The Last Style: Thoughts on Retiring Your Shears

 Becoming a hairdresser was such a ride for this kid born in a tiny border town in Mexico. Touching so many people’s lives, traveling around the globe teaching respect and love for our craft, who would have thought? Was it being at the right place? Or a time and place that will never return? Was it people who believed in me? Yes, it was people like you reading this blog post—wonderful, kind and empathetic people like you who propelled my career.

  I began by placing ladies under the dryer and combing out hair with lots of covert backcombing and hairspray to last until the next salon visit. I recall the smell of coffee, permanent wave lotion and cigarette smoke on busy Saturday mornings—yes, everyone smoked under the dryers. During the permanent wave era in the 80’s, I was the first hairdresser to perm hair before a respectful and very silent audience of hairdressers in China with Pivot Point’s Leo Passage; the Chinese still used machines and had never seen a cold wave. The color era was punctuated by Matrix’s Arnie Miller with whom I helped introduce Socolor to the nation at Armstrong McCall’s annual expo in San Antonio. Matrix had not yet filled the tubes with color, I held up an empty box on stage while Arnie and a team of technicians colored hair backstage using big vats of color. What a rush.

 There are so many wonderful moments in a salon professional’s career, but pointless to boast because you are really only as good as your last haircut. Today’s lease chair era is highly artistic, and yet, it feels so “everyone for themselves”—the hairdresser, the salon and the manufacturer addressing their needs without overtures to the benefits of interconnection. It is, after all, another evolution of our industry, but I miss the old-fashioned camaraderie. I sense a hint of aloneness in salon professionals everywhere. There was a time when we won and lost together—now, you are more on your own.

 I now turn my attention to giving away everything I know--my craft, struggles, losses and joys and ask you do the same. If you want to learn anything I know, like anything I do or have—ask me how to get there. Together, let’s empower this magical beauty industry to remain a career where everyone counts, everyone is accepted, and everyone wins. Often, when you think you are at the end of something, you discover you are really at the beginning of something else. If you have a pulse, you have something to share. Indeed, your highest purpose may well be to overcome challenges for the benefit of sharing what you learned. I believe mine is.

Saying goodbye to clients is tough. There have been emotional moments saying farewell because we both know its highly likely we may never meet again. I kept my relationships professional and never socialized with clients. This is goodbye. I do my darndest to make that last style something really memorable. I thank each client for their loyalty and offer a card of a team member who I feel will understand their needs. I wish them happiness and say,  “It is I who is grateful, have you any idea how much I have learned from doing your hair? And, you paid me for it? Never wear boring hair—I won’t, no matter how old I am and how many hairs are left on my head—which means, I will never stop embracing what’s next—you do too, please.”

Let’s not call it retirement.

Let’s call it new beginnings.

Let’s call it bliss

   Carlos Valenzuela is a hairdresser/educator, ex-salon & school owner, author and corporate spokesperson with forty-five years of beauty experience. His focus today is raising wellness awareness and assisting salon professionals in developing a fulfilling career via his podcast “Tiny Steps for Salon Pros” and at industry events, seminars and in-salon workshops.


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