Hairdresser on Fire or Fired? A Perspective on Experience

Stylist, hairdresser, beautician….whatever title we use, we all know it is often code for confidant, best friend, counselor, inspiration guru, style mentor, and many other critical roles they play in our lives. During COVID we have missed them so. Who said “essential workers” shouldn’t include “skilled mentors” as important as these?

So often, our hairdresser is someone we envy – they have a cool job, they are ultra-fashionable, and keep us up-to-date, usually better than we manage on our own. Their precious chairs become our place of repose, re-dignification, and resolution. We go there to hide, spill, take stock in our lives, and rediscover our best sense of self.

This works, of course, under the best of circumstances. However, there are also those not-so-satisfying salon experiences that can leave us down-and-out. Happens. And, sometimes, the relationship must end.

Recently, a friend talked about her difficult decision to leave her hairdresser of 11 years. What happened? Was it an issue with a hairstyle? An incident that wasn’t correctable? The wrong hair color? Nope. Her hairdresser had moved from her previous salon space, which offered an environment with enough privacy and intimacy to share personal conversations and feel connected. The new salon offered a high-energy, open atmosphere where the buzz of other conversations filled the room. The constant commotion in the new space made it impossible to recreate the same comfort level and it notably shifted the experience. Loud music, loud talkers, and tight quarters imposed themselves. Even the hairdresser seemed affected by the faster pace. She was more anxious, distracted, and less focused – altering her moods and the way she engaged with her clients.

“It was a sad day,” my friend said, “but I had to tell her how much I missed the old experience when I visited her now – our interaction was something I looked forward to! Though it was extremely difficult, I had to make the break. I knew I wouldn’t be going back.”

For some, the hustle and bustle of a busy salon is stimulating. Certainly, there are many perspectives on what constitutes an ideal experience. Personal preferences come in many forms. However, building return clientele relies on understanding and accommodating client expectations – beyond the cut. The relationships built may better stand the test of time, if the emotional connection, as in all business, is a priority.

A local San Diego hair stylist, Suzy Snow, shared her own insights. “Having the space to engage privately with my clients makes a ton of difference, especially for more mature generations. I found it much harder in busier salons to establish a deep connection. It seemed like someone else always wanted to join our conversation. Now, in response to COVID, we will all feel a shift in experience. Salons are required to space out the workstations, remove the magazines, and some ask clients to wait in their cars instead of the common lobby. It’s not going to be the same anywhere. Communication to the client is key anytime we anticipate change.