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The day will come when you will have to find a new stylist. It is as inevitable as death, and about as pleasant.
In the days before I became involved in the beauty industry, I can recall when my very pregnant stylist informed me, that after the baby was born she would no longer be cutting hair.
Once the initial shock wore off, I manifested emotions such as - denial, anger, pleadings to God, and pretended acceptance. When at last it was time for my next haircut and not knowing what else to do or where else to go, I simply returned to the same salon and another girl cut my hair.
Not only did she do a fine job on my hair, she changed the look altogether and it was much better than the already terrific job her former coworker had been doing, and I remained a client at that salon for the next fourteen years.
I took this lesson with me when I entered the beauty industry. You might argue that it was just dumb luck, but it wasn't. Throughout those fourteen years my stylists changed many times, but the quality of service and workmanship did not. This was because I went to an excellent salon with superior staff training and mentoring.
In other words, it is finding the right salon that is critical, not the right stylist, and all the better so as stylists tend to move on every year or so, for no particular reason.
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Over the years I have been asked many times how to find a good stylist or salon and over time I have worked out the following formula with very good results:
1. Do not ask friends, relatives or coworkers whom they recommend. As it turns out they will rarely tell you who their stylist really is because over the course of time they have told that stylist every detail about their personal life and they don't want it to slip out. They also don't want you to show up with the same cut and style that they have.
What they will do is give you the name of a relative or friend who cuts hair because every single person on the face of the earth is related to a hair stylist, or at least knows one socially. If you actually go there and you are unsatisfied with the service, there is no graceful way out of the situation without offending the person who gave you the referral.
Instead I recommend asking a total stranger. If you see someone on the street or at the grocery store who has a cut that you like, simply stop them and ask. You needn't be embarrassed, it is quite flattering to the person whom you stopped and they will be eager to brag up their salon or stylist. After you have done this a few times you will see a pattern emerge.
2. Age, gender, sexual orientation, race, and years of experience, have nothing to do with the talent of a stylist. Don't get caught up in those nonsensical stereotypes. They will neither serve you, or become you.
Instead I recommend screening the salon. Do they have an internship or apprentice program for training their new stylists. How often do they have education in the salon, (other than product education). How often do they go to an IBS, (International Beauty Show), in Long Beach, Chicago or New York. How many of them have been to an advanced academy with Toni & Guy, American Crew, Paul Mitchell or the like.
In my salon we bring select beauty school students into our internship program for six months. By the time they graduate beauty school they hit the floor running and are usually better than stylists who have been cutting hair for five years or more in other salons. We have mandatory technical training in the salon every two weeks. Failure to attend is grounds for immediate dismissal. Stylists are required to either attend an advanced academy at their own expense, ($1,000 - $3,000), or attend an IBS at a minimum of once every two years. Twice per year our stylists are required to compete in a National Cosmetology Association hair cutting competition or State competition. Every single stylist is required to do straight razor cuts from day one.
Now, I don't expect every salon to meet our standards, but I do expect to see some degree of professionalism above that of the average salon, or they don't get to touch my hair.
3. Last but not least, I always give the straight razor test. Walk up to a stylist in the salon who isn't doing anything and ask him or her to show you their straight razor. If it isn't in their tool belt or on their station ready for use, or if it has a guard on it, turn and go. Those people are not serious about hair cutting. Imagine your plumber not knowing how to use a wrench.
If the salon is dedicated to being the best, you can bet the stylists are too, and it does not matter a hoot whom you choose in that salon.