"I just need a good haircut." This is something which has been stated countless times upon asking clients how I can help. It's a fair statement and certainly a reasonable request. It's also a fairly generalised one. Undoubtedly and in most cases, every single haircut a client had prior to sitting in my studio the attending hairdresser thought that they had in fact done a good haircut. It's more than fair to say this is exactly what every hairdresser likely thinks upon completion of their service - I did well.
It needs to be stated that many hairdressers probably think that because they styled their cut effectively, it is a 'good' cut. From a clients perspective - the only perspective which truly matters - this couldn't be further from the truth and is the subject of an earlier post.
Judging by the sheer volume of Google searches, social media inquiries and irrefutable anecdotal evidence, it is certain that what is perceived as 'good' is entirely subjective. Sitting in yet another chair and requesting a 'good' haircut seems then like a really unlikely way to achieve that goal. It's akin to playing Russian roulette with scissors - that lone bullet being haircut bliss. Perhaps a client thinks if they just try their luck enough times, maybe it will one day pay off and they will be happy. Getting a good haircut is not like playing lotto. It isn't based on luck or chance. While there certainly are varying degrees of talented professionals out there, it takes a lot more than simply requesting a good cut to actually obtaining one.
How then? Well, like most productive and effective engagements with another person, it all starts with communication. Easier said than done though is the likely response here. The reason being, a client often doesn't know how to initiate or navigate through these waters. They aren't trained. They don't know the vocabulary. They might find the whole process intimidating yet simultaneously an uncomfortable necessity. The intrinsically know it's somehow possible to get a good cut, yet they have no idea how it comes to be. It's probably where the simply straightforward 'good' request originates from. To be clear - it shouldn't be this way. The blame lies completely with the attending hairdresser. Unfortunately, the conventional salon environment places very little emphasis on communication and consultation. So often their staff are double or triple booked and an apprentice will whisk a client away to the basin before the hairdresser has uttered more than a passing greeting. At best, a new client is lucky to have a hairdresser spend more than 2 minutes talking with them prior to their service commencing. As stated previously, this typically all starts with the salon owner and subsequent hairdresser education.
It is unequivocally a hairdressers primary job to take the time to unpack specifically what each individual client means by 'good'. What wasn't good about the last haircut is a helpful place to start. What would have made it better? Were their issues with the cut behaving in a flattering way once the client got home and washed it? Did it grow out too quickly or poorly? These are all important questions which help to assess each individuals specific situation and needs. Establishing this type of communication also builds trust and empowers both client and hairdresser to feel confident in one other. Establishing a positive rapport is essential for settling in to the time together. All of this helps to avoid the type of mistakes which directly come from assuming things.
A considered consultation should realistically take about 15 minutes, particularly so with a first time client. If a client is notably anxious, has specific concerns or challenges, this can and should be extended. Form and positioning is paramount. It's imperative to consult while seated across from and facing the client - not standing behind them looking through a mirror. By sitting at an equal height and reasonable distance, there is equality. The positioning balances the power dynamic which is of utter importance to helping mitigate a clients fear, anxiety and intimidation.
It is equally important to use words carefully. Clients come in to feel good and supported. I actively strive to be emotionally sensitive in my attempts to learn, educate and assist. Admittedly, some of my first time clients sometimes are confused by the practice of sitting and talking with them. Within a few moments however, their demeanor instantly transforms as they realise the process is entirely to make them feel heard and listened to. The feedback has consistently positive in this area for over 20 years.
Every client indeed wants a good haircut. Who wouldn't? Beyond actually giving them one though, it is important to show them, though example, the proper way to communicate about their hair needs. This will ultimately empower them to use the knowledge to have a greater chance of 'good' being something which they and their hairdresser both agree on - and not just upon leaving the salon, but in the weeks and potentially months ahead. To that point, a good haircut has so little to do with the result on day 1. A truly well designed cut should and will continue to be 'good' from visit to visit. I will continue to harp on this point: communication and effective consultation is essential to hairdressing success for both client and practitioner.
While online comments are always closed, I encourage any readers to email me their thoughts directly. I will always respond in kind.
© Tom Zappala. All rights reserved.