We’ve all had one of those experiences at the hairdresser. I’ve had two of them both when I was much younger and ridiculously concerned about being ‘nice’ (i.e. a walkover). The first was in a ‘Vidal Sassoon’ training salon. I asked for their advice about my long unruly hair and in the mirror I could see the hairdresser rolling her eyes at her colleague. I should have got up and left. Instead I stayed and humbly let her cut me a fringe. ‘No really I can’t have a fringe – it goes all fluffy – oh ok – yes all right ok. No I’m not telling you how to do your job. Ooh look it’s gone fluffy.’
‘Well’ says the Eye Rolling One. ‘I’ve never had that happen before.’
A few years later I went to another salon for highlights. ‘Please not those’ I said when the colour chart was shown to me. ‘They’re burgundy’.
‘I think they’ll suit you’ said the hairdresser who had inexplicably green hair.
‘No’ I said with a modicum of firmness.
But several hours later when the foils had been removed and I was being blow-dried I saw that the badger stripes in my hair were indeed burgundy. I resembled a three piece sofa from Plumbs; such was the burgundy-ness of my hair.
‘I said no burgundy’ I whimpered, bewildered. ‘Why did you do the exact opposite of what I asked?’
‘Because I think they suit you’ said the green haired one, a fixed smile on his face. But they didn’t. They looked cheap. I resembled Kate Bush’s uglier colour blind sister. I’m sure burgundy highlights look great on some woman but considering I’d just paid a fortune; my hair looked as though it had had a box of bad hair dye dumped on it. I burst into tears of rage and was instantly surrounded by the four hairdressers who ran the salon all telling me I looked ‘great’ although I noticed they were exchanging glances in the big mirrors. Do some hairdressers not know that the paying customers can SEE them?
I have thick, reddish hair that with care and the right astrological alignment can look sleek or curly but most of the time threatens to burst into a halo of frizz. I apply a deep conditioning mask on it twice a week, use shampoos with no sulphates and keep it long enough to pull some of the weight down. But as I get older, my hair is going a bit beige, like my face. Some women go grey beautifully but I’m going beige. I’m useless at colouring my own hair but as we all know, good highlights take hours and are very expensive. So I checked on Gumtree and found the section on free or cheap colour and cuts by third year hairdressing students, rang the salon and found myself booked for highlights and a cut at Lulu Blonde in Wimbledon Village.
They rang me back to confirm the appointment and check I was actually turning up. It seems that it’s quite difficult even in these cash strapped times to get models for hairdressing students.
Lulu Blonde is a large, airy salon with gleaming wood floors, big Art Deco mirrors, friendly staff and lots of magazines. Marina from Latvia asked me about my hair and I said I wanted the colour warmed up a little but I didn’t want to look any blonder which would add to the overall ‘beige’ effect. I was then offered Earl Grey tea or a proper cafeteria of coffee (so many expensive salons offer really bad coffee or even instant) while Marina carefully placed about a million foils all round my head including right underneath, so when I put my hair up, you could see gleaming highlights underneath too. It was supposed to be half a head of highlights but my whole head seemed to be covered. I soon became engrossed in celebville the latest anguish of Jordan – her son Jet Propelled is very ‘small’ and she’s worried about getting back to her size eight figure, oh and Victoria Beckham is worried about her brother in law going out with Kelly Brook. Also Victoria is sporting a horrible dress that could be accessorised with tent pegs. Hair extensions are bad for you apparently and there’s a mean photograph of Naomi Campbell with a bald patch to prove it. And Alexa Chung has a book out containing useful advice like, ‘hairdressers make my hair look nice’.
I also read however this month’s Vogue which also features Alexa having a ‘couture adventure’ where she dresses up priceless frocks with hats. But I think she writes with a keen eye and a slightly satirical air about the fashion world. The Vogue article is a good piece of journalism. Just that the book is not a good advertisement of her writing.
When I looked up, three hours had past and Marina suggested adding a ‘tone’ to my highlights. ‘Ok’ I said and went back to reading about how pink is the colour for autumn and that Mark Wright is in love ‘for the first time’ which might make his ex girlfriend Lauren a bit sad.
When the toner and the highlights were rinsed out, I asked for a trim. Marina showed me a teeny tiny snippet of hair and I kept saying, ‘more . . .more . . .go on’. She took off about an inch, and blow-dried it, asking if I wanted serums or mousses.
My head by this point was full of the latest celebrity flim flam but my hair looked lovely, warmer, brighter in colour but completely natural. Lulu Blonde is a lovely salon where I was put at ease and I only paid £25 for cut and highlights that would ordinarily have cost anything between £150 – £250. I was thrilled.
So if you fancy a cheap to free hairdo, here are a few guidelines.
- Marina told me that hairdressers have to be shown to be competent in highlights and cutting, so if you see an ad and they’re doing highlights, always ring up and be truthful about the kind of hair you have – has it been coloured, bleached etc. Marina says she is currently looking for someone who wants a bob.
- If the ad specifies straight hair because the hairdresser wants to cut a bob, then don’t book an appointment unless you have straight hair. If the ad says ‘happy to have a change’ – this can mean anything, so ask.
- Check the price. If it’s going to cost a nominal amount they should say so up front.
- Again, if it’s free, don’t be a tightwad. Give a tip.
- Before you book an appointment, check out the hairdresser. I’m always put off by the mad hairstyles of a particular franchised hairdresser so I never go in. I’m probably wrong but when you’re a woman in your forties you don’t always want your hair done by a bloke with a dyed green Mohican.
- Be prepared to stay there all day. Your hairdresser should be monitored by an experienced member of staff but he/she will probably take much longer than an experienced hairdresser. Take a sandwich. I was at Lulu Blonde from 11.45 to 16.30