"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 and that is certainly a valid argument. A client likely doesn't know how to initiate the process or navigate through these waters. They are also probably nervous and as a result, don't find the correct vocabulary. They find the whole process intimidating while simultaneously understanding its necessity. A client intrinsically knows it's somehow possible to get a good cut, yet they have no idea how it actually 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 my 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 individual's 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 into 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 or more, 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 are 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 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 demeanour instantly transforms as they realise the point of the process is t help them feel heard and listened to.
Every client indeed wants a good haircut. Who wouldn't? Beyond actually giving them one though, it is important to show them, through 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 are essential to hairdressing success for both client and practitioner.
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