When I showed up for my ten o?clock hair salon appointment, I was surprised to see all the stylists in a semicircle. I thought I’d walked into a staff meeting; instead, it was an in-service training session with a guest instructor. The topic was men’s haircuts.
During the two and a half hours I was there, I heard plenty. I was impressed that the salon owners, one of whom is my stylist, bring in a guest every month. Such an easy, convenient way to hone skills while keeping the staff enthused and on-trend with the latest developments. I wondered if that was standard practice in most salons.
The session began with the instructor demonstrating a new technique using slow, step-by-step instructions on a male mannequin head. Questions were asked; notes were taken. Common-sense things, like greeting the male walk-in client with an introduction and a firm handshake, were discussed. The advice to keep spray bottles on cup warmers (to prevent that icy blast of water we all hate) made me smile. Such a simple thing could make the experience so much more pleasant. At one point it sounded like group therapy when the instructor asked, in classic Tabatha style, what the owner was like to work for and with.
Then it was time for the stylists to put scissors to hair and try out what they’d observed. Each one worked on an individual mannequin, and all were coached and corrected and asked to try this instead of that. There was emphasis on posture and ergonomics of motion.
During a break, the instructor, who is also a salon owner in Edmonton, came over to talk to me. She does this training internationally for a US-based company. How’d you land that sweet gig, I asked. When your flight’s delayed It’s not that glamorous, but really it was just good fortune, she said.
I said it was reassuring to me that the stylists were continuing to learn and improve. She said that back in the day, if you did poorly in school you became a hairdresser. Now the standards are higher; you need a high school diploma, math, and some science.
As my colour was being rinsed, I wondered aloud why now, after hundreds of years of cutting men’s hair, did there have to be a new technique to get the job done? Her response was that It’s necessary to teach people how to do the latest styles?the pompadour, the undercut, and the faux-hawk. Pompadour? You mean like young Elvis? I asked. More like James Dean, she said. So this is to teach a new generation of stylists how to do some of these old ?dos, I said. Yes, and to be a refresher for the older ones.
I personally see the trend as more of the Mad Men 1950s-60s influence on all things fashion. Sometimes looking back is really looking ahead. This fly on the wall is glad my salon is looking in the right direction, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.