On a chilly winter morning, we are in an old repurposed Maine mill building; the dark brick exterior gives way to an inviting modern salon, with beams of light that illuminate the workplace with a warm glow. The mostly female clientele and staff fill the air with chatter and laughter. In the center of it, Jenna, a hairstylist and colorist in her 30s is consulting a client in her chair with a hair dye applicator in her hand. In a career that requires charisma and personality as much as skill and talent, Jenna is the full package. Her rapid and cheerful multi-tasking is part of what creates the energetic buzz in this salon; there is never a dull or quiet moment. “I try not to sit because then my energy drops”, she says, and it’s clear that she’s on her feet non-stop from the moment her first client walks through the door to when she puts down her clippers eight to 12 hours later.
Like many salon professionals, Jenna is an independent contractor, so if no one is in her chair, she’s not making money. That drives her to work even harder, to hustle and neglect me time. Jenna mentions how much stamina her profession requires, a term one wouldn’t automatically associate with hairstyling, and she has come to realize that her job can be “exhausting in ways you can’t even imagine until you do it”. However, working with hair has been Jenna’s dream job since she was a child, so despite its often stressful days (“I’m always busy”), she absolutely loves what she does. “It fills my cup to help other women look and feel their best,” she says, even though this dedication to her clients can sometimes lead her to neglect her own wellness.
"It fills my cup to help other women look and feel their best."
As an apprentice at a high-end salon in Portland, at the beginning of her career, she admits that the focus was on style and a “beauty is pain” mentality was common. Sensible footwear for work was not on anyone’s radar. Jenna’s current salon doesn’t require a uniform of all black, so her workwear consists of very stylish pieces. “If you love fashion and being daring then that complements your job since, we are, at the end of the day artists”. With that eye for fashion comes a penchant for high heels and heeled boots – a fashionable but painful occupational hazard. At the end of one of her marathon shifts, Jenna finds herself with swollen feet and an achy back. “I take Ibuprofen and complain I’m wearing the wrong shoes,” she laments.
The salon life, as busy as it is, is not the only thing that occupies Jenna’s time. She’s also the current Miss Maine for America, a title she’s held since Spring of 2019. As a Miss, Jenna has been involved with numerous charities, including Just Love Worldwide, a local nonprofit that brings attention to human trafficking and assist female survivors with getting back on their feet. Jenna provides cuts and styling for these women as they prepare for their first job interviews. “Competing for and winning the title as the first ever Miss Maine for America has been the best experience of my life” she recounts, “It’s so important to step out of your little world and see what other people go through. It’s been incredibly humbling”. During her tenure, Jenna has not only been able to help and give back to others, but it also helped her on her journey of personal growth: “I realized, I really can do anything I put my mind to.”
Recently, Jenna attended the National Miss for America competition, in glitzy Las Vegas. The experience was a lot of fun, but one memory sticks out as rather unpleasant. “We had to wear heels for all of our on- stage performances. They were patent leather, 4 ½ inches, and brand new, so they weren’t broken in yet. [A]fter hours of rehearsals…eight hours on our feet, and two stage performances, many of us had bleeding blisters all over our feet. I was so thankful for flip flops when it was done!”
Back at the salon, when Jenna takes off her heeled booties and slips into her first pair of Sanita clogs, instant relief washes over her face. “They do the standing for you!”, she exclaims and takes a test walk in her new Textured Oil clogs. While she admits that the look of a pair of clogs on her feet is different than the heels that she has been used to for the past decade at work, they relieve a lot of pressure in her legs within minutes. Having worn clog-type shoes in the past, Jenna wasn’t initially a fan of the style Sanita clogs, however, have led her to change her mind, as they are more flexible, softer and more lightweight than she expected. She recommends Sanita clogs to anyone who is on their feet for long periods of time, and plans on keeping her pair at the salon to slip into when she takes off her heavy winter boots this season.
"When you’ve spent 9 years in uncomfortable [shoes] behind the chair, you forget what comfort feels like."
The switch to clogs as part of her work uniform hasn’t been lost on her coworkers and clients. When asked if others have noticed her new footwear, she answers with a resounding “YES!”. One coworker confided to her that once you begin wearing comfortable clogs at work, you don’t go back to other footwear. Her regular clients, always quick to comment on and offer advice on Jenna’s footwear, were pleased to see her in more sensible and practical shoes. “When you’ve spent 9 years in uncomfortable [shoes] behind the chair, you forget what comfort feels like”, Jenna says, glad that Sanita clogs helped her rediscover that feeling.