Lucky for all of us, there are a number of Chicago salons that offer discounted services via apprenticeship programs. You can get cut or color for as little as $10, and blowouts are often free! But, make no mistake: You're not going to be worked on by some rookie. While all of these stylists and colorists are licensed (some have been working for years), they have to go through a training program before going on the floor to ensure they’re techniques are consistent with company standards. And, as an added insurance policy, their work will always be supervised by a senior instructor or the actual owner. So, what are you waiting for? Roots and frayed ends be damned!
Smith & Davis
Services available: Color, haircuts, blowdries, and styling. The apprentices work through a specific curriculum. The services available will vary depending on the technique they are working on.
When: Every Monday, from 12 to 4:30 p.m. Periodically, there are advanced workshops with senior staff and hairdressers from other salons. Those are typically on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
Cost: Haircuts, blowdry/style, and updo services are free. Color services are $25 to cover the cost of the products. If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a current picture of your hair and what service you want. The students book their own models, so they will contact you if you're a fit.
What makes this program so great: Because Smith & Davis is small salon, it is able to provide one-on-one education for the apprentices. Co-owner Michael Davis has over 20 years of experience as a stylist, educator, and Art Director for Sassoon. The dynamic duo designed this comprehensive examination of the foundational techniques that keep abreast of the cutting-edge techniques in the industry.
What you need to know before going: Allow plenty of time! This is a learning situation, so it will take up to two hours for a haircut and up to three for a color service. Be open-minded. The students have a set curriculum and are looking for models who want specific looks that are discussed before booking.
Smith & Davis Salon, 735 West Wrightwood Avenue (between Burling and Halsted streets); 773-697-4206.
Services available: Blowdry, haircut, and color services.
When: Every Tuesday evening at the River North location. In addition, there are advanced apprentices who perform services on Tuesdays or Wednesdays at one of the two locations. Clients can call the salon to see if there is an apprentice in the advanced stage available.
Cost: For Tuesday evening classes, there is no charge for a blowdry, $20 for haircut, $20 for single-process color, and $25 for highlights. Advanced apprentice prices are 50% off starting salon prices.
What makes this program so great: Buzz claims to have the longest program running in Chicago, which is always renewed to keep up with the latest trends. By the time the assistant is on the floor, they have the same core training as every other stylist in the salon.
What you need to know before going: By the time an assistant performs services on a live model, they have invested an extensive number of hours perfecting their color, blowdrying, and cutting techniques on mannequins. There is always a qualified instructor overseeing to ensure the final results will be the same as agreed upon in the initial consultation.
Salon Buzz, multiple locations.
Services available: Haircut and color services.
When: Sundays through Fridays, during regular business hours. There is also an advanced training program class every Wednesday.
Cost: $20 for haircuts, $35 for standard color, and $60 for corrective color.
What makes this program so great: It's very structured and scheduled out in advance. Different educators create goals and timelines for the assistants in the program, which keeps the program well-rounded.
What you need to know before going: All of the classes are supervised by senior stylists who specialize in the subject being taught. Added bonus: Your payment goes toward the education department.
Solo Salon, 1065 West Madison Street (between Aberdeen and Carpenter streets); 312-491-9771.
Services available: Basic blowdries, buns, and braids.
When: Monthly, usually on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
Cost: $20, includes a hands-on class and light drinks and bites.
What makes this program so great: Beyond walking away with a beautiful 'do, you'll learn some tricks of the trade, too!
What you need to know before going: Come ready to have fun and leave with great tresses that will last for days.
Glowout, 160 North Halsted Street (between Couch Place and Randolph Street); 312-605-0905.
Services available: Blowouts, haircuts, all-over color, highlights, and specialty services (hair therapy, updos, hair extensions, permanent wave, relaxer, conditioning treatments) on occasion.
When: Weekly classes are held at the following salons: Chicago 900, Bloomingdale, Hawthorn, Naperville, OakBrook, Old Orchard, Schaumburg, and Orland Park. Classes for style and color are held Monday through Thursday. Exact day/time varies by location. Call 847-202-1900 for more details.
Cost: $5 to $40 for style and color services. Full pricing menu is available at the location.
What makes this program so great: Tricoci and his creative education directors built the program by tapping the top stylists and colorists in every salon to educate the new generation of apprentices.
What you need to know before going: Each service is conducted under the direction of the education team. Each service will last between two-and-a-half and three hours.
Mario Tricoci, multiple locations.
Mixed Co. Salon
Services available: Cutting, style, and color services, including the "Painted by Patrick" balayage-like technique.
When: Style and cut models are needed every Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Color models are needed every Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Once the apprentice reaches certain goals within program, they can also book models on their days off.
Cost: There is no cost for style or cut services. Color services are $25 to help cover cost of the products used (cash only). Tips are certainly up to the discretion of the model and appreciated.
What makes this program so great: The apprentices are exposed to top-tier educators, including Patrick Ryan, founder of Mixed Co. Salon. Expectations are high for all candidates, as the team looks for those who will be the educators of tomorrow.
What you need to know before going: You'll be in and out of the salon within the same time frame as if you were paying for the service, as the apprentices are also working on timing.
Mixed Co. Salon, 223 West Erie Street (at Wells Street); 312-929-2627.
Sine Qua Non
Services available: Haircuts, blowouts, updos, and color.
When: Mondays, from 12 to 2 p.m., at the Lakeview location for haircuts, and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Lincoln Park salon for color.
Cost: Haircuts, blowouts, and updos are free. Color services cost between $25 and $35.
What makes this program so great: The educators oversee every step of the work so that you get the same level of customer care as regular paying clients.
What you need to know before going: You must fill out the model form and send in a photo. Next, you will receive a call to schedule your appointment. You can also call the day of to see if there are any cancellations.
Sine Qua Non, multiple locations.
Michael & Michael
Services available: Color and cut.
When: Cuts are generally Tuesdays at 4:00 p.m., and color workshops generally take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. Other times may be scheduled on a case-by-case basis.
Cost: $10 for cut, $20 for color.
What makes this program so great: The intense apprentice program is two years long, so that advance techniques can be practiced and mastered.
What you need to know before going: Expect the service to take more time because it is an educational workshop. Also, be prepared to have before-and-after photos taken.
Michael & Michael, 365 West Chicago Avenue (at Sedgwick Street); 312-951-0779.
Services available: Haircut and color.
When: Mondays for cuts, Tuesdays for color/texture. There may be some additional advanced classes available as well.
Cost: Cut and style from $20, color and texture from $30. Note that as the stylist/colorist advances, so does the price.
What makes this program so great: The program has been in place for over 20 years. The classes are small, and there's always an instructor present.
What you need to know before going: Assistants look for specific techniques during the course of their program. Please allow enough time for your services to be performed.
Trio Salon, 712 North Wabash Avenue (between Huron and Superior streets); 312-944-6999.
Mops Beauty Shop
Services available: Blowouts, various cuts, and color techniques.
When: Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: Blowdries and cuts are free, color services are $35.
What makes this program so great: The program is self-paced, so rest assured the assistants aren't rushing through any of the techniques.
What you need to know before going: Every service is provided by a licensed stylist under the supervision of an experienced instructor. Allow extra time for your services due to the instruction time.
Mops Beauty Shop, 2500 North California Avenue (between Altgeld Street and Logan Boulevard); 773-687-9990.
HONORABLE MENTION: Gloss
We wanted to give a shout out to Gloss salon for those of you who are ready to establish a relationship with a seasoned stylist or colorist, but are looking for flexibility within the salon environment. Owner Renee Pelc allows the stylists and colorists in her Gold Coast salon to express their own individual creativity, style, and technique. And, when it comes to cost, each artist establishes their own pricing system, so options abound. We love Pelc for her flawless, celeb-like balayage highlights, and stylist Giovanna Morano (who boasts oodles of professional photo-shoot and instructing experience) for killer cuts that are a cinch to style on your own.
Gloss Salon, 875 North Rush Street (at Delaware Place); 312-649-9609.