Adventures in Budget Haircuts

cuthair1In a city where a $200 haircut is the new $100 haircut, it’s not easy finding a quality cut for a two-figure sum. My hair is fine and straight, and requires a decent chop to prevent me from looking like Marcia Brady, so a $15 SuperCuts cut doesn’t really, uh, cut it. I’ve tried a number of ways to get a lot of bang for my buck in this department even though I could totally justify an extravagance in this department since I don’t get things like manicures, facials, highlights, electrolysis, waxing, extensions, etc. I’ve just never been much of a girlie-girl. Living in NYC, i have access to a lot of unusual money-saving options, and have even had some wacky opportunities present themselves. Here’s a round-up of all my experiences, in case you’re thinking of bargain-hunting for value and not just price …

High-end Salon Training Sessions
This is different from going to a beauty school and being a guinea pig. The $100+ hair salons only hire experienced hairdressers and put them through a 2-year apprenticeship; they’re also rigorous in maintaining their standards and hold training nights weekly or monthly even for their junior stylists. For all of these, they need heads of hair. I’ve done this at Antonio Prieto near Union Square and Julien Farel in midtown. Very different experiences, but I think the one at Julien Farel (who costs nearly $300 to get a cut from, personally) is a more typical experience. You basically get a cut supervised by the owner for a fantastic price ($20-50 depending on the salon…bearing in mind the full cost!) in return for taking up a lot of your time. You’re not in and out in the usual 45 minutes – it’s usually closer to 2 hours, but you get treated pretty similarly in terms of refreshments, robes, that sort of thing. The time/day is usually fixed and not necessarily convenient, but there’s such a large selection of these places in Manhattan that it’s pretty easy to find one that works with your schedule. I got two okay cuts and one lousy one at Antonio Prieto ($30 cash in advance, circa 2005), and didn’t go back after the lousy one – some idiot wanted to use his new toy even though the technique was completely wrong for my hair type, and the boss didn’t stop him. I loved the two I got at Julien Farel, but now the time of day coincides with my biz rush hour, so I can’t anymore. Would I go this route again? Yup!

Friend’s Frederic Fekkai Freebie
My best friend followed Julien Farel when he left Frederic Fekkai to open his own place, and FF sent her a voucher for a free haircut with a senior stylist (then worth $100, no doubt double now). She didn’t want it, and didn’t believe in letting such windfalls go unclaimed, so off I went. FANTASTIC CUT!! I even considered going back and paying the full whack despite my tiny little admin salary, which is saying a lot coming from someone like me.

Continuing Ed Workshop Guinea Pig
I agreed to be a head of hair for a seminar conducted by either Paul Mitchell or Vidal Sassoon (the corporate entity, not the man himself), can’t remember which. Unfortunately, the technique and tool they were training on left me looking butchered. Worst. Cut. Ever. This annoyed me because I went in to be previewed by the instructors the week before, and they assessed my hair. They should have known better. Maybe they secretly picked me as an example of what happens when you do this technique to the wrong hair. Would I do it again? Only if they showed me a picture of what they intend to make me look like. And only if it’s free…it was a 4-hour commitment on a Saturday morning. I honestly can’t remember if it was free or $15 – it was six years ago.

Barter with a client
A couple of years ago, I worked on a new client in his posh hotel room (LOVE the St. Regis!). He’s a private wealth management guy who once trained as a stylist but quit before graduation when he realized how crappy the pay was (this was before the rise of the $100 haircut). In his opinion, he had a natural feel for hair. Anyway, he paid me for his regular one-hour massage and then cut my hair in return for a 30-minute foot rub. We repeated this arrangement once more, but the cut was only so-so and the way he touches my hair is, well, fetish-y, so I don’t do this anymore. However, I need a cut soon and my income has dipped severely this fall, so we’ll see…he’s due for a trip to NYC this month.

What I Do Now
I go to a French chain that has a few branches in NYC and Miami (as well as, of all places, Kazakhstan, Morocco and India!) called Jean-Claude Biguine. After I started going there, I read a review that described it as “Frederic Fekkai quality without the frills” (no appointment necessary, no offer of coffee/tea, robe goes over your clothes). I felt smug that I’d figured that much out for myself. I’ve had cuts from 5 different stylists at two different Biguine locations and been delighted with 4 of them. I now have a favorite, but it’s not the end of the world if he’s on vacation. I suspect they’ve got some cool exchange program within the company, given the accents of the staff…I notice they’re all from countries where JCB has branches.

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One Response

  1. […] biker lives for, that I’d love to see it happen. I also mentioned in a past post about ways to get a deal on a good haircut that I had done a partial barter of my massage services with a client who quit beauty school just […]

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