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‘There’s A Lot More To It Than Just\ud Cutting Hair, You Know’: Managerial Controls, Work\ud Practices and Identity Narratives Among Hair Stylists

By Tracey Lee, Nick Jewson, Dan Bishop, Alan Felstead, Alison Fuller, Konstantinos Kakavelakis and Unwin Lorna


This paper draws on original data generated within a research project, entitled Learning\ud as Work: Teaching and Learning Processes in the Contemporary Work Organization1,\ud funded within the Economic and Social Research Council’s ‘Teaching and Learning\ud Research Programme’. It examines relationships between managerial strategies of\ud control, the organization of work practices and narratives of occupational identity among\ud stylists employed in high-fashion, franchised hairdressing salons in the UK. It argues that\ud tensions and dilemmas generated between contrasting elements within both forms of\ud supervision and work practices are reflected and reconciled within the occupational\ud narratives of salon staff. These narratives or stories depict a behavioural ideal for, and\ud project a positive image of, the motivations, skills and disciplines of successful stylists.\ud They comprise rhetorical forms that legitimise stylists in maintaining their engagement in\ud potentially contradictory occupational practices and, at the same time, offer management\ud a channel through which to groom the subjectivity of the workforce. These narratives can\ud be grouped around three themes: ‘professionalism’, ‘delight and wowing’ and ‘keeping up’. Collectively they reinforce a positive evaluation of continuous learning as an integral part of stylists’ subjectivities and identifications. However, the organization of work\ud within franchised salons is such that stylists’ commitment to open and continuous learning is restricted to a relatively narrow range of tasks

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