Often I'm asked, “You’re so booked out, why don't you train up an apprentice?" The short answer is this: quality hairdressing isn't something which can simply be taught, certainly not with a few short years of training. The road to proficiency is a long one, particularly for gaining real skill with anything other than conventional, easily managed hair types. Generally speaking, most people (including a high percentage of people actually working in the industry) know little about how to become a quality, refined and mindful hairdresser. Due to societal conditioning, many think this whole cutting hair business should be quite straight forward and they often don't understand why there are so many 'bad' hairdressers out there. Hairdressing at its highest level goes far beyond tactile skills, and this is primarily why I wouldn't simply 'take on an apprentice’.
To begin to illustrate this point, let's briefly talk about music - rather, one particular musician in this instance.
One of my favourite recording artists hands down is Oscar Peterson - if you've been to the studio I can guarantee you've been exposed to his music, repeatedly. Quoting the wiki:
"Oscar Peterson was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, but simply "O.P." by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won eight Grammy Awards, and received numerous other awards and honours. He is considered one of the greatest jazz pianists, and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years."
[For a wonderful introduction, his 1963 album, 'Night Train' is a great place to start. It's easily his most commercially successful release. The final track, 'Hymn to Freedom' is my personal favourite. It was adopted as an anthem of the 1960's civil rights movement in North America.]
In the decades before he passed, it is highly unlikely that Oscar could have taken on some young talented player in an attempt to teach him up to play like he does, particularly over the course of 2 to 3 years. Sure, if the young talent was a keen student with natural abilities, he or she would have been able to learn from Mr. Peterson. However, as their individual talent and intentions are likely different, the process would ultimately lead them to a very different destination. It's then fair to say that there is no guarantee this individuals playing would even be appreciated or enjoyed by fans of Oscars Peterson. Aside from pure talent, desire and effort it also takes one other important thing to obtain proficiency: Time. It takes decades to reach a level of proficiency which could one day possibly be considered remarkable or masterful. There are no shortcuts, particularly when it comes to the refinement of such a craft.
Now, fortunately with musical composition there typically are recordings which can be studied and analysed by future generations. This is what directly inspires the next up and coming players. With hairdressing there is not such an opportunity. While a photograph of one’s work is indeed a reference of sorts, it is a poor representation of how it actually came to be. Video still isn’t much better, unless one would be willing to annotate and verbalise the entirety of a haircut and the thought processes involved. This would be a particularly challenging endeavour as so much of the execution is instinctive. Even then, another persons interpretation of the process is bound to resolve in a different outcome. Is there no way then to pass along the accrued knowledge of a long career? Well, this blog hopefully serves to address that issue to a certain degree.
Fully understanding and developing the tactile skills to set about successfully cutting someone’s hair takes many years. This ultimately has to be ones personal journey however they choose to go about it. I am a firm believer in autodidacticism. With this process of learning, one will avoid the bad habits and conventions the industry is known for. No matter how one chooses to pursue their development, it is will take countless repetitions of trial and error. In this way, similar to how anyone achieves: lots and lots of practice. Paired with that period of tactile, experience based refinement are supportive abilities which also take at least a decade to develop understanding of.
So what are the overall skills which can help with becoming a masterful hairdresser? A high level of dexterity of course is a start. An understanding of relative space (geometry) is another. Add in with that a highly critical, deductive personality type and one is definitely on the right track. Then things need to shift into other areas. One must have a solid understanding, ability and desire to communicate well with others. Perception and emotional intelligence are both essential here. I recommend a semester or at least considered reading in basic psychology. Also helpful, is an understanding of touch, I recommend researching and experiencing shiatsu. An overly analytical tendency is also important, if that wasn't already abundantly clear.
Probably the most important quality however is just the desire to make people happy. Positive intentions will absolutely lead one in the correct direction. It seems simple but without that driving motivation a hairdresser will regularly come up short (pun intended). Now, it could be said that so far this all sounds like one just needs to be passionate about their craft. While not incorrect, it must be stated that there are multiple layers to passion which need to be formed, guided and directed it into the proper channels. When properly aligned it will produce a type of cohesion which can result in consistent positive results.
You may be thinking, “That’s all great but you’re missing the one key ingredient - creativity.” To that, I urge caution. In fact, this is precisely where many hairdressers (and clients for that matter) have it all wrong. Indeed, most individuals who enter into the industry think the dominate quality or trait one needs to possess is creativity. They think hairdressers are artists first and foremost. As my years in this industry have ticked over, I balk at this misguided thinking more and more. Creativity as a primary focus is exactly why so many clients are unhappy after a visit to a salon. With creativity at the primarily driver a hairdresser is not capable of truly seeing the person in the chair. They see hair and what they want it to become, regardless of what may be considered sensible for someone, their lifestyle, their hair type and how it will grow out. A hairdresser will jump in with raw unprocessed creativity and never look back. Sure, there needs to be some form of creative process involved in the act of cutting someones hair but it must be entwined with critical analysis, consideration and communication for the process to become well developed enough for a clients long term happiness and satisfaction. There must be balance.
So, how and where does one find people who are both creative and intelligent critical thinkers? This is another issue entirely. Its a societal one which again, has multiple layers. What parent wants their child to become a hairdresser instead of attending a reputable university to one day obtain a masters degree? How many parents actually encourage hairdressing? In many cities, hairdressing isn’t placed on the list of highly regarded vocations for intelligent individuals. Over time, this has led to a bit of social stigma. Hairdressing tends to attract people who aren’t necessarily high achievers right? It’s for the drop-outs. The unmotivated. Consequently, the industry now attracts the wrong sort of candidates that could one day become quality practitioners. Yet, everyone woman desires and often complains about how there aren't any good ones out there. The entire situation is not an easy situation to resolve.
To be fair, the problem is not just a lack of quality candidates. Becoming a qualified hairdresser in Australia is just too easy. In order to attract and develop more intelligent mindful hairdressers there needs to be a filter of sorts. A means of getting rid of individuals who do not exhibit the type of ideals which are in a clients best interest. Even with that though, the industry itself doesn't train up in any sort of way which would yield quality individuals upon completion. Most salons have long held standards and practices which are the very definition of poor hairdressing. Education 'classes' (which are often organised by product companies) focus on products sales, profits and trends. They are directly responsible for most of the bad habits and tactics which go on to directly effect client satisfaction.
The conventional salon industry in this country (if not globally) has long history of churning out insufficient and misguided talent. This has much to do with the ‘artist’ mentality it promotes which I mentioned earlier. In contrast, my practice has been modeled after the various psychological and alternative health practitioners I’ve attended throughout my life. Their degree of consultation and care resonated soundly as a basis for working with women in the way that I do. If there is one absolute in all this it is the following: A woman’s relationship to her hair has a very strong physical, emotional and psychological impact on their daily lives. That is undeniably true. Working with them on it is absolutely warrants much more of a practitioner based approach practice than one which is primarily artistic.
At some stage there needs to be a shift. I'm not sure how that is going to happen. If there is to be one, it won't likely start at the salon level. Instead it needs to start with the public - the very individuals who go to a salon. Clients need to be better informed and insist on better. This will be difficult as clients inherently trust the hairdresser (and fashion magazine nonsense), and hairdressers typically think they know best.
So where does that leave things? I’d gladly mentor the correct candidate. That's what I tell my clients when they ask me about apprentice training. This individual would first need to make contact and prove they are a viable candidate. Does skill and experience die with a practitioner then? Often times it does. What I am striving to do is to capture my philosophy in written form best I can. Perhaps one day someone might be influenced in a way which helps them serve clients better. For the time being, I'll just keep on doing what I do best and strive to improve day by day.
Many years back I started a small project entitled Fresh Cuts. It was a seasonal compilation album privately shared with friends and a few interested clients. After some hiatus from the project and numerous inquiries as to its status, I've decided to recommit to it. Introducing Beyond the Fringe, the new compilation series. It can be downloaded for those who choose as I do to maintain a personal library, alternatively it can be streamed via Spotify for those with that preference. The master playlist for the studio Behind the Fringe is also online for those interested.
Over the years much has changed in the way I approach and execute cutting hair. Like many hairdressers I started off with the notion that creativity was paramount and viewed everything through this prism. Inexperienced hairdressing tends to think like this as though a haircut is a fossillised two dimensional art project, a static image. Since those early years a steady deliberate evolution has taken place, one which places greater emphasis and understanding on the whole. Instead of thinking about a haircut as an absolute, I've been operating more from a place of fluidity. There is an imperfect nature to hair in that it is always changing. With all the various internal and external forces at play, hair is in a constant state of flux. This certainty has shaped the way in which I work and contributes greatly to a type of design which positively supports those who align with this philosophy.
With the rapid approach of 10 years in my studio above Wabi Sabi, I have again reflected on the translation of the restaurants name:
An intuitive way of living that emphasises finding beauty in imperfection, and accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.
Perhaps this was an unavoidable eventuality of my time here, but I'm finding it quite fitting that my work has evolved to this point. I've been reforming what my studio represents and ultimately what it aims to provide. That is to challenge the accepted norms of what hairdressing is and what conventional hair salons strive to be. To that point, I desire to have my clients think and relate to their hair and their appearance in a manner which is more fluid and forgiving. Through this lies the opportunity to be kinder to ourselves and accepting that our true beauty and potential must come from somewhere other than atop our heads.
Since the decision to no longer offer colouring services I'm regularly asked for referrals from clients. This can be a challenging request because if there's one area of hairdressing where things can easily result in disappointment, it's with the application of chemicals. Therefore, I do not offer a general referral. That said, I'm always happy to discuss a clients colour needs when I see them. If there is a clear situation where I can offer assistance in regard to a specific colourist or where to potentially find one, I will absolutely oblige. Even then, it's largely difficult to unequivocally recommend an individual or salon as one can never truly be sure of a colourists motivation or intentions and if they are aligned with a clients best interests. Therein lies the trouble as many colourists operate from a place of creativity first and are less concerned about sustainability or suitability.
As to why I stopped offering colouring, the reasons are many. First there's the chemicals and my desire to no longer breathe or engage with them. Multiple hour bookings in a small one-on-one studio are also particularly challenging to manage. What it was really all about though is the realisation that by trying to do it all I was not truly excelling at anything. Hair colouring and cutting at their highest levels are very different skill sets and anyone who thinks they can equally excel at both are kidding themselves. Sure, one can become rather proficient at both services for a specific type of client or hair type, but for anything outside of that narrow scope a specialist is always going to be the better option.
In the end, I will support my clients in whatever choice they make for themselves and their hair. If they want to colour I'll advise them on smart sustainable practices and possible shade selection. If they don't colour or are wanting to phase it out completely I'll happily work with them to ensure their decision serves them in the best possible way. Ultimately, I just try to use my experience to provided clients with as much information as possible so that they can have the opportunity to make a well informed decision about what is best for their needs.
There are a lot of ladies Google searching for information on hairdressers in Melbourne who know something about the Curly Girl method or Deva Curl. I'm regularly asked during sessions about both methods and my thoughts about them. Before getting too far into things let me make the following clear. I do think ladies with curly or wavy hair should investigate them both. There's likely to be something in there which could potentially help someone who hasn't yet discovered how to manage their hair texture. That said, I absolutely do not ardently follow, practice or insist on either method. Some of it is simply incorrect and most of it way too absolutist, regimented and time consuming for the busy working woman and or mother. For certain ladies though, the information will be a revelation and its principals adhered to with great religious fervour. For others however, the methods are entirely unrealistic and assume everyone desires a similarly finished aesthetic. Therein lies my precise issue with it all, and any hairdressers absolute unconditional adherence to its practices.
As a hairdresser who not only has curly hair himself, but has successfully worked with curls for more than a decade before CG was written or Deva Cut developed, my philosophy and approach is well honed. It has been to educate clients on various types of practices which could or may address their situation, and then allow them to decide for themselves which is the best fit. Insisting that every client practice a similar ritual is misguided, as is selling them on a specific product which is 'correct' for their hair. Unfortunately, most curl supportive hairdressers align with that philosophy. They get too hung up on being a hairdresser and forget that clients lack our particular skill set and likely have different preferences and time restraints at home. Consequently, their salon results are redundantly contrived and over-styled. This results in that ridiculously cliched situation: the hair never again looks the same as when the client left the salon. To be fair, this is largely due to an under-performing cut to begin with.
In our current era, when it comes to hair at home many clients will simply do what is quickest and easiest yet provides the greatest result. Do some swear by the no-poo method, micro-fiber towels and social media perfect curls every day? Absolutely. Others want an urban, slightly frizzy voluminous head of curls and that is of course great too. Some shampoo every day and others once a month. I can't overstate the following enough: It doesn't matter what product a client puts on or how they choose to maintain their hair as long as it works and makes them happy. Period. A product can be from the supermarket, salon, health food shop or home-made. It doesn't matter the cost or ingredients. If it's working for someone that's all that matters. I know that statement directly contradicts some extremist CG Facebook group members and that's fine. Let them rally and ban. They are ultimately misguided. Then again, I loath and oppose religious extremism in any form. I digress. Some clients and certainly some hairdressers have strong opinions. While I agree that some products or practices may be better than others, it is absolutely important to remember that 'better' is entirely subjective when it comes to how a woman feels about their appearance.
It bears repeating. Any curly method one uses at home or at the salon will ultimately fail if the haircut is not designed and shaped to absolutely perform independently of it. A great haircut is the foundation, the starting point. Products and ritual can only do so much and are there in purely a supporting role. A cut must be high functioning. With that sorted out, a client is often motivated to work towards that which fits their time, skills and aesthetic preference for the day or event.
This is the first post (of probably a few) which has less to do with the actual practice of hairdressing, but definitely contributes to my positive pursuit of it. It can probably be tagged by some as half-baked philosophy, but none the less it resonates and within that I've found the desire to get it out there.
I've found great success and contentment in pursuing paths which are largely considered the opposite of conventional thinking and or wisdom. One area in particular, is the time allotment for daily book reading. In of itself, reading is something which I always took great pleasure in as a child, but pushed aside for the preference of mouse, keyboard, screen, and a fast internet connection. That has all served me quite well, as evidenced by this very website.
Books however are an essential medium of education, information, and for some, entertainment. For many though, a book is aligned with heading to bed - allowing the words to help soothe them off to sleep after a long and productive day. When I started to regularly read again a few months back, I considered the practice of an evening read, then decided it wasn't a habit that needed to be done at that hour. I didn't want to program my brain to associate reading with sleep or being sleepy. Instead, I've chosen the opposite. I have chosen to allocate a time when reading will springboard me into my day instead of assisting with ending it.
My morning ritual now consists of waking, grabbing a coffee and spending half an hour or so with the current book of engagement. I've found this actually kick starts my brain in way which a phone or laptop cannot match. As reading (particularly fiction) triggers our imagination, creativity is also energised for the work day ahead. Too, by avoiding the news and media feeds first thing in the morning there is the opportunity for positivity in my brain instead of the latest tragedy, political absurdity or other vacuously disposable types of information.
This all fits into a practice of analysing the habits which we have bonded to and considering if they support and benefit life in the most positive or productive way possible. If not, it behooves oneself to make an adjustment if that is at all possible. While not everyone has the same ability, time or means, many do have at least some choice when it comes to waking up and taking those first steps into the light. I've been trying to not use the word 'mindful' as it is quickly approaching the state of overuse in conversation that the word 'triggered' has. Instead, I'll go with 'awareness'. It seems like a good idea in this era of obsessive screen staring that we should try as regularly as we can to be aware of what it is we are doing, and if it is serving us all, individually and collectively in the best possible way.
Many of us desire a product, service, or even tablet which can provide us with exactly what we want, precisely when we want it. We regularly go to see various professionals with the hope that they can offer us the necessary cure-all for whatever our situational needs may be. For hairdressers a question which is asked regularly is "what specific product [or brand] would be best for my hair?" The question presented is a fair one. A client is asking for advice or guidance from someone they view as a professional. Unfortunately, the answer I provide usually isn't one they were hoping for.
In the daunting minefield of hair cosmetics, the landscape is littered with an abundance of redundant offerings which like to promise salvation, yet more times than not deliver bottled disappointment. These colourful plastic investments then huddle together like orphaned children in an exiled product purgatory located under the basin sink - too expensive to throw out, yet not near good enough to be accepted into the main performance troupe.
It may seem odd but the correct answer to the question above is: I have no idea.
Really. I have no idea which brand or product will perform the way a client needs it to - the way they themselves will style (or not style) their hair at home with their time allotment, skill and effort. I have no idea if even the scent of a product will compliment everything else in their daily ritual. Performance and satisfaction is completely subjective. There is no definitive means for an individual, professional or not, to say unequivocally that any one product will work for someone else. This is fact. Unfortunately, most hairdressers attempt to up-sell products like a snake oil charlatan, particularly if they are working in a conventional hair salon. They have no idea (or don't care) that this practice is at the top of the list of things women hate about going to a salon.
What a responsible hairdresser should offer is information and education on the types of products that could work or might work for an individual. As frustrating as that may be, there is no way to know with 100% certainty till ones gets the product home and uses in their environment if it will work. When it comes to hair cosmetics, it is absolutely a trial and error scenario, particularly for ladies with curly, wavy or fine hair*. I know this product truth is likely overwhelming and frustrating to hear. If it makes things easier, most clients struggle with hair products because their haircut is severely under performing. A really good cut takes much of the pressure off of a product's need to perform. This is the real root of the problem (pun intended).
As for whether expensive salon products are worth it isn't for me or any other hairdresser to say. It is a case by case situation. What I tell my clients is this. If it they like a certain product, if it works and makes them happy, I do not care where it was purchased or how much it cost. More than ever in fact, I have clients who are making their own products at home or using things purchased from health food shops. I encourage and support all of this enthusiastically.
In the end, I use my experience in this industry to honesty educate my clients so that they are well informed. A well informed client is much better positioned to head into the necessary trial and error practice of finding a product which can offer them the results they are after. Make no mistake, a great haircut is where it all starts though. It provides the visual and emotional motivation most clients have been needing to help them on their way.
*Specifically for those with curly hair, there is a lot information out there regarding things like micro-fiber towels, sulphates and silicone. My stance is this: to each their own. I am firmly against the adherence to any particular ritual as a 'one size fits all' policy. Such an approach reeks of religious fervour. While many of the methods and practices absolutely work and are a triumph for some clients, there are plenty of others who will simply act on that which gives them the best result with the least amount of effort. As stated earlier, a good hairdresser will simply educate clients on various options and let them discover and decide what is best for them. It bears repeating, a great haircut should provide the shape and texture which can support both effortlessness and effort.
I believe that a great haircut is one which can grow out really well over and extended period of time (months not weeks). As covered in the last post, a great cut should always encourage the shape and texture to naturally fall into place, looking great with minimal effort from a client. Unfortunately, most hairdressers tend to perform a cut which only looks good if styled with professional skills, products and effort. This type of design is largely driven by a hairdressers creativity first and foremost. They are often strongly influenced by the Vidal Sassoon era. For many hairdressers today Vidal Sassoon was and still is, their savior, their Steve Jobs. He is the inspirational benchmark for the sharp, precision creative hairdressing they practice. I disagree with all that, vehemently. For his time, Sassoon was absolutely relevant and a visionary. He left behind a legacy. Ironically, what renders his creative direction obsolete are the very individuals who his work specifically relied on, women.
Think back to women's lives in the 60's and 70's compared to now and you'll begin to understand why those design concepts are no longer relevant, and in fact foolish. Women's lives today are jam packed with a multitude of commitments, obligations and varying degrees of stress. Each day carefully calculated to extract maximum efficiency in order to achieve a balance between work, leisure and family. For many, having a haircut which requires time and adept styling skills simply isn't an option. In fact, it's an annoyance. (It's these poorly designed cuts that many have resorting to flat ironing to a burnt oblivion each and every morning.) Poorly considered precision haircuts are particularly the bane of any woman with curly, wavy or otherwise challenging hair. These ladies, more than anyone else demand a hair cut which is textured, loose and carefree. A precision cut for them is infuriating and leads inevitably to either tied back or triangle.
Contemporary hairdressing must be designed to precisely support the lifestyle and aesthetic needs a woman has. Too, they must support a maintenance schedule a client is willing and able to keep. Any hairdresser who consistently leads with their creative foot first and fails to consider the individual and their lifestyle is naively misguided. Instead of blind adherence to an icon of the past, a hairdresser must take notice of the current landscape and design accordingly. In this modern era, the hairdressing industry as a whole would be well served to operate more often as mindful practitioners than creative artists.
Without a doubt one of the most common complaints women have after a visit to the hairdresser is, "my hair never looked as good as it did when I left the salon." This exact sentiment has been echoed repeatedly in every city I've worked in across the globe. After hearing the same thing over and over again, a committed hairdresser should always aim to dissect and resolve the issue. The following opinions on the matter actively influence the philosophy I adhere to within my practice today. The main influencing factor behind this topic will be covered in the next post.
Hairdressers will typically operate from a place of their skill set and vision, not their clients. To this point, they see their objective as to have everyone leave the salon looking polished to an Instagram finish. While this does suit and support a lot of clients, it simultaneously doesn't serve an equal if not greater number of individuals. An over blown, over styled look doesn't suit ladies who desire a natural look and spend little time honing their aesthetic at home themselves. Many simply don't own blow dryers and need a cut which is high performing on its own. This is where the issue beings. Hairdresser often lack supportive and refined cutting skills which can enable a design to perform on its own with minimal (or no) engagement from a client. Their stance is "if a client wants the cut to look right, they will need to style it as I do." It's all too easy to see the problem here. These hairdressers see themselves largely as 'artists' and not as a considerate facilitator to help each client achieve what they are after within the parameters of their skills, time and day to day aesthetic preferences.
Good hairdressing strongly considers a clients existing routine (and skill set) and meets them on a level which can absolutely be duplicated at home. It serves no purpose (unless specifically stated otherwise) to over style a clients hair in a way either they aren't comfortable with, or lack the ability (or desire) to do themselves at home. A client who comes in for a haircut is seeking just that, a haircut. One which they themselves can manage. A haircut which can grow out well, and make them feel beautiful. To a woman who prefers a natural aesthetic, an over achieving blow wave, and sometimes - any blow wave, is entirely unproductive and inconsequential on the day. The haircut has missed the target entirely if a client isn't ever able to have it perform outside of the salon visit. To support this, a hairdresser must develop both strong cutting and communication skills. Both of these must be performed to a much higher level than any blow dry skills. Trouble is most salons are primarily concerned with the finish. They feel every client represents the salon and needs to look perfect in their eyes. This is entirely misguided. Clients don't represent a salon. Hairdressers should use their skills to reflect their client's needs on an individual basis. They should always integrate with a client and not default to round brushes and irons.
These days time is a great commodity. Busy lives means needing time (and money) spent in the salon to yield results which support a lifestyle. Ladies have tools at home to coif their hair when needed on the weekends or for special occasions. What they want is a cut that actually looks amazing on the days they don't have the time (or desire) to put in the effort. Hairdressing should always strive to meet this goal and by doing so, a client will be rewarded with an experience which brings enjoyment for days, weeks and months ahead.
Part three of three. Regardless of skill, intentions and communication, things will not always result in every single client being completely happy. Life is easy when we get a win, but no one wins all the time. The greatest lesson in life both personally and professionally is to accept that this will happen. In fact, it is a necessary part of development. While early in life we often fear failure or mistake, with time we learn these opportunities serve as an essential key to growth. We must relish these opportunities to learn and use them for forward momentum. Through the last two posts I laid out the key principals of my practice, communication and transparency. It is with this final topic, satisfaction, that the three are tied together.
Satisfaction can be achieved when both the client and hairdresser are able to feel content with their choices and results. This is made possible only through solid communication and transparent practices. With these in tact, both the client and hairdresser are empowered (and encouraged) to respond when things don't turn out perhaps exactly as they were hoping. Ultimately for the client this means they will have a much greater chance of achieving what they are after. For a hairdresser they have the opportunity to make adjustments, offer recommendation, or provide compensation - all which support positive growth.
Hairdressing only achieves a win if both parties are happy and fulfilled. Sometimes relationships can take time to develop in a manner which both individuals can feel supported and content. It's important along the way for each individual to communicate effectively. A hairdresser who believes in an ethical transparent practice provides the opportunity for their client to find satisfaction at every stage of the journey.
Part two of three. Hairdressing, particularly within the conventional salon environment, is an industry geared largely for the monetisation of a woman's beauty needs. Under the guise of being a professional, up-selling and product pushing via emotional manipulation is key to meeting the bottom line. For a traditional salon owner these principals are often the foundation of their business model. Creativity is wielded as a less than subtle means of distraction. This approach does not, by default, serve or benefit a clients best interests and is therefore unethical.
Throughout 25 years working as a hairdresser, the complaints I've heard concerning these practices has been identical regardless of the city and country I've worked in. Countless times over, women have shared identical stories where a hairdresser or other salon staff member has attempted to use emotional manipulation to sell a service or product, often both. Together with less than favourable results for the service they initially went in for, its no wonder so many women have developed an acute fear of and apprehension regarding hairdressers and the salon environment. To be fair, this reality and experience is not shared among all women. Many are content with the traditional offerings, and these women certainly have a multitude of choice when it comes to heading into a salon to spend money. Trouble is, the traditional salon tactics and practices are definitely not a perfect fit for everyone.
There is an increasing number of women who have become keenly aware of the salon game and are no longer willing to play along. These women have needs and desires the traditional model simply does not support, at all. Unsurprisingly, these ladies often have a texture of hair (curly, wavy, thin, fine, etc) which is considered challenging to live with and cut well. Others though simply hate being made to feel inadequate for their choice of not wanting to engage with chemical services or expensive retail products. To them, the entire salon environment is one they dread going to. These ladies wish to be treated with respect and have their specific needs met and supported without judgement. They want a hairdresser who will help them with an aesthetic which presents a realistic, sustainable, and manageable result.
Transparency as a hairdresser means meeting a woman's beauty needs and desires on a level which support her best interests, not the other way around. With that, a hairdresser should only ever serve interests that are sustainable long term, support hair texture both in design and in health, while providing a maintenance schedule which a client agrees to and can live with. Alternatively, if through consultancy a hairdresser feels as though they are not the best match for a client's needs, this too should be stated. This is all achievable with professional integrity, ethics and effective communication. Hairdressing which is transparent facilitates the type of mutual respect which can foster a lasting and trusting relationship.
Part one of three. Effective and honest communication is the essential ingredient to every successful relationship we have in our lives, whether personal or professional. Neglected or broken-down communication is largely the reason we as humans find ourselves in challenging situations with those we regularly engage with or care about. The effects of poor communication are unfortunately demonstrated quite profoundly and painfully at the hair salon. Most women relate to their appearance, particularly their hair, with a profound psychological and emotional connection. Therefore, it is absolutely vital for a hairdresser to develop and maintain quality communication skills in order to establish and promote a productive client relationship.
On the onset of a booking a hairdresser or client will commonly default to a position of stating either, "what do you want" or "whatever you think." Both of these examples are concerning. Neither attempts to start a conversation, but rather dumps the responsibility of what is about to take place onto the other individual. I use the example of a first date when speaking with new clients on the importance of communication and consultancy. One would rarely sit back in that situation and take a carefree 'have at it' approach. It would be much more beneficial for each person to ask lots of questions which help to establish discovery and define boundaries with concise clarity. To be fair, a woman likely goes to a salon with the hopes of professional advice and might not feel confident or knowledgeable in discussing their appearance in specific detail.
To that point, a hairdresser should also always insist on thorough consultancy, even if a client isn't sure how to proceed. It is up to the hairdresser to meet each client on a level which can support the exchange of information with them. Too, a client should always be interested in and willing to discuss, even with a well established and respected hairdresser, their needs and desires. It is an essential part of hairdresser development to master the art of communication, particularly with regard to the diverse individuals we meet. Failure to establish effective communication significantly increases the chance for misunderstanding and with that, less than satisfying results. These skills takes time, desire, and a decidedly conscious effort to develop. Unfortunately, effective communication and thorough consultancy are not at all stressed within the hairdressing industry.
Throughout my life, I've regularly seen other practitioners whether they be physiotherapists, acupuncturists, psychologists or osteopaths. Each time they demonstrated a level of interest, care, and thoroughness in regards to their communication with me. Their consultation process contributed greatly, if not entirely, to the development and implementation of that area of my practice. Establishing a space which can support open and honest communication is so important and is the reason for an independent solo practice. A supportive space too provides the means to engage with each individual in a way which best supports their needs from visit to visit. It definitely takes effort from both client and hairdresser, but with effective and collaborative communication the chance of an enduring relationship and ultimately satisfying results is much greater.
The three main themes I focus on professionally are communication, transparency, and satisfaction. They are all somewhat related and ultimate work together to form the basis of how I strive for success. In the coming weeks I will address each in an attempt to further define and develop this thing that I do. Too, there may be other posts in the works which come about as a result of conversations and insights gained through experiences in the studio. They may or may not be directly related to hairdressing but effectively serve to push life forward in what I see to be a positive direction.
There are A LOT of ladies Googling with the hope of discovering someone who can properly cut curly and or wavy hair. These ladies shudder at the idea of heading into a conventional salon, and for good reason. They have grown tired heading home with either tears or triangle. They long for someone who won't just attempt to manage or tame their hair, but rather shape it into something flattering, functional, and stylish.
Cutting curly and wavy hair well takes years of experience. Most hairdressers simply don't stay in the industry long enough to learn how to cut hair well, let alone curly hair. Others read a curl book or attend a few classes and think it qualifies them as experts who can then overcharge for their services. Their budding techniques offer little in regards to contemporary or appropriate design. The process of mastering a consistent and positive outcome takes a substantial investment of time and energy. Along the road to proficiency lies a journey filled with constant tweaking and adjusting which brings victories for both client and self.
A hairdresser also needs to also learn an ideal way for a client to manage their hair at home in a way which supports their ability, time, and aesthetic preferences. To that point, a percentage of clients will largely continue to do what they have always done. It is a hairdressers job to discover a clients routine and ultimately design to support it. Designing with the hope or idea that a client will do what you tell them will lead to them being largely disappointed in the end. The cut needs to support how a client lives with their hair, and not how a hairdresser hopes they do.
The best approach to assist with clients being happy at home is to educate them on various methods, and through discussion and effective communication, determine together which will best suit their needs. Not all ladies with curly hair have a need, desire (or time!) to invest in a particular method or a set daily ritual. The solution for many, is a desire for a method which will yield the greatest and most consistent result with the least amount of effort! A hairdresser can and should educate, yet it is entirely a clients decision to choose what is best for themselves. The rest comes down to a hairdressers skills with the scissors. A great cut is the foundation and often provides the motivation for a client to start engaging with their hair in a manner which yields positive results, compliments, and smiles.
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The decision to focus on being a haircutting specialist came down to why I chose to be a hairdresser at all. Quite simply, it was the enjoyment that came from making people happy. As years have ticked by, it has became abundantly clear the women who consistently have the most difficult and frustrating experience visiting a salon are those with curly, wavy, thick, or otherwise challenging hair. The kind of hair which leads one to search Google (curly hairdresser Melbourne) trying and find someone who can successfully work with it. As one whose job it is to help create happiness, working primarily with those who have had a tough time being happy seemed to be the best use of the skills and experience I have acquired. As I too have challenging hair, learning early on the importance of a good cut was paramount to success early in my career and paved the way for where I've largely ended up today. Becoming a specialist hairdresser has relied heavily on putting in the time, investing in personal development and having the right intentions along the way. Intentions which support happy clients and career longevity.
There are many things the salon industry promotes which are often nothing more than an attempt to monetise a woman's desire to look and feel good. The idea that hair should be cut every 6 weeks is one salon recommendation which is completely ridiculous. If a hairdresser cannot design and execute a cut which can support the growth which occurs in just 6 weeks, they simply aren't very skilled or are attempting to have a client come in frequently purely for financial gain. With all but the very very shortest of cuts, designing with growth in mind alleviates the need for such regular maintenance. Too, with a longer interval between cuts, a client has greater control over changes in style.
So what is the recommended interval between cuts? Roughly the following: chin length and shorter: 10-12 weeks. Chin to collarbone lengths: 3-4 months. Collar bone to armpit lengths: 3-5 months. Below armpit length: 4-6 months or more. Keep in mind a cut absolutely needs to be designed and cut to support growth. With that accomplished, these intervals are all very achievable. In certain (and primarily shorter) instances a client will likely need to learn to manage subtle styling changes as it grows, but having a good cut to begin with makes this a much easier task. I actively encourage clients to appreciate the process of growing out a haircut and to book in when the shape fully has stopped cooperating.
A great haircut is similar to fine dining or transforming massage experiences. Attempting to enjoy these things too often leads to decreased satisfaction in short order. As hairdressing is a personal service, supportive practices are vital and lead to the possibility of an enduring relationship between client and practitioner. A haircut which grows out well enables the client to appreciate it for a longer period of time, enabling future experiences to be similarly rewarding each and every time.
Actively questioning and deconstructing what we do is a crucial part of personal and professional development. Often this can mean having to sort through contradictions and concepts that were picked up and adhered to long ago. Professionally, one that comes up with regularity is face shape and it's relation to hairstyle selection. It often begins with an individual feeling as though because of 'x', they can't or shouldn't have 'y'. This falls into an area of absolutes that I'm quite firmly against.
I was first introduced to the notion of face shapes via text book back at hairdressing school in Los Angeles. The idea was that individuals should select (or avoid) certain hairstyles based off their face shape so as to appear more aesthetically pleasing. In essence the theory gave preference to, and set the standard for, a heart-shaped face being ideal and aimed to fit everyone into that box. I find this concept to be complete nonsense. First, deeming any one specific face shape to be 'ideal' is small minded. Second, attempting to restrict one's choices due to a preconceived notion of beauty is wholly inaccurate and absolutely unnecessary when paired with an evolved skill set.
Hairdressing achieves a win if one feels beautiful. Period. There is no 'best' style or length for any one individual. There are likely multiple options which can all be perceived as both attractive and flattering as long as the work has been executed well. That said, some of this perception does lie with the individual. One's confidence level and sense of self often plays a part and effective communication to begin with is absolutely essential.
Most clients have a really strong idea of how long or short they want their hair to be and the general aesthetic sense they wish to convey to the world. The most important factors then to consider when choosing a hairstyle are texture/density of the hair, desired maintenance regime of the individual and how frequent they wish to have it tended to. With adherence to these principals paired with thorough consultancy, the odds of success and smiling faces is often high.
It's no secret that I loath social media. It contributes little to society and has been shown to have a multitude of negative effects both in culture and individual lives. That said, I have been pondering how to possibly engage in a way which would actually contribute something positive and useful rather than blithely serving up vacuous self promotion. What there is to work with is the experience and perspective of a 25 year career and how that relates to a full-time solo practice. Many in my chair have listened to (or politely endured) numerous rants over the years and thus, this blog will attempt to flesh out those concepts with reflection and analysis. I'll aim to cover a few common topics with hope that those who have questions will benefit. Also, it will provide an avenue for something I enjoy...writing! All up it will likely just be a highly opinionated reference about the industry, society, life and how I attempt to operate within it to make people happy and live better.