Magical mystery haircuts

I went to get my haircut today and on my way back, it struck me that I have had better haircuts when I have been unable to communicate with the stylist. That led me to think about what it means, of course, with respect to design, ha!

And not just once but twice. My last haircut was in Paris, where due to language issues, we were just about able to communicate. But when I finally put my glasses back on [I am quite blind without them] I was very pleasantly surprised by the end result.

Today the same thing happened. I went across to a hair stylist in Chinatown, it was more convenient than the fancy place I’d been recommended in the Haight and again, the stylist, Benny and I were just about able to communicate. Again, I sat there wondering what he was doing, as my eyesight is bad enough that everything, including my own face is a blur.

When he was finished, I put my glasses back on and exclaimed with pleasure. It was truly a wonderful cut and made me feel perkier and cuter than any I’ve had before. (except Paris, of course).

This leads me to wonder whether the conventional wisdom of having a long and complex discussion with your stylist is even necessarry? Or was it just luck that I put myself in the hands of experts? The other way to look at it is to say once you find an expert you trust, let them do what they’re good at without too much input.

Do you think that the same can be said for design? As in a product or a graphic?

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8 Responses to Magical mystery haircuts

  1. You simply must read Big Hair : A Journey into the Transformation of Self
    by Grant McCracken. It’s one of the easiest reading and most enlightening and entertaining books out there.

  2. niti bhan says:

    Amazing! That’s just the kind of book I like to read, thanks Steve! For eg, I’ve read Salt, most of Paul Fussell’s books, Morris Berman, Vance Packard of course etc 🙂
    And I should say thanks to Grant for writing it 🙂

  3. The people who cut your hair let you talk to them? Whoa…that’d never happen in New York!
    Oh, and I second Steve’s rec of Grant’s book!

  4. I’m not sure the folks that cut my hair count as stylist, but I have long ago given up on directions. I just give suggested outcomes. “I don’t want to have to mess with it in the morning. Beyond that, do what you think best.”
    My cuts never make me feel perky or cute. I’m just going for passable in public.
    Seriously, I do like this question. It reminds me a bit of coaching an athlete. At times the coach sees the potential and gives the instructions; the athlete must trust what the coach sees and go with it. Expert eyes are often worth deferring to.

  5. A common dilemma…
    There are several (women) stylists where I go. One was very good but has gotten worse. The others there that I’ve tried have been disappointments, as have other hairstylists in the area (small town). So I can try the remaining ones, which is awkward because you either passively hope that a new one will be free when you come, or you must specifically ask NOT to be cut by one that you don’t like… or, you must ‘micro-manage’ the ones that you’ve already tried. I always give at least rough instructions to any hairstylist, and sometimes nitpick if I’m unhappy, so perhaps I should try your theory… I would say that a sample of two hairstylists is not statistically significant to support your theory, so perhaps I could participate in your study, as could others 🙂

  6. niti bhan says:

    My first impulse after reading all the comments was “It’s just a haircut, folks” but I seem to have struck a chord here 🙂
    First, I did manage to convey the fact that I wanted a short easy to maintain haircut, so it wasn’t totally up to Benny what he did with my hair. But little beyond that.
    Vladimir, you have a point there, so I must add that that it was actually the third datapoint since I’d been to this guy once before in December, again without language and was pleased then as well. Which in turn gave me the confidence to try Paris without language 🙂 But I would love to hear your experiences in your town, because you have a small group of providers in which to find someone you can trust to cut your hair that suits you.

  7. jens says:

    hey niti. that is priceless!
    i have been thinking about this for years…. i have not quite found the key to the perfectly reliable hair design process- but here are some general findings:
    1. you improve the result of the hair design process by giving a clear CONFIDENT initial briefing
    2. communicating on different levels (eg visually) helps too – dress the style you want to look
    3. once you gave your confident initial briefing: relax! the best that you can do ist to give the creative person the feeling that you did choose her/him for a reason (you hopefully did) or that you at least believe in the magic of the first time.
    4. there actually is a magic of a first time. if you did not pick the completely wrong creative partner there is some magic in working together for the very first time. the fresh energy / the opposite of the same old routine is a good base for an energetic result.

  8. jens says:

    5. how ever good your hairdresser is – how ever good you are as a team – there comes the day when you will be disapointed.
    it will probably be at the third time, or the fifth or a little later.
    at that point you will have slipped from a real good mutual energy to a mutual expectation. you expect your high class result – your hair dresser expects the high class tip, the flirting, the jokes.. what ever. the routine ghost has arrived.
    6. here now you find yourself in a difficult situation .
    the key lies in breaking the routine. the key lies in breaking the expectations. – that can be a little dificult, because you still want the same result – not something completely different.
    so break the expectation: find a new hairdresser. maybe only just on the ocasional holiday or business trip.
    7. last rule: always show satifaction when you are satisfied – but only then.
    file under: the daily adventures of a german design manager

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