What Makes Detroit the Hair Capital of the World?

What makes Detroit unique when it comes to barbershops and beauty salons?

Justin Milhouse / Framed by WDET

Detroit is a city synonymous on a national stage with Motown and the American auto industry. But the city is also known as a powerhouse in the world of hair. In Detroit: Hair Capital of the World for WDET’s Framed By series, radio personality Shannon Cason (Homemade Stories from WBEZ, The Moth) and photographer Justin Milhouse document the experience of barbershops and beauty salons in Detroit. 

“It’s a community, and it has a whole industry based on it,” says Cason, who adds that he came from the barbershop world through his father. Cason says his father inspired him to do the Framed By story. He says through his family he learned about the political and social conversations that take place in salons. And he says the waiting areas of the salons are often their own places of community as the target-rich environments are ripe for sales of candy, cake, shoes, you name it, from people off the street.

“It’s cool because there are so many different personalities,” says Milhouse. He says the Framed By series was his introduction to the depth and scope of the hair industry in Detroit. Milhouse, like Cason, is from Detroit. Milhouse says the freshness of his experience in the shops and salons helped him capture an organic quality in the candid photos. His images capture a range of experiences as well as hairstyles; from the clean and simple to the couture and architectural. 

“For Detroit hair has always been significant… even in the pimp culture in the city at one time,” says Cason. “You see salons throughout any city… but in Detroit we took hair and took it into entertainment.”