Harvard Business School Grad Rethinks the Drybar for Textured Hair
Swapping Pops of Yellow for a Spa-Like Ambience and Jazzy Playlist, Pressed Roots' Trinity Groves Salon Will Set the Template for Future LocationsBY Michalene Busico // 04.15.20
Editor’s Note: This story, featured in PaperCity’s April print issue, was written before COVID-19 changed our world. While Pressed Roots is temporarily closed, the salon is offering virtual appointments, posting haircare tips and tricks to Instagram, and hosting live Q&As to stay connected with their community.
The appointment requests were pouring in weeks before the softly lighted salon in Trinity Groves opened for business. There may be blow-dry bars on almost every corner in Dallas, but none is quite like Pressed Roots: a luxurious, beautifully designed space specializing in natural, silky blowouts for textured hair.
Ten years after Drybar changed the way women manage their hair — with the promise of an efficient transformation from frizzy to fabulous, plus a free glass of bubbles and rom-coms on the flat screens — Piersten Gaines has restyled the idea for African-American women and others with textured hair. These delicate tresses require a longer and more laborious process, and most stylists are not trained to do it. “Ask any random black woman if they’ve had a traumatic experience in a salon, like losing hair or getting hair burned off or having a stylist not caring about what you want,” Gaines says. “They will tell you yes.”
Gaines, 30, is among them. “I went bald twice,” she says, following treatments that involved too much heat or too much pulling, first when she was a ninth grader in San Ramon, California, and then in her last year as a political science undergrad at Columbia University. When she moved to Boston to attend Harvard Business School, a friend recommended a particular stylist at a Drybar there.
“I was really skeptical,” she recalls. “I’d never seen anyone who looks like me coming out of there.”
But she went and, like many women, fell in love with the experience. She had a standing weekly appointment until the stylist moved. “I tried another one, and she really messed me up,” Gaines says. “That’s when I started thinking.”
Gaines had planned to go into marketing for a luxury brand. But in 2017, she did a quick pivot. She consulted with her professors and classmates, and interviewed 200 women with highly textured hair, asking about their “fears, experiences, and aspirations.” She already knew that chemical straighteners had fallen out of favor, largely because of Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary, Good Hair, which showed a Coke can dissolving in a beaker filled with them.
“It sparked the go-natural movement,” Gaines says. “Since 2009, sales [of chemical straighteners] have dropped 64 to 65 percent.”
After sold-out pop-ups in Boston, Atlanta, and at the Figueroa Salon on West Lovers Lane in Dallas, she chose Dallas for her first permanent location because, unlike the other cities, women here were looking for something that would be part of their routine.
“In Dallas, most of the women said they had gone natural for four or five years and didn’t have a stylist who could straighten hair,” Gaines says. “So they kept it curly.”
With funding from some heavy hitters, including RevTech Ventures and Sequoia Capital, Gaines built what will be a template for more salons to come. Instead of the popping yellow energy of Drybar, Pressed Roots has a more relaxed ambience with a mellow jazzy playlist and a spa feeling. Coeval Studio, whose design projects include Mille Lire and The Rustic restaurants, used pale shades of pink and brown, lots of rounded edges, and natural materials such as pampas grass and wood. There’s an Instagrammable waiting area in the back, and complimentary drinks include champagne, mimosas, and freshly pressed juice. Products are by Moroccanoil, Briogeo, Design Essential, and other high-end salon lines. Pressed Roots also offers trims.
A visit begins with an online hair quiz to determine which products will be used and how much heat, and if a trim or other treatments, like steam or deep conditioning, are needed. Generally, hair is washed at least twice, conditioned, blow-dried with a round brush and flat-ironed. The basic process takes about 90 minutes and costs $65, though the average tab is $82, because most women add on treatments such as deep conditioning or steam.
When the doors opened in March, Pressed Roots was completely booked through its first weekend. And Gaines was already looking ahead to opening three more locations in D-FW, then expanding to Houston and beyond.