3 Things Every Hairstylist Should Know

July 11, 2009 / Daily Life, Opinion / 16 Comments

Just left a hair salon horribly, horribly unimpressed with my hair do. In my sporadic time in Louisiana, I have only ever found ONE awesome hair salon – Studio Gabriella Baton Rouge. And today, I think I have discovered what distinguishes the elite hairstylists from the mediocre ones.

Before I go on with my list, I just wanted to say that I’m not a hairstylist. I’m just a customer who’s exceptionally anal about my hair. Actually, not even hair – it’s just my bangs.

If you’re a budding hairstylist or even a veteran and that paragraph just deterred you from reading on, I can guarantee you will never become a great hair stylist.

#1 Because great hairstylists listen.

Hairstyling is an art, and I understand that you view people’s hair as your canvas – but the reality is that the only canvas you have free reign over is a mannequin’s wig. Real people have their own vision of how they want their hair to look. Your job is to recommend what looks fit or don’t them based on face shape, hair textures etc. Please understand that the customer has every right to reject your ideals. Obnoxiously imposing your style will never get customers to come back.

#2 Because great hairstylists understand the concept of “shape”

I’m not sure if this is just a very sad epidemic with Singapore’s hairstylists or something mediocre hairstylists just can’t quite grasp. But if I show you a picture, it is very likely I want the, for a lack of a better word, “shape” of the hair.

This is where every mediocre stylist seem to fail miserably. I’m not sure what you’re taught in school, but it’s all about the shape. If you can’t create it, tell me. I am willing to pay more to get someone who can.

Shape – done well.

#3 Because great hairstylists do not have to use excessive hair products or devices.

Shape should not completely hinge upon things like wax, tongs, treatment and whatever else. Those are things meant to enhance shape, not create it. Always talk to your customers about things they can do at home to help their hair like this hair loss shampoo for men. Shape should be created by your scissor skills. Don’t have it? Learn.

My new ‘do is just beyond pathetic. It now looks like I can’t get a decent haircut in this country for under $70 and a waiting list – of which I didn’t have time to wait, since I was in dire need of a trim. I’d do anything to go back to Toronto and have my trusted Korean Ahjumma from Kyoung Hee Hair Salon cut my hair again.

So now I’ll be off to the drugstore to find me a decent pair of scissors to cut my own bangs. It’s been a while since I had to bust out my moves. Tsk tsk.

  • I see what you mean. It took me long time to find out my previous hairstylist, as I was not completely satisfied with the outcome at so many hair salons before that. (I was a hair salon gypsy.)

    Hairstylists need communication skills, but there was a male hairstylist who completely did everything opposite from what I wanted. I was quite unhappy with my hair, and the conversation with him, either! (am I supposed to say “nor the conversation…? Sorry for my English, but hope you get what I mean :p )

    BTW, the photo is from Japanese websites or something? I have introduced some Japanese websites that have cute haircut patterns so you or your blog readers may want to refer to. It’s this post.

    But I know on the other hand that even if you find a good haircut sample photo, it means nothing when there’s no reliable hairstylists out there…:(

    • Julie Dubil Joseph

      My only advice would be to stay with the same stylist. I personally don’t like to only cut and shape the hair. I love to add color where the shape frames certain angles of the head and face.

  • K Smith

    You were dead on with the listening bit. I can’t tell you how many clients I have that tell me they are “SO THANKFUL” to have found someone to actually listens to their ideas. My thoughts on that as a stylist (and let me tell you I have definitely gotten some tsks from co-workers): I don’t have to look at you all day. It doesn’t matter what I want to see when I look at your hair. YOU have to look in the mirror all the time, and I want to make sure you’re happy when you do so. But it’s not only about listening. You have to make sure you click with your stylist. They may be an exceptional listener, but if they don’t fully understand your vision, you’re likely doomed. Shop around. We don’t mind. (Generally not the greatest idea to shop around in the same salon, however).

    Shape is a little harder. Not everyone has hair that will shape it’s self with a cut alone. If you happen to be one of the lucky few, I envy you! Don’t get me wrong, it *absolutely* helps to have a great cut with great angles, but most people have what I like to call “problem hair” that isn’t well taken care of at home, and that can lead to a very boring style indeed, even with a fabulous cut.

    I think you’re kind of wrong about product. I agree that they should not be relied upon, but as I said before… some people have absolutely unmanageable hair. They might have well water, or maybe they don’t use conditioner. Maybe they’re 14 years old with a cheap flat iron that they crank to the highest setting and then run over the same spot twelve times in a row. Products and tools help us to correct problems that we otherwise have no control over with our shears and combs alone.

    Some helpful hints:

    When you walk in to a salon, and you have a specific style in mind, ask at the front counter who is really good with face-framing, long layers or short textured cuts. We all have a specialty.

    Speak up and speak clearly. Ask to have some things explained back to you, so you can make sure your stylist has the right idea. Everyone has a different way of explaining themselves, and it’s quite exhausting trying to decode each individual client’s secret hair lingo.

    Find someone who loves what they do. Hang out in a salon and peruse the retail aisle for a minute to see who’s having the most fun. They’ll likely be the best stylist in the room.

    Better luck next time!!!

  • Ivy

    @kirin: Hi Kirin! It’s from Rasysa. I’ve actually used that site for a few years already. Found it in one of the asian pop music forums. It’s really really helpful since they recommend cuts by face shape, amount of hair etc.

    Your post seems to have more links! I’ll add your link to the post! 🙂 Thanks!

    The best hair stylist I’ve come across in Singapore is actually Japanese. Quite expensive and very popular so I have to book a few days in advance. She’s the one who cut my hair in the picture. Very very happy with her.

    Couldn’t go back to her today since I didn’t book and was really in need of a trim. Sigh. I really regretted my decision.

  • I completely agree. Most of these hairstylists are overzealous and NEVER want to listen to YOU. I’ve been doing my own hair for 15 years and whenever I did go to a stylist, I hated it. Sometimes my cousin does it, but that’s because she instills the same qualities you mentioned in this blog.

  • Ahhh where did my comment go!!! Grrr..

    Anyway reminds me I have to get a hair cut.. I get mine cut like once a year even though I know I should do it every 6 weeks or so but I’m so lazy plus I haven’t found a stylist I like yet. =S

  • Oi I know exactly why you mean. Especially when it comes to the bangs! I’m sitting there telling them not too short but always, always they cut it too short. I even show them where to stop but nooo. Anyway I hope your hair is alright now, sorry you had to go through all that.

  • Ivy

    @K Smith: Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! It’s very reassuring to know that there are stylists like you who understand the needs of your customers! 🙂

    Thanks for the advice too!

  • K Smith

    @Ivy: anytime, my dear. I’ve had my share of crappy cuts/stylists/experiences too!!

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  • My god, this is the argument I have gotten into with almost 80% of the hairstylists I’ve tried so far. They always do at least one of the following:

    1) Keep asking if I want to do some stupid treatment.
    2) Show me photos of Japanese/Korean/Taiwanese inspired hairdos when I have explicitly told them that I do NOT want any of those. Just because I am Asian does not mean my face will automatically fit into one of those hairdos.
    3) Give me a hair cut which requires LOTS of styling when the very first point I always make is “Minimal styling. 2 pumps of hair gel max.”

    And you are right, they assume they have free reign of their customers’ hair. They always give me cuts which they think are the “trend” or something they feel is their “unique creation”.

    Creation my foot! The thing is, customers may or may not have a definite idea of what they want, and perhaps most prefer not to, hoping that they may trust the hairstylist’s advice. But almost 100% know what they DON’T want and state so. Yet, the hairstylists here just brazenly ignore what has been instructed and have the nerve to feel self-satisfied after the cut. Grrrr!

  • Nice. I share the same opinion as well. There is nothing more or less which I couldn’t agree more. No matter guys or ladies need a haircut. The hairstylist must know how to listen, communicate and have eye for what the customers want for their hair features. And you are right sometimes price counts to a degree of how worthy the hair would looks good on you.

  • Hi! I’ve read all of your comments, and sadly, because before I was a stylist myself, I had also gone through a few traumatizing experiences with the cut my stylist would give me. After having that happen to me, I swore when I did become a professional, to never Ever have one of my clients leave with something they did not ask for. This doesn’t mean that I give them EXACTLY what they ask for the minute they sit down; I’ll recommend something on top of what they’re asking for. Whether that be recommending layers to a one length hair cut when I do know that it will not only look better, but be easier to style. If they say “sure!”, then there you go. BUT, if they Don’t seem as eager to take my suggestion, then I don’t do it. That’s why I’m so happy to be in the salon that I’m in; NO ONE will give you something that YOU do not ask for.

    Consultation is by far the most important part of a salon experience. I’ll make your bangs an example, and I’m not blaming you at all. Sometimes it’s just a lack of communication. I, as a stylist, always cut bangs a little longer than what I think you as a client is showing me because bangs shrink up and get shorter naturally.

    I too, disagree with what you said about products. Sometimes, when a client strongly suggests wanting a style, it comes with the territory of purchasing a bottle of sculpting foam or some cream gel to be able to recreate what I give you in the chair. Yes, you are supposed to work with the client’s hair texture, but being able to give them the flexibility of multiple styles on top of the one you give them is important.

    With that said, ask your friends and family about who they see if they seem ecstatic with their hair and give their stylist a shot sometime. A GREAT stylist should be flexible, and should be able to deliver and execute multiple styles on multiple hair textures.

    If anyone is in the Boston area, I REALLY suggest you take a look at our website and give us a try if you’ve ever had an unpleasant experience. I can guarantee you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks.

  • you can look for my friend fion at u-one salon at far east plaza, you can get a hairstyle you like for under 70 dollars for sure

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