A Cut Above

At Homegrown Hair Co. in Tower Grove South, Caitlin Tyczka creates an inclusive, welcoming environment for all by offering gender-neutral hair services.

Work

Story By Heather Riske
Visuals By Jennifer Silverberg

Caitlin Tyczka had just finished the haircut when her client started to get teary-eyed.

“I just want you to know that this is one of the most gender-affirming moments I’ve had,” Tyczka’s client said before the two exchanged a big hug. “Thank you for making me feel seen.”

Such exchanges are far from unusual at Homegrown Hair Co., which has proudly offered gender-neutral hair services since it first opened in St. Louis in 2019. Tyczka, who has worked in the industry for nearly 13 years, realized early on that she wanted to take a different approach as a stylist. After attending cosmetology school, she found her first five years working in other salons to be challenging but formative, as they helped shape her vision for what would eventually become Homegrown.

Homegrown Hair Co. team members are photographed cutting hair with two clients.

Tyczka recognized quickly that labeling services by gender, such as a “women’s haircut,” was outdated, reductive, and exclusionary to transgender and nonbinary clients. She also noticed pervasive ageism in the industry, with terms like “mom haircut” casually thrown about. Yet each time she proposed using gender-neutral pricing and verbiage to the people she worked with, she was turned down. Tyczka started to feel like she didn’t identify with the way the industry operated, questioning whether it was actually right for her. 

I never understood why something such as beauty that is so subjective still was holding a lot of superficial rules about how people should look,” she says. “I don’t believe in telling anybody that there’s a right or wrong way to look. I remember not feeling like I fit into it, even though I knew I could make people feel really good by doing it. I wanted to do things very differently and I didn’t feel like I was met with that understanding.”

Not finding a salon that played by her rules, Tyczka decided to start her own. In 2019, she opened Homegrown Hair Co. on Morganford Road in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis. Tyczka, who grew up in Illinois and lived in Germany for a while, never initially planned to put down roots in St. Louis, but fell in love with the city while working at night clubs during her time in cosmetology school. When she opened Homegrown, she was shocked at just how much St. Louis embraced her concept, leading the salon to expand into a new, larger location just two blocks up from its original home in March 2024.

Homegrown Hair Co. owner Caitlin Tyczka at work on a client's hair.

“I’ve traveled all over the world, as far as Hong Kong, to do hair,” Tyczka says. “I still look forward to coming home and doing what I do here in St. Louis. I felt like the city just really wrapped its arms around me and said, ‘Hey, this is your home. This is where you’re supposed to be. Keep going here. Keep building.’ St. Louis chose me and then I chose it and we have this beautiful relationship with one another. And I was like, ‘You know what, this is where I’m meant to be. These are the clients I want to serve.’ I want to help expose how beautiful St. Louis is.”

True to Tyczka’s original vision, Homegrown is proudly gender-neutral, and services are labeled not by gender but by the type of haircut — think a clipper cut or barber cut, or a short scissor cut, medium/long haircut, or curly cut. That verbiage, Tyczka says, is more specific than gendered terms, making the shop’s services straightforward and easy for customers to understand. It also creates a gender-affirming experience for many clients who often don’t feel welcome or accepted in other salons.

“No one should be forced into a box or having to change the way they identify to conform,” says lead stylist Terra Allen, who has worked at Homegrown since it first opened. “We really just wanted to create a space where people feel seen and loved no matter what. I’ve had multiple people say they haven’t felt comfortable historically in salons and we’re one of the first spaces where they feel that. It is really, really touching.”

A view of the Homegrown Hair Co. team working with clients.

Homegrown is registered with Strands for Trans, a global network of trans-affirming salons and barber shops that seek to offer a safe and positive experience for all guests. On the front door of the shop, a barber pole decal outfitted with the signature light blue, pink, and white of the transgender flag serves as an indication that Homegrown is a safe space for trans and nonbinary clients. Cody Reynolds, a Homegrown client who works as the LGBTQ+ program manager for the St. Louis VA, says gender-affirming spaces, including hair salons, are vital for the community, especially for those starting to transition.

“As a queer person in a red state, it’s not often that we find spaces that are just welcoming and safe where we can let our guards down and be our true selves,” Reynolds says. “Whenever you have a person who is going through their transition initially and they’re trying to find the right hair to help them along that journey and seeing themselves in the mirror finally, being able to come into a salon and actually voice that and have somebody who is there and willing to metaphorically hold your hand through that journey, it’s something that’s emotional and it is very vulnerable. To be able to be vulnerable and state what you’re really wanting and needing — it’s a lot more than just a haircut.” 

A peek inside Homegrown Hair Co. in Tower Grove South.

In addition to removing any mention of gender from its services, Homegrown asks for all clients’ pronouns on intake forms and features signs throughout the shop indicating that it’s a safe space for trans and nonbinary clients. Representation is also key; three staff members identify as trans or nonbinary and are encouraged to provide feedback on the salon’s current and future practices.

Yet being gender-neutral is just one piece of the puzzle at Homegrown, which seeks to create a welcoming environment for all of its clients. In contrast to other shops that may cater to a specific type of client, Tyczka wants Homegrown to be able to service anyone who walks through the door. Three of the stylists on staff, including Tyczka, have attended barbering school, and stylists are also versed in different types of curl patterns to accommodate clients with textured hair — another segment of the market that Tyczka has found to be underrepresented. 

“The people who work here are very interested in being able to service every type of hair, regardless of race, gender, or age,” she says. “You’ll see a mixed bag of people in the salon and it’s a very beautiful thing. It’s really cool to see how everybody can come from all these walks of life and find the same serenity in a space.”

A team member dyes a client's eyebrows while washing the client's hair.

Homegrown is also known for its range of expert hair color services, including bold colors — think dreamy purple, neon green, and bubblegum pink — or stripes with rainbow hues.

“Bold hair color services came about pretty organically for the brand,” Tyczka says. “Before I started Homegrown, I became known for doing expressive color and it’s something that has stuck with me. My clientele has always featured a range of creative types from people in fashion, art, music, and design. Because of that, it’s attracted a team that are also well versed in color services from dimensional natural hair color to bold and out-of-the-box looks.”

This element of the salon’s offerings also reflects its individualized, personal approach to each of its clients.

“I believe our ability to deliver diverse and nonidentical looks helps us in expressing everyone’s beautifully unique personality through hair, beauty, and fashion,” Tyczka says. “I think through my values for that, I attracted a team that (also) follows that pursuit and it naturally became a huge part of our brand.”

Homegrown Hair Co. as seen from the street, including the Strands for Trans decal proudly displayed on the window near the salon's front door.

You also won’t find any beauty magazines inside Homegrown. Instead, the salon offers thought-provoking items like local art magazines, literature, and poetry. The reading material is meant to inspire clients, Tyczka says, rather than tell them what they’re supposed to look like. 

Reynolds, who lives down the street from the salon, says Tyczka has earned the respect of not just the queer community and the hair community in St. Louis, but also the community surrounding the salon, where she’s affectionately known as the “Mayor of Morganford.” Nearly 90 percent of the artwork in the shop was created by St. Louis artists, and Homegrown frequently raises money and supplies for those in need in the neighborhood. 

Over the years, the shop has collected protest supplies and safety kits for Black Lives Matter activists, hosted a fundraiser for several businesses damaged in a fire; and regularly hosts a drive to collect food, toiletries, and other essentials for the food pantry at the Peter Matthews Memorial Skate Garden just up the street.

Homegrown Hair Co. is located in the Tower Grove South neighborhood in St. Louis.

“(Tyczka) wants to not only just be there for her business, but she wants to be there for every business in the neighborhood, every person that is a local,” Reynolds says. “She wants to make sure that everyone here is uplifted.”

For Tyczka, creating a healthy, welcoming environment for her clients, fellow stylists, and neighbors is the driving force behind her work at Homegrown. Being able to make such a positive impact through something as seemingly simple as hair is a feeling that never gets old.

“We’re in the industry of making people feel they’re at their best,” Tyczka says. “Everybody just wants to be seen and understood and they want who they are to be reflected. If we’re not creating spaces for everybody, and for them to be understood, how can anybody service anybody and make them feel their best?”

Homegrown Hair Co. owner Caitlin Tyczka stands in her Tower Grove South salon.

Join the Story

  • Learn more about Homegrown Hair Co. and its hair-care services on its website.
  • Connect with Homegrown Hair Co. on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
  • Explore more stories about inspiring St. Louis entrepreneurs who are contributing to the growth and success of the area’s small business community.