The Salon Experience Part II:
What To Say, What To Do—And What Not To Do
Now it’s your turn. But what the hell do you say when you go into a salon? What do you ask for? What’s it going to be like in there? Facing an unfamiliar environment, these are fair questions.
Here in Part II of the salon experience, we’re giving you the tips and tactics you need to confidently navigate your own visit to the salon.
A successful trip to the salon ends with you walking out liking the way your hair looks, and without taking any significant damage. And while it’s true there are plenty of great long hairstyles for men that are a little shorter, for the sake of this post we’re assuming you want to keep it long and strong.
A good place to start is asking yourself, “what do I want to look like?”
To answer that we’ll revisit a common longhair problem, which is being mistaken for a woman, particularly when seen from behind. From that standpoint it’s fair to say, at the most basic level, “I want to look like a man.” So when getting our hair cared for we’ll aim to mitigate this predicament.
As my hair professional expressed to me, “when I look at a man with long hair from behind, I want to know I’m looking at a man.”
She went on to explain further, a man’s long hair should look a little more worn in. A little rugged. Not so soft and smooth and perfectly shaped as women may prefer. Bounce, curl, and angular are not really the words we’re going for.
In other words, it doesn’t have to be perfect. While you do want to remove split ends, you don’t have to take off four inches to make sure you get every last one.
You can actually see the hair that really needs to be cut. Comb it straight down. The stuff that’s really worn out and damaged will be almost transparent at the tips. That hair isn’t doing you any good and is ready to part ways with.
Of course, this is all if you want to look a little more manly. If you’re looking for a little softer touch you can go that route. Keep all of this in mind, and have a sense for what you want the end result to look like.
“When I look at a man with long hair from behind, I want to know I’m looking at a man.”
You may need to make an appointment in advance. Some salons will showcase their hair professionals on their website, and it’s generally ok to request a specific person. Look for a professional with education and experience. If you need to call in, you can certainly ask for someone who has worked with male clients.
Many salons will offer a glass of wine or a beer. Accept it gratefully to calm the nerves, but keep your wits about you. Remember you’re walking into a cutting zone and you don’t want any mishaps to occur.
Most salons are going to shampoo your hair before trimming. This is a calming and relaxing experience. They’ll do a thorough cleansing using high-quality shampoo, getting deep into the roots and massaging your skull. In some cases they may even use a stronger cleanser. Think of it as a deep clean in between your normal shampoo regimen.
Not only are you going to get a thorough cleanse, but it’s a great feeling getting your head massaged. PROTIP: as great as those fingers in your hair might feel, do NOT utter any moaning or verbalizations that may be heard across the salon. This is very important. It will dramatically decrease your time at the shampoo station and you will get shut down. Politely accept and enjoy while avoiding any audible moaning or groaning.
PROTIP: Do not utter any moaning or verbalizations while getting your hair shampooed.
Addressing Your Hair Professional
Here are the actual dos and don’ts.
Be clear and polite. Start with a concise description of what you’re looking for. Something like, “I’d like a minimal trim to clean it up and get rid of some split ends.”
Rather than trying to describe a particular style or technique, focus on what you don’t want. For example, “I don’t want to see four inches of dead fallen soldiers on the floor beneath my chair.”
Use a physical landmark of where you want your hair to reach, like a spot on your shoulders or chest. That’s of course when it’s DRY, because it’s longer when it’s wet. If they cut to a length when wet it will be shorter when dry.
A pretty safe bet is saying, “I would basically like to look exactly like I do right now, just a better, cleaner version.” You could even say, “I would rather leave some split ends behind and keep the length than take too much off.”
This may sound cautious, but here’s the thing. When you go in there, your hair professional is going to look at your hair and see two feet of fresh virgin goodness. They’ve gone to school and learned all sorts of techniques and styles they’re dying to try. And more often they are dealing with clientele who have had their hair dyed, heated and treated for decades. Like an artist with a blank canvas, they are eager to try some of their stuff on you.
So if you go in there talking about your wants and needs, this and that, they’re liable to get excited, envisioning an overly-robust haircut, and take you to the chopping block.
Tactfully ask them to repeat back what you’ve explained, just to be sure we’re all on the same page.
Some Terms You Might Hear
Thinning – this is a technique where the hair is cut at uneven lengths, providing layers and texture. The problem is this is a haphazard technique, leaving you with unequal lengths that aren’t going to work together. The shorter lengths will tend to kink and frizz, working against the full uncut lengths that are straighter.
Carving – this is a more refined technique where the hair is cut at an upward, diagonal angle. While still providing texture and a layering effect, this ensures the hair maintains a consistent growth pattern and the cut lengths will continue working for you.
Shape – generally speaking, you’re probably going for more of a square shape than rounded or angular. Steer away from concepts like step cut, a-line bob or the sort.
All this may be more than you need or care to know, but just so you have a sense of things you might hear. Regardless of what kind of technique they’re using, there could be no thinning, carving, chopping or cutting activities taking place above two inches from the tips.
PROTIP: DON’T BE SILENT. If you see something, say something.
Once you get into the cut, stay alert. If it looks like there is too much coming off, pump the brakes. DON’T BE SILENT. If you see something, say something. This is not the time to hold your opinion and hope for the best.
PROTIP: don’t be distracted by boobs in your face. This is a real hazard. One minute you’re your mind is a steel trap focused on the task at hand, a few accidental boob shots to the head later you’ve forgotten where you are and there are scissors actively operating on your position.
Suddenly you’re panicking and all that comes out is a meek and muffled nooooo, drown out by the steady drone of blowdryer engines and distant female chatter.
Keep it together. Remember, you are here on business.
PROTIP: Do not be distracted by boobs in your face.
When your hair pro is finished you’ll have a chance to look at the results. Having been cautious from the outset, you may find you don’t look that different. If that’s the case you can always ask to have a little more taken off. Remember, you can always ask for more, not so much the other direction. You might also ask to have the back of your neck cleaned up as well as around the ears, depending on your preference.
Lastly, don’t be shy about asking questions during your experience. Most hair pros will be glad to explain what they’re doing and it’s a great chance to learn and be educated about your hair.
When you’re feeling good about it, it’s time to get out of there, and always tip your hair professional. You want them to remember you fondly and look forward to you coming back. And if they did a nice job, you might ask if they will take you again next time.
That’s all for now boys. Follow these straightforward tips and you’ll walk out of there with a full head of locks intact, looking fresh and ready for the next #hairwhipwednesday.