Do This Don’t: Get Your Hair Cut By A Student

Yes, friends: I think you should let a non-professional cut and style your hair.
Publish date:
February 20, 2013
hair, hair cuts, saving money, do this don't

Listen, we all know ladies’ hair is fraught with all kinds of MEANING and IMPORTANCE. We spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a year on it ($50,000 over our lifetimes, according to a Tresemmé poll). American badass and role model Hillary Clinton once famously said, “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.”

And I haven’t even touched on the time, effort and money that go into different cultural ideations of “good hair,” because I am so ill equipped to tangle with that. Suffice it to say that hair is an issue for all of us.

That’s why I’m going to make a bold statement. I am suggesting that instead of shelling out assloads of money at the salon, we all make ourselves well acquainted with our local beauty school. Yes, friends: I think you should let a non-professional cut and style your hair.

I’ve reached this realization after nearly three years of city grooming, during which I went from one stylist to another, shelling out upwards of $50 plus tip for a simple haircut. (Yes, I know this is nothing compared to what a lot of people pay for a haircut.) Things were going fine with my first stylist, a handsome hetero dude who talked hockey with me. But then the DC summer hit and surprise! Apparently I have wavy hair in the humidity. Who knew?

“What can we do with all this?” I asked, gesturing at my poufy head.

He ran his fingers through it once, then said, “Throw it in a ponytail. I’ll see you in the fall.” Oh, dude, you really won’t.

I had another stylist I liked who worked with the waves, but she moved out of town and frankly I couldn’t see dropping $60 and making the commute to a stylist. It just wasn’t in the cards.

So, for almost a year I just let everything grow out in a sad, shapeless way. I was mad at myself for succumbing to the sloppy bun so often. It was time to get my shit together. And then one of my beautiful friends got the cutest, shortest curly cut I have ever seen.

“Where did you GO?” we all asked, touching her head as if it were a baby rabbit or fuzzy sale sweater at Zara. When she mentioned the local Aveda Institute, everyone scoffed, “NO!” And I whispered, “YES!” like a creepy Gollum, and made my appointment.

Some tips, if you yourself would like to save some cash (to blow on products or the iTunes store or whatever it is you spend your money on. I splurge at Trader Joe’s because FOOD, you guys):

Know what you want. You need to go in with a strong idea, and communicate it clearly to your stylist. They are students, so if you tell them to go wild, they will push themselves -- sometimes awesome, sometimes disastrous. I watched a friend get a $5 faux hawk that became a Mohawk in college because he told his student, “Go nuts with it.” It wasn’t what he wanted at first but it looked good after, trust.

If something doesn’t look or feel right, speak up. You’re still a customer, after all. You’re paying to get what you want. So if you are not thrilled about the angle of your stylist’s scissors, say so. My only horror story in the last nine months of getting cheapo cuts involved a girl who was clearly overworked and bored with my hair who did not listen to me or herself when she asked “Straight bangs or swoopy?”

I said, “Swoopy!”

She said, “OK, swoopy,” and then went SNIP right straight across my face. I should have said, “SWOOPY SWOOPY SWOOPY!” as she was closing in for the kill but I was afraid that would be rude. It wouldn’t have been, because I have to live with the hair on my head and if I learned anything from ages 3 through 14, it’s that straight across bangs are not good for me.

Prepare to spend a lot of time there. I mean a LOT. My haircut is super simple (I think), and it takes about two hours from butt-in-chair to payment. If you’re getting color done, expect to spend even longer, maybe half your day or so. This is OK! You can chat with your stylist if that’s your bag or fiddle with your phone if it’s not. My stylist, Lizz, and I talk about growing up in the punk scene, comic books and gender. Obviously she is amazing.

Don’t be afraid of the n00bs. Your instinct might be to ask for a student who’s close to completing his or her program, which is fine -- it was mine, too. But if you get someone who’s early in their program, you’re able to build up a relationship with them, and maybe follow them to a salon after they move on.

I normally went with students who were about to graduate, but when I got Lizz I knew we’d get on famously, since she looked like a green-haired Christian Siriano and cracked jokes immediately. Apparently I’m not the only one who likes her. She’s booked up for appointments a few weeks in advance.

For the love of god, tip. Student stylists aren’t making money cutting your hair. They’re spending tuition money to stand there and primp you. They’ve gotta pay rent and buy Gummy Tummies just like the rest of us. Throw them some cash.

If it’s not right, pop back in. Just like with any other stylist, if things aren’t sitting right, show up and explain it. It’s better to talk things through with your stylist than it is to sit quietly glowering, writing a terrible review or chucking them under the bus when their instructor comes through. Let your feelings be known.

I know we all want to look fancy, but we don’t have to SPEND fancy to get there.

Do you have tips on how to save bucks on your hair (besides “Not cutting it,” like that’s even an option for some of us)? Have you had an amazing experience with a student stylist? Are you more of a Hair Cuttery kind of gal? Let’s talk about it.

Lindsey is flipping her hair on Twitter and Instagram: @lindseywoho.