And so it was that in the early days of this revolution I started hairdressing. I was thrown into an industry where the modern, independent, career woman wanted a hairstyle that looked amazing all the time with minimal to no input. Enter the ‘power bob’ and the ‘urchin’ cut. Both low maintenance styles that held their shape well despite almost anything you threw at it. Not entirely expressive though, so people turned to creative colouring to put their individuality to their hairstyle. I saw the potential there and undertook further training in advanced colouring to give myself more tricks of the trade. A further benefit of this additional training was more in-depth knowledge of colour correction. This allowed me to correct the mistakes of others and was a great source of clients. Believe me, when a lady walks in with khaki coloured hair and you send her out looking fabulous, she will stay with you for life. She won’t think the World revolves around you, but she will think it revolves around the Sun that happens to shine out of your arse.
Coming into the industry at that time was an advantage, I think, in as much as you were exposed to more styles over a shorter period of time, not having to wait for years for another look to come out. Previously, you would have had to spend 30 years in the industry to encounter the same amount of styles that you could see in 5 years in the 90’s. Hairstylists of my generation are quite adaptable by necessity and benefited from a high standard of training at the time, with industry leaders often showing their methods at various hands on courses and shows provided by suppliers such as Wella, Schwarzkopf, Redken, L’Oreal and so on.
From then on, I established my position as a colour specialist, continuing to build a loyal clientele, some of whom have been with me from the start. I’m going to miss all of them, but some more than others.
During the latter years of my hairdressing career, I have started cutting the hair of children who’s parents hair I cut when they were children. It’s about then you start thinking, “I’ve been doing this for a while now, haven’t I?”. It’s not unusual for me to have three generations of the same family come to me as clients. Ask any hairstylist and they will tell you one of the great challenges in hairdressing is cutting young children’s hair. Some of them are great, some are impossible, the rest are fairly evenly spread in between. But it’s the screamers that get to you. I’m not entirely sure what goes through the head of a young child when they come to the hairdresser. We don’t hurt them. We give them a lollipop at the end for a treat. Yet they still think we are evil torturers spawned from the depths of Hell with the sole aim of destroying them. Generally, the only thing that gets injured during a child’s haircut is my eardrums. Occasionally they will move quickly which can result in me taking a chunk out of my finger with the scissors. Most hairstylists use techniques when cutting children’s hair that ensures the stylists hand is between the scissors and the child’s head so the child is less likely to get injured. Doesn’t help the stylist much though. And don’t get me started on headlice. So we charge less for a child’s haircut which often takes longer and is far more disruptive to business than an adults haircut. Go figure.
But that’s the bad one’s. Now, I’m going to tell you about Daniel.
I first met Daniel when he was maybe 2-3 years old. He walked in the door with his Dad and sat in the reception area. I came out from the backroom and seeing a toddler at the front of shop immediately thought,”Great, here we go…”. Putting on my friendliest face and voice, I said, “Hello young man. Are you having a haircut today?” This blonde haired, blue eyed kid looked at me, smiled and said, “Yes please”. First shock over for me, I asked him to come and sit in the high chair, which he did. Put the cape on him and he didn’t freak out, totally relaxed. Then, without any prompting and quite clearly, he asked me what my name was. I told him. He repeated it back to me perfectly. Most adults I meet screw that part up. Okay, sure, my name is unusual but it’s not that hard. I guess sometimes people struggle with two syllables…
This very young child then proceeded to have a mature, coherent conversation with me. Asked me how my day was going, told me about his. We discussed various topics during his time there and it was like talking to a very small adult. Amazing. He sat perfectly still, put his head where it needed to go and co-operated fully and without protest. When we were finished he got down, looked up and said, “Thank you, Carlin”. I was blown away. I asked his Father, Dennis, how he did it. Apparently, Daniels always been that way. If someone could guarantee that I would have a child like that, I may relinquish my long held opinion that having a child is not for me. But, unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose.
Dan has continued having his hair cut with me, along with his Dad, for more than a decade now. I’ve watched him grow and develop into a well mannered, highly capable young man who will go far in life. It’s clients like these that will be the greatest loss for me.
I’m very fortunate. The vast majority of my clients are great people, lot’s of fun and I can joke around with them. I never have a day when I wake up and think, “Oh, no, I’ve got that person coming in today”. Some of them are hilarious, others a little more straight laced and some are downright filthy minded. I can relate to all of them but the hilarious and filthy minded make my day. Kindred spirits, they are. My kind of people.
There’s not many industries where you have physical contact with your clients. The medical field obviously. That other one as well. It breaks down barriers instantly. Within seconds of a client walking through the door my hands are on their head, touching their hair. They could be a total stranger when they walk in, but by the time they leave I will know plenty about them. Discretion is a very important part of the profession. I know things about people that I will never repeat. To do so would have a substantial impact on some peoples relationships and reputations.
I’ve been propositioned more times than I can recall, particularly in the earlier years. It still happens, but with less regularity. I must be losing my sex appeal.
You become a surrogate son, father, brother, uncle, boyfriend, husband, life coach, psychologist and just about anything else, most of which I’m not professionally qualified to do, but that’s what happens when people open up to you. You fill a gap in their lives. They value your opinion above many others, even if those people are more experienced and trained, so you have to be careful what advice you give as you don’t want to lead them down the wrong path.
I was once fortunate enough to attend a lecture taken by Andrew Collinge. An extremely talented stylist and businessman, Andrew told us how, at a younger age, he was called upon to do the hair of Margaret Thatcher, who was Prime Minister of England at the time. She had a function on and her usual hairstylist was away. Apparently, she asked him what he would do differently with her hair. Andrew gave her some ideas and said he’d be happy to do it for her. Ms Thatcher thought about it for a while, then decided not to as she “didn’t want to upset her normal hairdresser”.
So the ‘Iron Lady’, who sent an expeditionary force to the Falkland Islands to do war with Argentina, was not prepared to upset her stylist. Well played, Madge. Well played…