Expert Advice

Take It Easy on Long-Haired Clients

Web Editor | July 10, 2011 | 6:16 PM
Easy Does It
Increase long-haired clients' turnaround by taking it easy


Hair has been long for a long time, to the distress of great hair cutters everywhere. Six- and eight-week clients stretch their appointments to three months, so they can "grow it in." Women who would benefit from a groomed look go bedhead. Because it's sexy? Because it's fun?

Maybe it's because clients are lazy. After all, how much skill does it take to pull long hair back in a ponytail?

Learn and earn from clients' reluctance to fuss with their hair, say successful salon owners. Time-crunched clients need easy-care styles; "ease" is the actual trend, notes Mark Garrison, owner of Mark Garrison Salon in New York City. In other words, embrace long.

"Europe and the U.S. collectively ‘get it' now; there are no actual trends but movements within lifestyles," says Tony Anders, artistic director for Kenneth's Hair Salons and Day Spas in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Companies are hiring market researchers to analyze how people live and they're adapting trends to suit. For a simple lifestyle, classic looks with simple silhouettes are right; for opulent ‘look at me' lifestyles, like Paris Hilton's, there's a whole different look being shown."

Anders says that what really makes hair work for a lifestyle is the skill to change it, which is why layers are popular and why salons are seeing the rise of the textured bob. These variations on long open the door to retail products, which allow convertibility even in the clumsiest hands.

Taking the Long View
Fighting long may be a losing battle. But there are ways to turn length into profit.

Hair extensions are particularly hot for the younger set. "It's not unusual for us to see our clients' daughters by the time they are 13 or 14," says Rachel K, co-owner of Rachel K Salon in Chicago.

"Mothers will pay for their daughter's hair extensions and more, because they know teens will experiment at home, and they'll end up bringing them to a salon to fix what they've done."

Anders offers re-usable hair extensions, which bring in $1,600 on the first visit. In future appointments, the extensions are trimmed, re-bonded and re-attached for about $800. The time lag between appointments is balanced by the popularity of extensions, he reports. They're causing the biggest business surge he's ever seen because they appeal to the immediate gratification mindset of Americans, who love that they can get celebrity or runway styles in two hours.

Such miracle results satisfy clients deeply. According to George Caroll, owner of George Caroll Studio in North Hollywood, California, "Long hair is still preferred by 70 percent of women in the world; women see it as more feminine."

Caroll lets his clients know what looks best on them, but if they insist on long, he gives them what they want. To fill in during "grow-out," he gets clients to refer their men, because women control the family budget, he says. Sixty-five percent of his clients are now men.

Ali Martinese, owner of Sanctuary Hair Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, takes another tack. She tells her clients that long hair requires a commitment because it must be healthy, shiny and beautifully colored.

"Clients are stretching their appointments, but my retail hasn't gone down because I recommend what's needed to keep long hair looking great," she says.

Martinese encourages change via her website, which has many links to fashion-trend sites. The approach has been very successful in drawing women who want to look sophisticated without looking too conservative. She now has more requests for those textured, layered bobs.

Shane Petsch, a stylist at Van Michael salons in Atlanta and a partner in the Norcross location, agrees that long hair stretches appointments but that these clients still need products, tools and accessories.

"Women want sexy hair but have no time to do it," says Petsch. "I show them how to use one- or two-inch-barrel irons on just on the top layers and how to work with accessories. The natural trend means women need products so their hair doesn't look too fixed."

Anders also taps into celebrity trends and accommodates busy lifestyles by focusing on flexibility.

"Women want to look pulled-together at the office and sexier on weekends," he says. "To make a look new, take the bob and wedge shapes, add internal texture and change the look with products. Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba change their styles regularly; sophisticated women know this and want to learn more about how. Naturally, if you have a satisfied mom, you have a referral hub."

The Long...
Many middle-aged clients wear mid-length to long hair, by hairdresser's standards.

"You'll always have a mix of clients; some want the inside scoop on where to go next and others just want to keep it long and throw in a ponytail," says James Pecis, a stylist at Bumble and bumble in New York City.

"The key to making change is to make it less intimidating. Start with a subtle change or a less dramatic version of the popular look. The client has to feel comfortable and believe that the look will suit her."

Garrison sees a return to natural textures; one client who fought curl for 14 years recently embraced it. Another who wore a very straight, flat bob for a decade has moved to a shaggy, layered look.

"There's definitely more texture in terms of cuts that blend movement and use natural texture," says Garrison. "Because women want to save time, they use products to enhance and define what they have and embrace new technologies to change the look on weekends."

Like Pecis, Garrison advises adjusting cuts with small shifts, such as adding a long bang, an angled fringe, texture and layers, which

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