Vain Reflections: Down at the Salon

What is it about the salon that captivates me so?

I have way too much fun for my own good.

A little history:
I will confess. I used to be a chop-shop junkie. I couldn’t see the rationale of paying more than 20 for a haircut. I mean, jeez, it’s scissors to hair and it lasts about 15-20 minutes. But therein lies the problem. Since I never allowed myself to research and learn about appropriate salons, I always defaulted on the chop-shops- the cheapo Great Clips or SmartStyles- and I almost always had a mediocre to horrendous experience.

Is that any shock? It shouldn’t be. These folks have been trained to give a quick haircut in 20 minutes and less. They overbook their schedules, take walk-ins, and manage multiple folks at the same time. They live off of the small tips of many customers.

The Journey to Salon Self-Discovery:

When I butchered the color of my hair (uh, this time around, anyway) and it turned out an Anime-Shade-of-Orange, I decided to call the professionals. I picked whichever place at the earliest appointment (I want it now, please? Thanks).

I call a place called Salon 58.
“Well, we can’t get you in for a week. Keep in mind we are the number one place for color correction in this city.”
“Oh, well I found you in google. I can find someone else who can get me in earlier… on google.”
“Wait a sec… *shuffles papers* We just had an opening for 3:30pm with our top stylist who just got back from a training in Las Vegas for the newest innovations in hair design.”

Uh huh. That really happened.

The reviews I saw online weren’t horrible. They weren’t great. But they got me in.

I see that they had an opening for a reason.

I get in, and while the white haired boy-bandesque receptionist is trying to figure out simple arithmetic (though granted, he was cute), I am seated in the hair styist’s seat. He comes out with his 90s frosted ‘do, immediately he starts ridiculing my hair color, my cut, and the fact that I hadn’t been there before.

I shrug him off. “Just do what you need to to fix this color.”

He is every stereotyle I’ve ever dreamed of. He walks around me lazily, looking disapprovingly at the state of my orange hair, reminding me repeatedly that boxed color is never a good idea and how horrible it is for the industry and America. He plays with the ends of my hair, flipping strands up and down. Sometimes he goes the extra mile and tugs a bit. “Did you cut this yourself?”

“I’m just going to foil the crap out of it,” emphasizing his disgust with my head.
“Uh, the woman on the phone said you would put toner on it?” I raise an eyebrow. As uneducated as I am, obviously, to this gig- I even know that!
“Oh, yeah. I’ll do that too.” He’s already walking away.
He didn’t. He gave me a bouffant. While I waited for the foils -sans toner- to do their work, I watch a stream of middle age to ancient women coming in and out.
“Guess what? We’re having a botox party next week!”
I try not to sneer. “How does that work?”
“I don’t know. Someone else is going to do it. A professional I assume. It’s a sale, too.”
Not exactly confidence inpsiring, is it?

I left with a bouffant- 60s modsquad style. That’s all well and good, if that’s what I asked for. My hair was a more yellowish shade of orange.

Now granted, people really liked my new shade of “strawberry blonde” (ahem? No, Anime Orange… but I appreciate your politeness, folks). But it still wasn’t what I wanted, and wasn’t close to what I had asked for (or actually paid for).

Round 2:

I’m so glad I decided to give it another go. I asked around and really did my research this time around. I was told wonderful things about a place called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 40 miles away. Hell, even the name is fun. As it turns out, they are one of the main go to places for hair on the north side (and not just a self-proclamation that they are, either). Even better, some of their staff travel with rock stars as their own personal hair stylists on tour.

Like I said, I have too much fun with this stuff. Let me please let my 16 year old inner teen squeal, “Man, that is so cool!”

I make my appointment, and man oh man was it pricey. They have a tiered system, with least experienced on tier 3 and cheaper rates, and most experienced at tier one with the most expensive.

Uh, Tier 3, please- especially considering my last salon experience.

I walk in and am instantly amused, and that’s almost always a good sign. Music is loud and fantastic (not some 80s jazz saxophone snorefest). The staff are dressed trendy and chic.

God, they actually look like they care about their image. What a concept!

My gal’s name is Jenna. She has fun short red hair (jealousy reigns), beautiful doe eyes, gorgeous make up, and a spunky sense of humor. I ask for her honest opinion about what I want, and she asks about what my styling preferences are.
“I get bored so easily. I like short hair, but that’s committing to the same style every single day. I want a compromise.” I explain that I’d love to go wild, but work in a conservative environment.
She smiles, “Then no super short hair for you!”
I laugh. I appreciate her honesty.
I show a picture that I would never show to the chop shop crews. It’s 3 different images of Sarah Harding and her fabulously fun, platinum, and short ‘do.
She looks through the images once or twice.
Then she asks me about my color shade, somewhat timidly. I explain that I’m not really offended if she thought I looked like trailer trash at this point. I did it to myself. I explain the other salon’s laziness, and she looks bemused. She asks more about what shade I ultimately want, encourages me to do it in steps, and shows no hesitation or doubt about the course of action she’s about to take.
“I can do that. I think it will be perfect.”

And she did it. And it was perfect.


Even beyond that, the experience of being in that place was just… fun. Therapy for the discontented-wannabe-fashionista-stuck-in-conservative-hell soul. The decor was simple yet edgy. The staff appeared to be genuinely having a good time and invested in their work. The clients were having fun. No one was boring (save for some of us clients). Stylists had purple hair and lovely shades of red, blonde, and pink. One gal wore a bowler hat. Another wore heels as high as the sky (to which I inquired, “How the hell does she do this job wearing THOSE?!?” The response: “She’s crazy.”)

It was a time to socialize. It was a time to take care of ourselves. It was a time to allow ourselves to be pampered. The staff were able to show off their quirky and fun personalities. It was low pressure. I didn’t feel as though I was being rushed through the conveyer line, and I didn’t feel as though someone was trying to change my look entirely to match what THEY wanted, stylistically.

Jenna, and the other stylist, factor in personality, facial features, sense of style, and maintenance preferences.

Why do I love going to this salon? Because it’s about the art of self-care. And believe me, self-care is an art in and of itself. This tool- the salon- is one of many that can be used to soothe the soul and just relax… and feel beautiful while doing it.


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