The Dad Salon: Braids, Buns, and Bonding

Awhile back, I happened to have the CBS Evening News on, and I caught Steven Hartman’s On the Road segment. On this particular night, he featured single dad Phil Morgese. Although Phil has always been good with his hands, he found there was one area where that didn’t seem to apply: styling his daughter Emma’s hair. Phil took it upon himself to watch YouTube instructional videos and learn for himself. He now helps other fathers through his free Daddy Daughter Hair Factory workshop.

I love this dad. (I didn’t so much love Steve Hartman’s “the Y chromosome makes us folliclely challenged” comment. Way to say something stereotypical in a story about bucking stereotypes.) I love that he is sharing his knowledge with other fathers. He’s also inspired dads across the country to start their own classes. And I’m seeing more of this. During the Superbowl, Pantene ran a series of ads showing NFL players doing their daughters’ hair. Some men in the U.S. can be very defensive about their masculinity and thus may balk at taking on caregiving tasks. So I think it’s wonderful for dads to get the message that it’s socially acceptable to take on this role so often left only to mothers.

However, I think the message to the children is even more impactful. By doing their daughters’ hair, dads demonstrate how much they care through a loving act. Sons get to see fathers as caregivers. Both sons and daughters benefit when they see their parents as equal partners who share responsibilities at home. I think having a dad willing to style hair is especially validating for children in families in which there isn’t a mom (and our nation’s families are increasingly diverse). These fathers who take on non-traditional gender roles are also excellent examples for gender expansive or gender creative youth that there are many ways of being.

Phil Morgese may not be out there to be a crusader for gender inclusiveness and equality, but his efforts are having an impact to that effect. And I think he understands what’s important: spending time with his daughter. As Emma shares, her dad has a motto: “It’s not about the braid. It’s about the bond.”