To the left you will see two pictures – one taken three months ago after receiving a $50 haircut at a swank salon in St. Pete, the other taken last week after receiving a $5 haircut at a beauty school in the ghetto.
Can you tell which is which?
I’m posting these pictures for two reasons:
1. I’m no princess about my hair, but I’m very particular about its shortness. The second it grows out, I run to chop it off. Because of this urge I’ve had the same hairstyle for 10 years.
2. I got an e-mail recently from one of my editors asking where I get my hair cut. I responded with, “funny you should ask …” followed by a brief explanation of how a girl goes from cutting her own hair with the kitchen scissors to forking over $50 for a more professional job.
From that e-mail:
When Joe and I first met I was cutting my hair with the kitchen scissors. On especially indulgent days, I’d fork over $12 at Super Cuts and call it a day. I remember he URGED me to make an appointment with J.Con (a fancy St. Pete hair salon.) I remember he told me it would, “change my life.” It was as if I had been cutting my hair with a Flowbee. Eventually he bought me a gift certificate for Christmas, and for
a year two years thereafter I only got my hair cut at J.Con – and I only made appointments with Cara, the chick who cuts his hair.
J.Con is hip, modern and smells like Aveda hair products, which is what I imagine Jennifer Aniston smells like on windy days.
J.Con stylists are hot. Seriously, seriously hot. They dress in only black and white and at first glance resemble Victoria’s Secret model Ana Beatriz Barros. Cara, my old stylist, is no exception. She looks like a brunette Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars.
Usually I bring in a picture of Sienna Miller. Something like this.
And Cara, who by now doesn’t need to see my grubby magazine tear-out, chops at my hair like Edward Scissorhands and I usually walk away feeling like Sienna’s less attractive younger sister, which is great.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, it should be said that Cara gives absolutely fantastic haircuts. I recommended her to my editor, as well as other J. Con stylists, because frankly they are all stellar.
Problem is: us girls with seemingly short low-maintenance hair need to get it cut every five to six weeks, which wasn’t a big deal until I moved to Florida.
Back home my mom would just cut it, or my sister’s friend Laurie, who on one occasion buzzed my mop off with an electric razor.
It’s hard enough to make friends in a new state, let alone friends who are willing to cut an asymmetrical bob. The J.Con haircuts were making my Liz Claiborne wallet whimper. The more I thought about dropping fifty bucks on my hair, the more I thought about how else I could spend the money, which was when I discovered J.Con’s massage therapist, Stephanie, who unbeknownst to Cara was the real reason I reallocated my hair fund.
To cushion the blow, I began dragging out my cuts, making appointments with cheaper J.Con stylists and cutting it myself whenever it grew too shaggy. Joe even trimmed it once after I ran around the house ranting about how I looked like Joe Dirt.
And then there was last week’s adventures in low-brow primping after I received a card in the mail advertising for $5 haircuts at Loraines Academy, a beauty school off 9th Avenue in St. Pete.
“Frig these $50 haircuts,” I told Joe one evening, brandishing Loraine’s postcard. “I’m gonna see what five dollars buys me.”
When I called the number on the card, a woman with a smoker’s voice told me it wasn’t necessary to make an appointment, instead she suggested I swing by the salon between 5 and 8 – when the students were “in class.”
“Perfect!” I said, hanging up the phone. “I’ll cook dinner when I get back.”
Loraines was 20 minutes away, or so it seemed as I drove a dark, seedy stretch of 9th Avenue, past vacant Rent-A-Centers, mobile home parks and dimly-lit convenient stores. When I finally found the salon, in a Big Lots plaza next door to a Chuck E. Cheese, I had to circle the parking lot three times before I found a space. Chuck E. Cheese was oozing with children and as a result, the entire plaza was a zoo.
After 15 minutes of space-stalking, I walked into Loraines, where a man with yellow shellacked hair took my five-dollar bill and scribbled my name on a sheet of paper.
The salon smelled like 99-cent strawberry shampoo. The waiting room chairs were upholstered in vinyl and felt clammy under the jet stream of A/C blowing down from the ceiling. As I sat and waited for my name to be called, I flipped through the pages of a Redbook magazine and nodded my head to the rap radio station that was drowning out the sound of blow dryers and gossip.
In one corner of Loraines, a guy about 45-ish stood at a station perming the hair on a plastic mannequin head, wrapping fake blond strands around curlers, chatting with the girl next to him, who was also perming mannequin hair.
“Neidi!” I heard a woman call. “Neidi you’re up.”
Neidi, if you haven’t guessed it, was me. Heidi. The man who took my name at the front desk, wrote it like Neidi, which was how the stylist pronounced it when it was time for my cut. Since I was the only customer in the waiting room, I perked up and said, “that’s me.”
Without exchanging pleasantries, Daymie (the Cuban stylist who knew very little English) sized up my head and asked in less than three words what it was I wanted. Rummaging through my purse for the grubby Sienna Miller tear-out I said, “I want this girl’s hair.”
She considered the picture for a moment, then said, “You have this already.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m just looking for a trim. I hate when my hair grows out into a mullet.”
“Mullet?” She asked.
“You know. Business in the front. Party in the back.”
She narrowed her eyes and shrugged. “Don’t know,” she said.
The guy perming the mannequin head poked up from his client to study my magazine tear-out.
“Cute,” he said, turning back to his client. For a second it looked as if he was going to ask the mannequin if she too wanted a cut like Sienna’s.
After a quick dousing with strawberry shampoo, Daymie walked me back to her station and flagged a Loraine’s instructor.
“Help,” she said, handing him the picture.
After a 5-minute lesson in layering, Daymie was given a comb and scissors and told to give it a whirl. Lucky for her, I’ve made a career out of butchering my hair, so I barely winced when she made the first cut with a terrified oh-shit look on her face. What was the worst she could do? Give me Rosie O’Donnell’s lop-sided tribute to Boy George? Bah.
As she snipped slowly and painfully at each strand, I conversed with the teenage girl sitting next to me, who was getting her hair done for the prom, followed by a $6 Loraines pedicure.
“Your hair looks cute,” she said.
“Thanks. So does yours.”
“Where’s your prom?”
“Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach.”
“Awesome. I took my fiancé there for his birthday.”
“Is it nice?”
“Really, really nice. I think it’s the perfect place for a prom.”
“Oh good. I was worried a little. This one is supposed to be real fancy. Like we were told to dress up super formal.”
“Are you not into that?” I asked.
“Well, not really,” she said. “The way I see it is, people already know what I look like. It’s like who’m I tryin to impress? I’m still gonna be me in heels and sparkles. What difference does it make if I dress up or dress down? I just wanna be comfortable.”
“Amen,” I said, pinching at a chunk of hair and instructing Daymie to lop it off. “I like it short in the back. No mullet.”
For a hair cut that was laughably close to what I already had, it took poor Daymie 45 minutes to do it. When she was through – after she had dropped her roller brush on my fingertips twice, blow dried the ends under like George Washington’s powdered wig, and squirted my head with a fine mist of Biolage hairspray – I went home to cook dinner for Joe.
“It looks great!” He said as I walked through the door. “It’s rounder or something.”
“She blow dried it under,” I said.
“It’s not much different than what you had.”
“That’s what Daymie said.”
“It bounces though!”
“And smells like strawberries.”
PS. Last night I went out for drinks with my friend Loren, who writes this blog for the newspaper I write for. We got on the subject of hair. After I told her the details of my $5 cut, she blew me away with the details of her $180 haircut. I couldn’t resist the urge. I had to take a picture. Her hair looks amazing, but $180! That’s three massages!