Dressing for New Clients

I always try to dress professional, yet artsy and expressive, when going into work. But some days, when I know I have a new client in my book that will be difficult to impress (such can be gathered by how they interact with the receptionist), it is especially difficult to hit the right note.

To dress mature, yet youthful.
To wear clothes that fit without looking too thin.
To be trendy, yet approachable.
To have enough visual interest to intrigue the client without giving them the need to say, “it must look very conservative!” over and over again. (The end result tends to be too conservative for their taste.)
To show the side of myself that they want to see.
To be cool, yet timeless. To be progressive but not too far ahead.

My goal is always to appear 27.

Anti-Fashion vs. Fashion on ‘What Not To Wear’

As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Today I watched an episode some who follow the show may remember, with the beautiful and talented Beryl. As an Asian female with many Asian friends, as well as someone approximately her age, a lot of her fashion choices before the makeover really resonated with me. At first I was shocked to see her on the show because there was honestly nothing alarming to me about her monochromatic wardrobe with ripped jeans and oversized men’s clothing. In Pittsburgh, we call them hipsters. The term is vague and everyone has a different definition, but in this case, the idea is to look like you just rolled out of bed (or that you sleep on a sidewalk).

It is not unlike nineties grunge, and I admit to having some love for the disheveled look. In Berlin, I was truly intoxicated by the cold, distant persona of pretending you don’t care. And yet, clothing does get in your head and I think people are lying to themselves if they don’t feel even a little bit like an angsty teen when wearing ill-fitting jeans, combat boots and a dirty, oversized button up. And it is exhilarating, especially when driving around town with a scowl, blasting Nirvana. There is immediate pleasure in not caring, yet you can feel yourself judging more and people can feel the judgment oozing out your pores. When I am buying my cute little dresses from Urban Outfitters, I can tell the sixteen year olds won’t step within a yard of me. In fact, they look a little afraid.

If I somehow end up at work dressed too grungey, the clients are afraid. It is hard to open up and be a burst of positive energy AND look like you don’t care.

It is interesting for me to look at why anti-fashion would be so popular. I remember my siblings, who came of age in the 1990s, rather than the 2000s, had similar trends. My parents lived in the time of hippies. We can even look at the flappers as a sort of anti-fashion movement. So I suppose the issue isn’t particular to us. Is it more popular than it has been in the past? I would have to research, but I would guess no.

But to see Beryl on What Not to Wear was alarming. She is a gorgeous woman who, frankly, could model if she ever wanted to… she’s that stunning and unique. It was symbolic in a way, fashion and anti-fashion going head to head. And in a way, it was frightening to me, because a key part of the grungey hipster look is that it creates a private club, it is meant to cut you off from society and create a private club where you are free to “be yourself.” A lot of the people on What Not to Wear are truly bizarre, but in this way it made hipsters most similar to the tired mothers who put themselves last and try to blend in. I figured, if you leave them in certain neighborhoods and around college campuses, hipsters blend in perfectly.

But what most people don’t realize is that anti-fashion can be a way of succumbing to insecurity. A lot of people feel that the fashion industry is not for them. They decide that there are beautiful, fashionable women, and there are others. A lot of the grungiest people I know are extremely intelligent, and always have been. They want that disheveled intellectual look. I grew up feeling fairly ambivalent towards fashion, caring much more about my studies. My love for art led to a love of hair and then to a love of beauty, but there are plenty of people who never find that connection. We all get hair cuts and wear clothes, so why do so many feel like the beauty and fashion industry is not accessible to them. In our modern world, we don’t have to choose between smart and beautiful, we can try for both and be fearless about it.

I have always known that dressing well instantly puts me in a better mood. But on emotional days, there is an undeniable, dysfunctional satisfaction in dressing purposely badly. And it isn’t that it is bad, but it is an easy way out. And a way that does not address or deal with issues in the least. And it isn’t that you can’t be a vibrant and happy person when you look like you just rolled out of a dumpster, but it certainly isn’t as easy.

(To be continued.)

Chit-chat in the Hair Salon

One of the beauties of working in hair is that almost everyone in our modern American society goes to someone to get their hair done. There are countless options in terms of type of salon and varying price points, even different charities and organizations that provide free haircuts to those in dire need. I became a hair dresser because I am interested in all kinds of people and the different relationships people have with their hair at different times in their life and throughout different cross sections of society. Recently I stumbled on a few different blogs where people cite reasons they don’t like to get their hair cut. One of the big ones, which I will address today, is that some people seem to hate talking to hair stylists. As a hairdresser with a lot to say, this makes me very sad. Making lists always cheers me up.

Reasons People Don’t Want to Talk to their Hair Stylist

They are introverted or just don’t care for talking. I can certainly relate to this one. I was never much of a talker with my stylist, mostly because I found the craft so interesting that I enjoyed watching the cut. But I was never made to feel uncomfortable with my quiet nature and I still enjoyed my hairdresser. Salons are very welcoming and open environments and I would encourage all you shy people out there to allow yourself to open up. No one is forcing you, but it can be kind of fun. And if you can’t connect with your hairdresser–you should at least be able to talk openly about hair if nothing else–maybe it is time to find a new one.

They assume they won’t have anything in common with someone who cuts hair. This is probably the point that makes me the saddest. I often wish people could come from a place of assuming similarities instead of differences. Hairdressers are not all the same and it isn’t fair to go into a salon and assume that you will have a bad experience. Really, this goes for numerous other situations… Condescension not only offends others but also makes you miss out on what could be a good experience. Look at your hairdresser as an artist and an entrepreneur, not as someone who didn’t need a four year degree. I admit there are some real duds out there (and a higher percent of duds if you are going somewhere absurdly inexpensive), but some of the brightest and most ambitious people I know are hair stylists.

They are self-conscious or insecure about their appearance. I actually think this is one of the biggest issues, and often goes hand in hand with the issue above. Some people think they are not the sort of person who should be in a salon, which leads to condescension because people conclude that the salon is a shallow and insubstantial place. They see themselves in the mirror, dripping wet and parted in strange places or with their hair smeared in color and up like a troll doll, and they hideous. Even just the act of looking in the mirror for long periods of time is distressing to some. Honestly, I am not the type to look in the mirror much and I get how it can be freaky, but that’s all the more reason to talk to your hairdresser! We are there to make you feel beautiful, or at the very least, comfortable in your own hair! For more on this sentiment read my post about how the beauty industry is for everyone.

They are in a hurry or otherwise stressed out. When people are on their way somewhere or their mind is elsewhere they feel like having a light, pleasant conversation will somehow make all of their problems worse. Most hairdressers can still cut quite efficiently when talking, as long as it isn’t something they are overly enthusiastic about, and honestly, usually just chilling out for fifteen minutes will only help a stressful situation.

They feel like if they don’t pay close attention the hairdresser will make a mistake. Staring at us with the death glare doesn’t really help. Once again, we are trained to talk and cut.

Love, love, love

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Nothing adds more natural beauty to a person than love. If you don’t have a person to love today, I hope you all still find a way to celebrate your love for your favorite activities, animals, foods and movies. Take care bloggers!

Here is a picture from last December to make y’all smile 🙂 with Olivia, Ty of Fautaugraufy and Angie of Sew Addicted.


The Joys of a Wonderful Team

I had a fabulous photoshoot today with a great team and I just feel like gushing about it a little bit today. With Angie of Sew Addicted and Ty of Fautaugraufy we welcomed a new face to Pittsburgh modeling. Congratulations Aleshia for a great first shoot! It is so much fun to work with such professional, friendly and talented individuals and I have to say, it is quite energizing and it brings out the best in everyone.

Here is one shot from today, enjoy!


The Beauty Industry is for Everyone

When I set out to become a hair stylist, it was after several years of cutting my friends’ hair, and hair for friends of friends, and friends of their friends.  I loved the diversity of the people I practiced on, how they were all so chill and seemed more interested in just talking to me and hanging out than worried about any end result.  Obviously, anyone who was more worried about an unlicensed 18 year old was not going to be sitting in my chair, subject to my shears.  But the fact is, everyone gets their hair cut!  And yet, when I was going through school to become the best hair dresser I could, I had this fear that for the rest of my life I would be surrounded by a very particular types of clients, who eat, breathe and sleep for the health and perfection of their hair.  The pressure caused me so much stress, the fear that I could not seem fashionable enough, that I could not style perfectly enough, that the clients would not be able to relate to me as an individual who just wants a fun, interesting, wash and wear style.

I could not have been more wrong.

I could never be the sort to round brush my hair every single day.  And you know what?  There are a lot of people out there that are just like me!  It is not that they are completely ambivalent towards their appearance, they just can’t be troubled to fuss with it for more than x minutes every day.  And that’s ok!

One of the reasons I chose to go to hair school instead of grad school was a huge fear that I would need to be with the same types of people every day for the rest of my life.  I didn’t want everyone around me to be devoted to the same life path, I wanted variety and conversation.  I wanted to learn every day, not just about my field but about everyone else’s field, and I wanted the opportunity to live vicariously through my clients.  So I’m not sure why once I entered hair school I grew in fear that every one that came into my chair would be a ultra-intimidating fashionista.

There are a lot of people that I talk to and I would never figure they care much about makeup or hair products or things of that nature, and admittedly those things are pretty low on their list, and then they ask me questions that let me know they’ve been reading online beauty reviews and articles, they have been wondering about a lot of things, they’ve just been intimidated to talk about them with other people.  These are the people that don’t prioritize good looks on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to come into the salon every now and then to get all dolled up.

We live in a society now where women look in the mirror and see more than just their looks.  We see our accomplishments, our capabilities, our potential.  But that doesn’t mean beauty is forgotten about, or that it is only for young women, tall women, stylish women, petite women, exotic women, glamorous women… beauty is for everyone!  The smart, the strong, the unconventional… everyone.  And I love to celebrate that fact every single day.

And it happens with both genders.  It seems like at a young age kids begin identifying as “good-looking” or “not-so-good-looking.”  It is deeply ingrained inside adults.  With men especially, a hair cut can dramatically change everything about their appearance, make them hire-able or fire-able.  For men, women and children, I believe it is my duty to make sure they have the best possible image, outwardly and inwardly.

In other words, I never want to make anyone feel like “the beauty industry” is a place only for certain types of people.  I think everyone should feel comfortable with exploring their own image, and I think it is my job to make everyone more comfortable inside their own skin.

The New Year, Hospitals and Hair

So far, 2013 has been an odd year, with more hospital visits than the entirety of 2012. There has been a lot on my mind, but one topic that recurs is the relationship between health and hair.

I initially wanted to blog about this after my first hospital visit of the year, visiting a five year old Palestinian boy at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. His father (who had flew sixteen hours with a dying child and was now staying with him in Pittsburgh while his two other children and pregnant wife waited worriedly in the Middle East) had happened upon my salon after dining next door at one of the nicest sushi restaurants in town. I was very touched by his story and could not imagine the stress of caring for someone so young and so sick, let alone doing so so far from home. Long story short, he gave me the number for his hospital room and told me it would mean a lot to him if I could go out and cut his son’s hair.

The boy had the most beautiful dark blue eyes, bushy lashes and the softest face. His hair was wild, overgrown, disheveled. He was in constant motion and, needless to say, it was not the perfect haircut. But his hairline was clean and he could see out of his eyes and there is no doubt that he looked just a little bit healthier. He looked just a little bit more like an average, healthy, five year old boy.

Little did I know that the next day I would be in the hospital visiting one of my own friends. Just six days prior I had seen him for lunch, his curly hair growing wild like all the college boys do. To see him suddenly with his curls shaved except for a few patched and wires and cords entangling him, it was really difficult.

Something about too much or too little hair just begs questions. Too much tends to imply neglect, too little tends to imply a loss or hardship. Recently I have met a few ladies who wear wigs for medical conditions other than cancer, and cancer is always the assumption if they let their bold heads show. I also see many women in the salon who undergo significant amounts of hair loss from different medication/hormonal changes. It is a hard thing for many women to accept, that their hair will change, and in significant ways, between texture, density and color. We expect our skin to change dramatically, but our hair we expect to remain relatively constant, except, perhaps, for the need to color it.

This month, I am proud to say that I have already had two lovely ladies come into the salon to donate their hair, which fills me with joy. Not just for the opportunity for me to give them a new style, but for the opportunity they have given to others to present the sick and the stigmatized with a new framework for their face.

ChaosMakeupArtist Workshop and Beyond

I have been putting so many miles on my car and my body. Oh my! My five days off in a row from the salon for Thanksgiving break were packed with fun and travel. Lots of indulgent eating (especially considering I was hanging out with my chef brother in New York for two evenings!), lots of reconnecting with people I don’t see very often, both family and friends, and of course, my fabulous education with Megan Martinez.

I’m not going to reveal any huge Chaos secrets here, but I just wanted to gush a little bit about how fortunate I feel to have met and learned from the wildly talented and amazingly sweet Megan Martinez. It was interesting taking a class like this from Megan because what makes her most amazing as an artist is her originality, which is not something that she can give away. What she can do is inspire, and that she does extremely well.

I also came away with an intense desire to indulge myself in trying to get every detail right. In the beauty industry there is intense pressure to maintain the perfect balance of speed and quality. I am continuously finding new ways to be as efficient as possible, as I think every enterprising artist in this industry should. But overall I think I have been trying too hard on individual details by themselves instead of really looking at how something fits into a broader picture. Think big and then small instead of just adding up the small. And basically just not agonizing if each detail isn’t immediately perfect with free hand.

I also got to sneak in a trip to the OCC store in NYC. If you haven’t checked out Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, you should! Their lip tars are getting more and more popular. They are my favorite for lips!

Today I packed in another 200 miles on my body’s odometer with a shoot in Central PA. Even though I got pack to Pittsburgh about less than six hours before my shift back at the salon, I had a wonderful day traveling to shoot, shooting, then going off to another shoot. Indeed, it looks like I won’t get a true break until after Christmas, but that is fine with me.

The Sheer Pleasure of Being Surrounded by Hairdressers

Yesterday I had a fabulous day in the salon. I had four new clients and a lot of very energizing conversations. Really, I know I can be excitable on my own, but a lot of the times my enthusiasm is multiplied by my clients. It is truly amazing. This is why I chose art with people vs art with inanimate objects, which tend to suck one dry of energy without giving a lot back.

The day started with a class presented by a Wella colorist, who, I must admit, had a personality opposite mine in just about every way. I love the opportunity to do fun and imaginative classes, especially being able to bounce ideas off of other hairdressers with either more experience or just different experience. Of course, it also helps that I had a beautiful model, Kayla, as a muse. Truly, I feel like I gave her the mythical unicorn hair she should have been born with.

Kayla is a very pretty girl. She knows this and has heard this before, but it was wonderful to see her in a room of hair dressers who are just blossoming with compliments. It really got me thinking about that aspect of my industry that I absolutely love. Stylists are allowed to shower people with love, something that is not appropriate, for various reasons, in other industries. I think our permission to compliment each other is liberating. Why should we hide it if we like something? And what new positivity is allowed to fill us up when we release those compliments on the tip of our tongues.

When I was young I began noticing that many people believed they weren’t supposed to be too nice. It was either annoying or people assumed you were insincere. I was always a little bit of a weirdo so it worked for me to be completely honest about my positive feelings. And really, the times where reaching out seemed most out of line are the times when it was most needed by the recipient.

Important to note: it transcends compliments about appearances. Hair stylists focus on hair, but it is an important part of our jobs to pay attention to the whole person. Hair doesn’t wear itself. What I’m saying is that this honesty extends to positive aspects of personality. Our job is to find your good traits and tell you about them and teach you how to make your hair reflect them so that other people can see what we see and even if wherever you go people aren’t as willing to tell you how awesome you are, they’ll still feel it and so will you.

In conclusion, I like being nice and I’m glad I’m in a nice industry and hope more people come be nice to me in the salon 🙂