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Steps To A Happy Haircut

I’m going to admit right off the bat that the issue of getting a good haircut is usually more pressing for women than it is for men. But we all want to walk out of the shop with confidence that our hair looks better than it did before.

Hair today, gone tomorrow. If you want a good haircut, don’t do it on an impulse. Chances are, you haven’t thought through what would actually look good, and let’s face it, you’re not a doll where someone cranks your arm and hair sprouts out of your head again. Unless you’re really fond of wearing bandanas and hats all the time, make sure you think about your haircut.

Phone a friend. No, not for moral support during the haircut or a sob session afterwards when the left side is two inches shorter than the right, but to get a recommendation. This is a lifeline indeed. You’ve seen your friends in a variety of hairstyles, and you’ll know by the finished product on their heads and their words of recommendation (or not) whether a certain stylist is the one you’re looking for.

Don’t be fooled by appearances. This one works both ways. You might see a stylist who has a haircut you’d never be seen alive with, but she might be a much better judge of what looks good on your head than her own. Or a stylist might dress weird or have scary jewelry, but that means nothing about his ability to cut hair. On the flip side, don’t think that just because someone looks fabulous themselves, is dressed in black or sports an exotic accent that they automatically know how to work the scissors.

Watch the person before you. Get there a little early and observe your stylist in action to see how he approaches the job. Is he rushing through the haircut at warp speed? Does she converse with the client to ask the client’s opinion? If you’re not satisfied with the answers to these questions, there is time to run out the door before you end up in the chair.

Get specific. You don’t have to know down to the exact style—after all, that’s why he is the professional and you’re in the chair. But leaving yourself totally open to the whims of the stylist is not always a wise option. Unless you and Mr. Barber have known each other for a long time, you cannot be assured of what they’re going to do. If nothing else, make it very clear what you don’t want him to do, and then go from there.

And if you request a specific length, I recommend saying about a half inch shorter than you actually want. The reason? Well, most hairstylists I’ve experienced will get a little scissor-happy and cut off a little more than you bargained for. Hey, you can always ask them to take more off, but you can’t put "too much" back on.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s fun to shop around for a new stylist sometimes, but if you’re looking for a goodie, make sure it’s someone you’ve seen more than a few times. They’ll know more about your personality and should be able to get a better idea of what ’do would suit you (hey, that rhymed) than someone who’s new and without a clue (I had to, I’m sorry). Stick with the good thing you’ve got going!

Use that consumer power. It took me a while to feel okay about this, but you as the paying customer have every right to speak up if what is happening to your hair is not what you desired! Most stylists acknowledge that though they are professionals, you are the one paying and they want your approval to gain more clients. So speak up—enjoy the competition that capitalism can foster.

To sum up the opposite of the above advice, I’ll leave you with a story. In 7
th

grade, I was tired of my straight, run-of-the-mill hairdo with bangs and all. I wanted something different, so one day I decided to go to a new hairstylist—I figured that different hair probably needed a different stylist. He was not recommended by anyone, I made the decision that day, and when I got there, I told him that I wanted something totally different and that he had free reign. Yikes.

The man assured me with his French accent that he was going to give me a “byooooteeful shange” and that I would be swept away. (Naturally, the French accent means he’s good at what he does … I think I’ve seen a few too many Vidal Sassoon commercials.) Anyhow, he got out the scissors and began gracefully chopping my hair, on one side, on the other, on the other side, then the other. This went on, and I grew increasingly anxious to say something, but I kept assuring myself he would stop. I walked out that day with my hair above my ears. It was hideous. I cried. A lot. I found out later that he was the owner of the shop, but that didn’t mean a thing in terms of what I was going for. Alas, I learned my lesson, and although my post-trauma haircutting record is not perfect, I haven’t cried since that incident.

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