Monday, June 29, 2009

This blows

So the DIY haircut grew out into the predictable not-quite-mullet form, with a long piece in the back that was too involved to just chop off. I figured the time had come for professional intervention. I figured wrong.

Running out of ideas, I headed to a chain one rung above Super-Cuts in the classiness hierarchy, noticing that a cut was $45, a full $15 less than the ones to which I'd grown accustomed prior to the DIY revelation. A cut with a blow-dry was $70, but given that summer weather has finally arrived in NY, I figured there'd be no need.

Once again, wrong I was. The hairdresser assigned to my case informed me that without the blow-dry, my haircut would not be even. The whole purpose of this haircut was the evening-out of my hair, but it struck me that if they openly offer such a thing as a cut without a blow-dry, surely such a thing is possible, assuming a client not obsessed with perfection. A client, that is, such as myself. It occurred to me that, if this was being pushed on me despite my short hair, the $45/$70 disparity is probably just a PC way of saying what the salon feels is the difference between a men's and women's haircut, regardless of length. Hmm.

So it wasn't that I was wrong about an even haircut resulting from a cut without a blowdry - that much was achieved. Where I erred was in assuming the hairdresser would just go with it once I said that this was what I wanted, minor imperfections being the price I was willing to pay. She kept repeating that I really should get the blow-dry as well, on and on until finally I just explained outright that I'm a student and $45 is possible for me in a way that $70 is not. She either didn't hear or didn't choose to acknowledge this the first time, so after several more urgings to get a blow-out, I repeated my occupation status. She seemed suspicious and wanted to know where I studied. When I said which school (not specifying the program or anything), she held forth about how very smart I must be, which, no hard feelings to my university, surprised me. No one refers euphemistically to going to school 'in Greenwich Village.' I was getting suspicious.

So anyhow, you don't want someone cutting your hair who's angry at you, and by requesting no-blow, I'd set things up to go in this direction. Hoping to mend things, I said very early on in the cut, before much change was detectable, how lovely it looked. This seemed to work, in that superficial way things do when the baseline hostility level's already been established.

Onto the haircut itself: everything about it, other than the price, reminded me why I'd left salons behind in the first place. As someone with hair that's thick not in a Pantene-commercial way, but in an I-can't-fall-asleep-with-it-wet-without-looking-like-I-need-to-be-committed way, I don't especially enjoy when a straight-and-fine-haired hairdresser spends the whole time telling me that I have so much hair, while taking every opportunity to thin it out with special scissors for people with so much hair. Yes, yes, a ton of hair, I'm well aware, yes, it's better than not enough hair, but no, I really have no response to the thickness of my hair being pointed out every time I get my hair cut. (One hairdresser once referred to the thickness of my hair, which was making a blow-dry - included in that cut - take forever by saying 'so hairy', while giggling. That was the best, by far.)

I could tell, as my hair was being cut, that the back was not so much being evened out as turning into a classic men's haircut. Not what I'd asked for at all, but not totally unreasonable for an angled bob, and perhaps pleasant for summer. It was when the hairdresser gelled the back into a bangs-free version of this that I got concerned. Had my cheapness gone that far?

Long story short, after shampooing out the gel and styling the results in a way that did not involve anything being 'spiked', it looks like no hat will be necessary. Beyond that, I'll say no more.


Anomie said...

Holy cow haircuts are expensive! I cut my own hair. I get it slightly uneven, but so does the hairdresser, so I figure I might as well save the money.

Phoebe said...


That's precisely the conclusion I had come to, and that I've now come to once more.

PG said...

I really like my hair-cutter -- she works at an expensive salon (the owner charges $500 for a cut), but she charges $73, understands my curly/Indofro hair, and doesn't push more services or products on me. She also doesn't push me to get my hair cut more than twice a year. $150 + cost of Duane Reade shampoo and conditioner = reasonable annual price for hair cut well enough that I can wash'n'go.

What's wrong with SuperCuts? When my ambition for my hair was just to get the split ends trimmed off evenly, I would go home to the Super Wal-Mart salon. The woman there did not try to tell me what to do with my hair (she would gush over how curly it was, but I accept this as How Texas Hairdressers Are -- the bigger it is possible for hair to be made, the more they admire it) nor upsell me on products and services. It cost $15, including a $3 tip for which she was sincerely grateful. I understand there's a tragic lack of Super Wal-Marts in NYC, but surely there's a slightly more expensive version filling that market niche?

Phoebe said...


Nothing's necessarily wrong with SuperCuts - I walked into the place that was cheap and most convenient, and it happened to be a branch of a chain that was marginally more expensive. But I did once get a haircut even worse than my current one at a Jean-Louis David for something like $25, which made me wary of cuts at that level. Still, so much depends on the stylist you get, so I wouldn't all-out eliminate any particular chain or price point.

If I could find a $73 once-a-year option, I might consider not reverting to self-inflicted haircuts, but that will probably have to wait until my hair's a bit longer. As it stands, it will need to be evened out again every few months, even just to grow it out, which means two mirrors, scissors, and hoping for the best. That, or the cheap and convenient-to-campus Astor Place spot, which might well fill the niche you refer to, except that its clientele is mostly (but not entirely) male.

And in terms of hairdressers dealing with 'ethnic' hair, I'm always baffled by how stunned most hairdressers are in New York by my hair, which is give or take the hair of half the residents of many NYC neighborhoods. I think what might be going on is that hairdressers see pallor and assume white complexion means 'white' hair, which in my case won't get you far.

Britta said...

From my minimal hair cutting experience, I've found at the low/moderate range, there is no correlation between price and cut. The hands down best two haircuts I have ever had in my life were from a Kosovar immigrant in Hyde Park who charged $13. Using no styling products and a dry cut, he worked magic, and I'd seriously be hard pressed to find any hair salon at any price who could do a better job. The next best was a free cut from a fancy salon (I was a "hair model," a nice term for a guinea pig that the stylist uses to try out a new technique). I have had perfectly decent though not amazing cuts from supercuts (not as cheap as I expected, about $20), and quite a few incredibly mediocre ones from supposedly more upscale "hipster" places in Portland OR that were several years ago about $25-30 in cost. (Plus, they came with some of the surliest stylists. One time, after ignoring me and my recommendations, when I expressed my displeasure with the final cut--I mean seriously, it was worse than the free cuts my roommate gave me in college--the stylist was like, oh whatever, it's your hair's problem, not mine.) I also have relied on free cuts from friends & family, with varying degrees of success. Of course, I have the opposite problem to you Phoebe, my hair is incredibly fine, fairly thin, full of cowlicks and has a mind of its own, and despite being supposedly straight and easy to cut. (I'm currently in China, and the hairdresser offered me helpful tips to prevent my "balding," though he gave me a surprisingly good blunt cut bob for $3.)

Another good option is to go to a hairdressing school/salon training school, where you can get a decent haircut for less than half the price of the salon. I've gone to an Aveda training salon, and although the result wasn't "wow," it wasn't terrible either, and definitely worth paying $25 for instead of the $50 that Aveda charged at the time.

Of course, I don't live in NY, and only wear blunt cut bobs (hair like a six year old needs a cut like a six year old unfortunately), so I guess $25 is pretty much impossible in NY for a passable haircut for hair that needs more than a blunt cut?

kei said...

Ah, the "so much hair" comments. I've had balding men (not strangers, thankfully) ask me for leftovers.

In addition to getting a $70 service over a $45 one, and thus more tip monies, my theory is that hairdressers prefer to do the blowout because it gives them and the client a better idea of the haircut results. I've noticed that when I get my hair cut, they'll cut it when it's wet, and then when it seems like they're not quite done, they start to dry it. And then they reassure me that they're going to cut more after they dry it.

I haven't had short hair in a while though, so I wonder if my theory above applies to your case. And for reference, I also take the kind-of-expensive-but-only-twice-a-year route. But it can be hard to find the right salon and stylist. Sometimes the perfect ones are overseas! But when the right haircut comes along, the feeling is quite close to priceless, IMO.

Sissie Sue said...

I used to wear my hair in a buzz cut -- just like many men do. I stopped going to barbers/stylists when the *insisted* on charging me the "women's" price simply because I am female.

I cut my own hair, or I enlist my partner's help. When I MUST visit a salon, I usually go to SuperCuts. I've received decent cuts from a number of them, and they charge the same for both men's and women's cuts. (Around 13$ plus tip in my part of the country).