It is easy for any one of us to stand before a mirror, all alone, and find fault. For the vast majority of us, it is a part of the human condition. Given the opportunity to change something, what would it be? We each have a varied list. Finding the things we love, the things we readily accept, well... that is a bit more difficult.
A visit to any salon brings hope that we will find our best selves reflected back in the mirror. The desire to improve upon what already exists. It's a tall order for any stylist, but so many do it daily with grace and style. In Philadelphia alone there are any number of good salons with amazingly talented stylists. As a boy, I loathed going to the barbershop almost as much as I did the dentist. My experiences with the unisex salons of the 70's were just as disappointing. I never found my best self reflected back. Often the person who emerged from the salon was still a skinny awkward lad with a haircut that was kind of sad. That my ears stuck out too far or my nose was too big didn't help. No matter where I went or what I did... mousse, blowdryer, gel, spray, I was never going to look like the hero of Saturday Night Fever, and my low self image was not going to be changed by a haircut. Though I have come to believe that perhaps a great haircut is where it all begins.
Once I found a great barber/stylist who did amazing work, I began to see a better self reflected. As I matured, I found clothes that fit, made peace with my ears, grew into my nose and took some exercise. I still have low self image days but I recognize the transformative power of the cut. I've bet my entire future on it. Why? Because the line between good and amazing is razor thin. Learning how to replicate a haircut versus learning the principles of proper hair cutting design approach is the difference between plucking out heart and soul on a piano and playing Free Jazz and the Avant-Garde. The great jazz musician Charlie Parker once said it this way "You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail."
As a teacher and manager, I know can be a difficult task master. I test the limits of what you know, what you think you know and what you strive to become. I've created an experience to give clients that is not always your favorite way to operate. So let me break it down as I see it: When you first came to me, I warned you that it was going to be a bumpy ride. I instructed you to learn all of your tools, study theory design specific approach, understand the fundamentals of why you are doing all the things you will do. I stress to every student that simply learning how to do the latest "cut or style" isn't going to get you any further than the length of that trend. Once any talented stylist can master the fundamentals of design approach, anything is possible (for the record.. you are all very talented). Natasha would quip that this is the first lesson you learn in beauty school, and she would be right. But I know that once behind the chair, paying the rent, paying student loans, trying to carve out a life, have relationships, the fundamentals can be easily muscled out. And everyone knows my feeling about finishing with a good blow-dry not being a worthy endeavor unless the same results will be achieved easily by the client at home (with the exception of an actual scheduled and charged blow out).
Another salon owner once told me he thought our place was a mix of salon "X" and salon "Y". It was meant as a compliment but I thought to myself "f%#k that!" The vision was never to make us any one thing. Individualism, technical ability and artistry is the vision. Over all. That being said, someone still has to worry about keeping a roof over our heads. That is where my crazy takes over. Nothing is possible if we don't respect the bottom line. I wish I were a more patient man. Someone once suggested I pray for patience but I found the universe just created more opportunities for me to practice patience so.. I've come to realize that I will not be the most beloved man in town, and though I am no Scrooge, I am no Fezziwig either. Knowing myself enough to know that some things are innate often helps to soften the cudgel with which I punish myself. Less rigidity equals less strife. I work each day to be less rigid. Not everyone is going to get me. Not everyone is going to want to stay in our house. The goal we share is to strengthen the individual in order to strengthen the entire team. Whatever happens from there is really none of our business. As long as you are trained and continue to do amazing work, most of my job has been accomplished.
A haircut won't change who we are, whether we are getting, giving or teaching, but I do believe it is a place where we can all begin. And in no small measure, because of you and this place, I continue to learn how to love myself.