Have you ever left the hair salon feeling emotional, in a bad way? You swallow hard to keep your composure until you slam your car door shut, or have reached a safe two streets away, and can let out a frustrated sigh or even a tear that stings dripping out of your eye?
In my experience with post-haircut regret, it's uncomfortable on many levels. It's self-inflicted pain: You wanted a haircut, Megan. You should be happy! Then, there's an element of cognitive dissonance. To spare the hairstylist's feelings, I force a smile, say, "I love it so much," which just makes me feel ickier when I later cry about how my hair is too short, or how I wish it wasn't so poofy.
Now, with the arrival of 2022 and resolutions top of mind, I'm challenging myself to be a better communicator, and figure out how to ask for the haircut I actually want.
Figure out your hair vibe before you go to the salon
Tom Smith, a self-described "holistic" hairstylist — meaning he works with his clients though their cut, colour, and styling services — tells me to first, get introspective. "This time of year, the reflective beginning of the New Year, is a really fantastic time to plan a haircut," Smith recommends. (My therapist would love this guy, I thought, during our Zoom call.) "To start, think about your personal hair vibe." Maybe you're looking to evolve the style or cut you already have. Maybe it's something totally fresh and different. Smith says: "Consider how you want to present yourself to the world and how you want your hair to play into that."
Bring 3 photos of your dream haircut to your appointment
Now, it's important to remember that a hairstylist is an artist, a friend, in some cases, but not a mindreader. You want to verbalise your "vibe" to the best of your ability, using words and pictures. "You're not meant to know how to perfectly explain what you want," Smith explains. "So you can show [your hairdresser] the type of styles you're drawn to and give a sense of what you want." Just remember, what you consider a "curtain fringe" might not be how the stylist interprets them, from a technical POV. For this reason, it's very helpful to bring reference photos. For Smith, the magic number is three.
"I have a rule: I always ask for three inspiration photos — I ask clients to bring three images that they really love," Smith says. "I don't want to see just one image; I don't want you to be fixated on one single look. You're not Kim Kardashian and we can't make you her. More than three, that suggests that you don't know what you're looking for."
For me, finding three "vibe" references feels like kind of a fun homework assignment. My FYP is convincing me to ask for face-framing layers and curtain bangs. But, I have also been gravitating towards long, blunt and un-layered styles, like Julie (@leasy_inparis), which could potentially be heat styled in "effortless" waves, like SJP in And Just Like That...
I like different aspects of each cut and style, and discussing them with my stylist will likely help synthesise what will work well for my hair: relatively thick, red, wavy, that I like to part in the middle and be able to pull back in a claw clip.
When talking to your hairstylist, be yourself
Now, once you can visualise the general aesthetic you want, don't hold back in how you communicate. "You're going to see an expert and it's about communication and consultation," Smith says, adding that for him, it's really helpful to develop a stylist-client relationship that goes deeper than hair. "You have to allow your hairstylist to get to know you — the fashion choices you make, your personality, what you do for work, how you like to wear your hair during the workweek versus the weekend — once you give them that information, they can begin to create something that's really special and unique to you."
While still in the mood-boarding process, I'm getting clear on what I like, which is making me feel confident that my first haircut of 2022 will be something that feels "special and unique" to me — at least, that's how I'll wear it.