I’ve worked as a hairstylist for nearly 14 years and have been employed by a variety of salons. From an upscale, soul-crushing hair factory to a small, quaint, laid-back shop, with a couple in-between, one thing has remained the same: clients still make the weirdest requests.
For instance, a guy asked me to cut his hair in such a way so when the wind blew, it wouldn’t get messed up. I handed him a can of hairspray and wished him luck. A woman with short, curly hair came in and said, “Cut it off, but don’t cut it. Also, I want it straight, but I won’t blow-dry it.”
Having an idea that isn’t full of contradictions provides me with boundaries to work within. Don’t say, “I don’t know what I want,” and expect me to clairvoyantly pull it out of you. I know it's fun to be someone’s art project and you want me to tell you what will look best, but if we’ve just met, and I don’t know anything about you, it’s hard to answer the question, “What would you do if you could do anything?”
People also frequently ask for a “style.” I can’t pluck a style from a shelf and place it on your head because styles aren’t tangible. I can cut your hair in a way that offers different options in terms of how you wear it. We could change your part, add bangs, or use a diffuser so you’re able to wear it curly. I can show you how to use a flat iron or a curling iron. Understand that these possibilities are temporary and require practice to achieve them.
The following are requests or statements from clients that make it challenging to do my job (and how to avoid being that client).
“Make it look cool/playful/crazy.”
I don’t know what these words mean to you without explanation. Don’t ask me for something "different" and then go ballistic when I give it to you. Define what would be ideal for you so we can collaborate on what will work best.
“Can you just, you know, ch, ch, ch?”
Making noises while pretending to cut your hair with your fingers makes me want to respond with an interpretive dance. I understand you may not know the actual term for the motion you are demonstrating, and that’s OK. A better option is to communicate with pictures so I can see what you mean.
“Can you dig your nails into my scalp?”
This request happens sometimes at the shampoo bowl and makes me throw up in my mouth. This is especially gross if you haven’t washed your hair in a week and the smell of your scalp funk is hitting me in the face. I certainly don’t want it under my nails.
I know over-washing your hair isn’t ideal, but, please take care of it a day or two before coming in, and don’t ask me to dig anything into your scalp.
“I don’t want my hair to look like yours.”
Well, that’s a relief. Luckily, you and I are two different people and enjoy different things. I see a different head of hair every hour, and experience has taught me how to handle a variety of textures and shapes.
I need you to tell me about yourself. I want to know what you do for work, how you’re currently styling your hair and whether or not you’re interested in a change. I don’t have ulterior motives of making you my hair twin.
“I want [insert desire such as volume, straight hair, etc.] but I don’t want to blow-dry it or apply product.”
Sure, and I want a unicorn farm. This unrealistic request happens almost daily and makes me want to scream obscenities. Do you tell your dentist you want clean teeth without brushing and flossing daily?
You get as much out of anything in life as what you put into it, and your hair is no exception. I know fine hair falls flat and curly hair gets wild in humidity, but you don’t have a fighting chance without some effort. Tell me how much time you have, and I’ll share what’s possible.
“Watch this movie, and stop it at one hour, 47 minutes and 23 seconds to see the exact style I want for next time.”
Darlings, I am here for you, and I am interested in what you want for your hair. However, please understand there is a limit as to how far down the rabbit hole of your desire I’m willing to travel. Show me your top three images and we’ll go from there.
At the end of your service I want you to feel good about yourself because we’ve all left the salon with a hideous haircut, wondering “What do I do with it now?” The best experiences happen when clients are relaxed, have realistic expectations about what their hair can do, and are willing to put forth a little effort in styling it. When this happens, I am relaxed, am able to do my best work, and we all leave happy.