The Best Way to Get a Buzz: Tips for a Haircut

I once had a talented roommate from Las Vegas who was a professional hairdresser. Among other things, she explained that some parts of a person’s head are more efficient at growing hair and that each haircut or trim should start with goals for the shape and feel of the haircut clearly in mind. She consistently emphasized the importance of effective communication between a patron and her stylist, letting me know that “a half-inch off all over” doesn’t cut it! Previously, I had maintained long hair with only the help of scissors-wielding parents or friends. Seeing styling from her point of view changed my perspective on managing my own hair.

As a person with unusually thick, distinctively textured hair, I believe each woman should become an expert on her own hair. I do not necessarily advocate taking the scissors into your own hands, but merely suggest that each person — not her stylist — is ultimately responsible for how she looks. You have a vested interest in looking nice and in wearing your hair in ways that are authentically you. This means some fashions may not work for your hair, no matter who else wears them. Because none of us has an experienced stylist following us around for six or seven decades to keep up with our hair’s texture, our changing lifestyles, or the natural changes that happen as a person matures, we must thoughtfully manage for ourselves. Your hair is a resource for effective communication, and its maintenance influences how you feel about yourself as well as your use of other resources, such as time, sociality, and finances. Managing your hair well frees you to better manage other aspects of your life.

Manage your image. If you are noticing a pattern wherein strange men try to get too familiar, consider changing your haircut to better communicate self-respect and manage the terms on which you communicate approachability. Hair, makeup, and clothing styles non-verbally communicate much about a person’s lifestyle, attitudes, and insecurities; friends and strangers alike recognize who we are — even from a distance — by the elements of color and shape. Of these elements, hair style is relatively permanent, providing a powerfully consistent message. Look at yourself objectively, evaluating ways your hairstyle can more effectively convey appropriate and accurate messages about you and your values. My hairstyle may proclaim that I am a happy, forty-something woman; someone who has been holding onto eighteen for nearly three decades; or a variety of messages in between.

Take pictures! Assemble a purse-sized album of photos of yourself on good and bad hair days, including both flattering and unfortunate cuts. A personal photo resource book will be much more useful to you — and to your stylist — than flipping through salon magazines. Your hair is not Farrah’s (or Dorothy’s or Hannah’s or Carol Brady’s), and you have no stylist perpetually hovering with a brush and a turbo-fan to make you look picture-perfect. Seeing your own hair in real life settings (with your own styling capacity) provides a realistic basis for you and your stylist to make decisions. Your personal photo resource book can also be used to help you track how often you get a haircut and what it takes to maintain your hair.

Ask questions. Before and during a haircut, learn what your stylist is planning and what benefits she expects from the techniques she uses. Find out what landmarks she has chosen for the various aspects of your haircut. Your goal is not to pester, but to clearly understand the specifics of what works. Many stylists are talkative, and most people appreciate a chance to share their expertise. Include notes in your photo resource book to help you recall and consider what you learn.

Develop the ability to accurately describe what you hope to achieve. Effectively communicating your desires with stylists often means adding new words to your vocabulary that include the terms stylists use to express hair ideas. This is a valuable exercise, even if you usually receive similar styling from the same person each time.

Consider maintenance and upkeep. A stylist once told about advising an athletic college student with long hair against changing her style. The student had envisioned a more feminine hairdo, but was dissuaded from making any changes when she considered how frequently she showered and how much time it would take to blow-dry and re-curl the new haircut! Committing to a shorter, more precise cut may also require committing to a more rigid washing schedule, the purchase of specific styling products, and a maintenance trim every other week. Conversely, as a person’s lifestyle changes, her hairstyle may also need to change, a fact often recognized (and regularly under-appreciated) by women as they move into the energy-level altering and attention-refocusing role of motherhood.

Avoid making major changes when you are not at your best. A fix-all makeover seldom works: even a well-done style may seem unattractive to you if you are already feeling ugly. The most glamorous haircut I ever received was re-cut after just forty-two hours, solely due to the emotions of hormonal fluctuation one Mothers’ Day weekend! This experience demonstrated to me that the semi-permanence of a haircut requires clear and purposeful thinking and that rushing into something headlong usually leads to regret that can last longer than the growing-out period: the re-style left me feeling like a dud, and I have never yet been able to recapture the elegance of the style I was so anxious to eliminate.

You pay for what you get. Shop around to find a salon or a stylist that effectively and comfortably works with you. The best haircut for you may not be expensive, but a poor cut is a bad deal at any price.

Generosity pays. Regardless the charged price, be generous with the stylist financially and personally. She will be more likely to remember you and offer good service another time, and your investment makes your personal world a better place.

Be patient. In those unfortunate times when you get an unflattering haircut, take a picture and remind yourself that the difference between a good cut and a bad one is a matter of time. Most styles can be reshaped, especially if you feel the haircut was part of a conspiracy to make you look ugly. There are rare instances when a stylist hacks your hair on purpose. If you suspect this, make a note never to return and move forward. The blessing and the curse of hair is that it keeps on growing — a reminder to us to do the same.

©2011 Daunell Clarke/
Photos from  Used with permission

Love Affair with Hair P.S. by Marie

I’ve a new, very professional  hairdresser.  She’s great! (I know because I haven’t had a good haircut in a long time.) If you need a new, more orderly do (and you live in Utah County), call Whitney at  949.735.5481.


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