Women’s Hair, Men’s Hair

I get my hair cut at one of those unisex hair styling salons by the Platinum Stylist.  Kish gets her hair done there by the PS, too.  It’s a nice place with friendly staffers, conveniently located about halfway between the office and our house, and the Platinum Stylist always does a terrific job.

Because I go to a unisex salon, where about two-thirds of the clientele on any given visit are female, my appointments give me a brief exposure to the trends in women’s hair through the big posters that are always advertising women’s hair care products and styles — like this one that was hanging in the front window yesterday.  The posters always feature sultry, heavy-lidded women with vaguely haunted looks whose hair is carefully arranged to look . . . well, unarranged.  It’s as if some women want to go to the stylist and come out looking like they haven’t been there at all.  For most men, though, the goal is the exact opposite.  We want to get a clearly noticeable haircut, whatever style or amount of barbering we might choose, so that the whole process facially justifies the cost.

The words used in the women’s hair care posters inevitably are different than what would be used in male-oriented ads, too.  Sure, “effortless” would appeal to both men and women, but I’m guessing men would define it differently.  For women, an “effortless” coiff might require ten minutes of curling, claying, molding, brushing, shaping and spraying.  For men, an “effortless” style means something that can be toweled off after a shower and put into place with no more than ten seconds of diffident combing.

I’m not sure most men would be attracted by the promise that a certain product would leave their hair looking “touchable” or “tousled,” either.  I’m not particularly keen about anybody touching my hair; in fact, I don’t particularly want to touch it myself.  It’s hair, after all.  My basic hair goal is the opposite of the “tousled,” just rolled out of bed look.  Instead, I want to at least appear to have tried to do something to attack the stupid cowlick that always pops up on the crown of my head.  And whereas women’s hair ads always seem to be talking about “texture,” that seems like a lost cause to me.  When the word that best describes the “texture” of your hair would probably be “grizzled,” no “texture tonic” is going to help.

Haircuts

These days I get my hair cut at a unisex salon about a block from my office.  It is quite a change from the barber shops of my youth, which usually had two or three red barber chairs on a black and white tile floor, a crew-cut barber with a white coat with scissors and combs in the breast pocket, and a waiting area of chairs that, if you were a lucky kid, might include an otherwise-illicit Playboy or two.  A haircut took about 10 minutes and involved using the clippers to mow your hair down to half-inch length.  At the end your neck would be dusted with witchhazel, the barber would slap the now-empty chair with a towel and send cut hairs flying, and say:  “Next!”

No more.  When I show up for my appointment at the salon, a nattily dressed host asks if I want a latte or a hot chocolate.  My hair is as likely to be cut by a woman as a man.  Usually the stylist wants to wash my hair before getting started, and often there is a scalp massage thrown in.  The whole process takes about a half hour.  When the haircut is done, they typically ask if I want any “product” put in my hair.  The only “product” featured at the old barber shops was Brylcreem (“A little dab’ll do ya!”) and an appalling product called “Crew Wax” that was the consistency of axle grease and featured a hard plastic brush on top that was used to painfully rake your scalp and leave your hair in prime, “flat top” condition.

Getting a haircut in a place that also has women patrons is interesting.  In some ways, I feel like I have gotten a peek at the mystical rites of a secret society.  For example, the woman in the next chair may be having some aluminum sheets put in her hair, for some mysterious purpose.  What the heck is that all about?  Or the woman and the hair stylist might be having a lengthy, detailed discussion about whether a different hair coloring or “frosting” agent should be used this time.  (I’ve never heard a male customer at a barber shop say anything about their haircut except:  “Give me the usual.”)  The last time I was at the salon the stylist working on the woman in the next chair wheeled over some large, scary-looking device.  I asked the stylist cutting my hair what it was, and she explained it was contained hot liquid wax that was going to be applied as part of an eyebrow waxing.  Ouch!

Sometimes I miss the old, no-frills barber shop, with its talk of sports and testosterone-drenched sense of male camaraderie.   But, I think I get a better haircut at the salon, and I often come away with a different perspective and newfound respect for hardiness of the opposite sex.