Style: It’s a Very Personal Thing
April 2022 Issue
by Dale Barr
Photography by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
When it comes to style, Justice Mellencamp is all about honoring the individual.
As a professional hairstylist on Hilton Head Island, she knows, “It’s not one size fits all. It’s … about getting to know the client, doing the consultation before each appointment, getting to know what they’re comfortable with. Every client is totally different.”
Like the fashion industry, however, the hair industry is often driven by trends—which may or may not work for everyone. “Pinterest can be your best friend or worst enemy,” she laughed.
In honor of individuality, Justice isn’t afraid to gently push back when clients ask for a trending hairstyle or color, if only to be sure it’s what they really want. “Why do you need to do what everybody else is doing to be trendy if it doesn’t fit your personal style or your personal look?” she said. “Be yourself! What do you feel would look good on you? Let’s work together to achieve that.”
Justice was born in Indiana but raised on Hilton Head Island. Her father, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp, encouraged her creative spirit by teaching her how to paint.
“In high school, I did an AP art class, then I had a regular art class, then I had a break … and I would just stay in my art class the entire time .... I always knew I wanted to do something artistic.” After graduating from Hilton Head Prep, Justice went off to Indiana University to study interior design. It only took a year to realize that a traditional college curriculum wasn’t for her. She returned to Hilton Head and took a front desk job at a salon, where she soon found herself inspired by the stylists working there.
“I watched all the women … and the way they navigated throughout their day and I thought, ‘I could do this! This is really something I think I could get into and love to be here every day.’” With that, she completed the necessary hours of training and launched a career doing work she enjoys as much today as she did when she first began.
“My dad would say, ‘Well, why don’t you ever paint anymore?’
“I said, ‘I do. My canvas just changed.’”
With the new “canvas” being an individual’s head of hair and “the buyer” showcasing it in public every day, the stakes for Justice can be high as the artist behind the chair. Early on, she had to accept some realities about customer service.
“I’ve been in the industry 17 years. I’ve been licensed for 11 of those years,” she said. “The whole idea of a client leaving your chair is for them to feel better and excited about their new hairstyle or their new hair color, and if they’re not, it is hard. So, sometimes you do have to remove the personal aspect of it and say, ‘OK, you know what? Maybe this person just isn’t the right fit for me.’”
She went on to explain, “You can’t make everybody happy all the time and that’s OK … That was probably one of the hardest things to wrap my head around when I first started.”
But Justice is inspired even by the clients who aren’t the right fit. “If you run into that person you feel wasn’t the right fit … you can educate yourself on that … what can I do different the next time someone’s in my chair who’s not the right fit but I still want them to leave happy?”
Even though there are sometimes challenges being in customer service, Justice was quick to add there are many rewarding aspects as well — like the personal relationships she has with her clients and the words of gratitude they may unexpectedly share. “Clients don’t even know how much it means when they send that quick text after they leave, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I love my hair, I’m getting so many compliments.’”
As the mother of three, Justice’s parenting style also reflects her appreciation of the individual.
“When it comes to the way my kids are and the way they behave, I’m all about letting my kids express their feelings … but I want them to be respectful, I want them to look people in the eye, show that they’re confident, show that they’re also showing respect to the person they’re speaking to … I’m kind of over the top with that a little bit … but then also, I’m really affectionate and loving … I’m completely obsessed with them!”
Whether she’s behind the chair or interacting with her family and friends, Justice Mellencamp has a special gift for tuning into the beauty of those around her and helping their individual style shine through.
If you weren’t a hairstylist, what would you be and why? I went to school for interior design, and I’m still very interested in that. Or I could be a stay-at-home mom. What’s a better job than that when you have kids?
Is there anything people falsely assume about you or don’t know about you? People seem to think I’m an extrovert but really I’m a homebody! I’m more interested in tinkering around the house and being with my family and close friends.
If you were stranded on an island, what three things (excluding your three children!) would you want with you? My phone, my toothbrush and champagne!