Hair stylists get the brushoff

Kevin Cowherd

November 11, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

AFTER A series of emotional conversations with the haircut-purchasing public, I've been wondering why more hairstylists are not clinically depressed or teetering on the edge of suicide.

Very few people today seem happy with their haircuts, even fewer (at least statistically) than back in the Sixties, which is generally considered the seminal period in the hair-discontent movement.

The point is, if you were to station yourself outside some joint called The Hair Palace or Locks n' Tresses or any other cleverly named hair establishment, all you'd hear is a constant litany of complaints ranging from "Oh, my God! She cut it way too short" to "I'm going to kill that Ian! He just . . . well, I don't know what he did! But it's ruined!"

My guess is if you were to conduct a national poll and phrased the question in a non-leading way ("How would you describe your most recent haircut?"), the breakdown of responses would go something like this:

72 percent -- hideous.

16 percent -- worse than that.

10 percent -- Don King meets Chewbacca.

2 percent (and these would be mostly nursing home patients and shut-ins) -- attractive.

Of course, once the results of this poll were trumpeted in the media, hairstylists would feel even more emotionally fragile than they do now, if that's possible.

Certainly the percentage of jittery hairstylists dialing suicide hot lines, already high, would skyrocket.

During call after call, hot line volunteers would hear the sound of a hair dryer in the background and an anguished voice whispering: "I'm . . . I'm on my break now. God, what a morning! My last customer said she didn't like the 'bob' I gave her, OK? Said it made her look like . . . like Benji after a flea and tick bath.

(Sound of muffled sobs). "Another customer asked me if I had a learning disability. But I . . . I swear he said: 'Short on the top and sides, longer in the back.' And when I cut it that way, he barked at me and threatened to cut my tip. Sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it . . ."

(This is probably neither here nor there, but I asked my dentist, the esteemed Dr. Bob, about the well-publicized high rate of suicide among dentists. It seems many of these suicides are brought on because dentists can't handle the fact that some of their patients fear and dislike them.

(Dr. Bob said: "Well, you can't take that fear and dislike personally.

(He had an explorer in my mouth at the time, so I wasn't about to argue the point. But how can you not take that sort of thing personally? You can bet I'd take it personally if I were a dentist. I'd probably snap and lunge at each patient with a drill the size of a harpoon while shrieking: "SO YOU DON'T LIKE ME, HUH?!"

(But that's just me. And I tend to overreact on occasion.)

As for what hairstylists can do to regain the confidence of their customers, well, I just don't know.

OK, here's one thought: Re-open the lines of communication. Sit each customer down before reaching for those scissors and find out exactly how they want their hair cut. Then, even if you think it'll make them look like a cross between Johnny Depp and a bag lady, cut it that way -- not the way you'd like to see it cut.

Of course, a harmonious relationship with one's hairstylist is a two-way street. So you customers out there, let's not be afraid to accept a little responsibility, OK? If you ask for the sides shaved and spikes on top and "Bon Jovi Rules" etched over one ear lobe, and it makes you look like a dork, hey, that's your fault.

Stay away from mirrors for a few weeks. But don't blame the poor person who cut your hair. Me, I'd smack you over the head with a pool cue if you made me cut your hair like that and then had the nerve to complain.

Another thing: Women, let's cut out this nonsense where you breeze into the salon waving a People magazine cover of, oh, Whitney Houston and say: "There! Make me look like that."

Honey, I don't know how to break this to you, but that is probably damn near impossible -- unless they slap you on a hospital gurney and wheel you into reconstructive surgery for five hours.

Even then, it's 70-30 that you come out looking more like Sam Houston (who died in 1863, by the way) than Whitney Houston.

I mean, these people are hairstylists, not miracle workers.

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