have free Wi-Fi and a bar that sets up where you can put your laptop while your hair is processing. We partnered with DC Brau so we always have a keg on tap. People will grab a beer and just chill out. It has a little bit more of that hipster, “Oh, I actually belong here” feeling instead of feeling like, “Oh God, I’m here and everyone’s looking at me. My hair is not done. Do they notice my roots?” Just more, “Oh, I actually belong.”
Follow The Shop at Shaw on Instagram @theshopatshaw and learn more at www.theshopatshaw.com.
The Shop at Shaw: 1924 8th St. #145, NW, DC; 202-265-7467; www.theshopatshaw.com