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Never lie to your hairdresser and other truisms

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene  April 6, 2009 01:51 PM

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Almost every hairdresser has their horror story, and Stephen Hanson is no exception.

A longtime Newbury Street stylist who is now working at Starr Hair Studio, Hanson remembers a client who broke the golden rule: never lie to your hair dresser. The blonde, who said she never colored her hair, wanted a perm, so Hanson willingly complied. Halfway through the treatment, with half her hair split and broken on the rollers, the woman confessed that she really did dye her hair. But it was too late.

“She ended up with a very short Sharon Stone hairdo, because half her hair fell off,” says Hanson. “But I kept her as a client for years, and she never lied to me again.”

Forty-something Hanson is a self-professed “flamboyant” tattooed and pierced showman who shows up for long 12-hour workdays in his longtime uniform: tight black leather and chains, topped off by cowboy boots.

In 31 years of hair styling, he estimates he’s put his scissors on more than 10,000 heads, and says he's sheared enough hair “to reach from here to the moon.” With over 700 current clients, it’s not hard to believe Hanson when he says that an established hairdresser can pull in over $250,000. And, although no career is recession proof, employment of stylists is expected to grow 12 percent to 2016.

Q: So, first let me ask your opinion on a common debate in hair styling: How old is too old for long hair?
A: I’m not the type to say that every woman over 40 should cut their hair. I have 60-year-olds with long hair and hair extensions. But if it’s long and stringy, that doesn’t look good on anyone. So I think it’s up to the individual.

Q: How did you end up as a hairdresser?
Hairdressing runs in my family. I was folding towels before I could read a newspaper. My stepfather was also a hairdresser, and a very flashy figure, and he trained me, and I also trained with some of the top names in the profession. Now my two daughters, who are in their 20s, are my assistants, and are good colorists and stylists on their own.

Q: Your clients are so loyal to you – some fly in from Nantucket and even Bermuda to get their hair done. What’s your secret?
It’s easier to replace your boyfriend than to replace your hairdresser. It’s like developing a relationship – your hairdresser knows your likes and dislikes; whether you’re low or high maintenance.

Q: A hairdresser is also a confidant. What are the things people have told you through the years?
Everything from infidelity to advice on children and marriage. In beauty school, you’re taught not to talk about sex, religion, and politics. But I talk about all three.

Q: Has the struggling economy affected your business?
Not at all. People need a good haircut for their job interviews. It puts them a cut above – pun intended.

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9 comments so far...
  1. I didn't know that hair dressers made that much money. $250,000? Too bad that you couldn't offer discounted or free hair services to those clients that are unemployed. As you pointed out, people need a good haircut for their job interviews. At $100 or more for a hair cut and color, I simply can not afford to go to a hair dresser. I need that $100 for food. Of course, you knew that because you hear it all. You are just greedy. What happened to giving back to your community?

    Posted by JO April 8, 09 07:14 PM
  1. Not all hair stylists make that much money, Also, he/she is not responsible for your job loss, or for providing you with a cut to find a new job. There are plenty of places to get decent, cheap haircuts for your job interview (supercuts, beauty schools, suburbs). Also, if you are so worried about money, why are you wasting it on coloring your hair? I'd rather pay a bill than make sure my roots are gone in time for an interview...

    Posted by CG April 12, 09 01:00 PM
  1. How is he greedy for developing a clientelle that can pay his fees? Not all haircuts cost that much. Supercuts does an OK job. YOU are the one coming off as greedy...looking for a free handout.

    Posted by kxs April 13, 09 01:53 PM
  1. hmmmm..............such a seasoned and trained stylsit/colorist could NOT tell the client's hair was bleached????

    Posted by A Dingo Ate My Baby April 16, 09 01:19 PM
    He offers students discounts, free haircuts for ANY of his clients who have been laid off, as well as a hair redemption card which will get you out of "HAIR HELL" if you ever felt the need to get a quick cheap haircut/color. He has been doing hair for 25+ years, your paying for experience, quality, and time. A GREAT haircut/color grows out well which is why I have been seeing him for 20 years. STEPHEN HANSON IS A GOD AND I LOVE MY HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Favorite client ! April 16, 09 06:54 PM
  1. Dingo ate my baby-you nailed it! I was thinking the same thing. How can a hairdresser that commands that kind of salary (or any hairdresser for that matter) NOT know that his clients hair has been colored, permed or otherwise processed? I am not a hairdresser and can tell processed hair from across the room.
    Also, how can anyone that does hair justify $250,000 salary? I have a PhD and a post-doc and do cancer research. I don't even make a quarter of that money. It burns me when a hairdresser wants to charge me over$100 for 30 minutes of service (especially when most of the time I am sitting waiting for a process).

    Posted by Bambinosmom2 April 18, 09 08:14 PM
    As his client said above, not only are you paying for experience and skill in your cut and color- but to many, Stephen is a confidant (as he said). So many people pay a lot more than that amount of money for a therapist.
    Also, as you maybe didn't read- Stephen works 6 days a week for 12 hours STRAIGHT. His clientele is so big that they require this availability. He often doesn't take lunch breaks and will ALWAYS squeeze in and work around his regulars. He has a reputation for being the best because he IS the best.
    It drives me crazy that people like you, Bambinosmom2, would judge someone
    solely based on their salary. If you don't like your current position, maybe you should have gone to hair school instead of med school. He works hard and makes an honest living and as a self-proclaimed educated person, I find it appalling that you would not be able to respect that. Stephen has a family to support like anyone else.
    Stephen, you keep doing what you're doing. You're truly a talent and we are all so lucky to have you in our lives as our teacher, hair stylist and most importantly, FRIEND.

    Posted by HairSalonReceptionist May 21, 09 11:53 AM
  1. Stephen has been cutting and coloring my hair for twenty years. He is definitly not the most expensive on Newbury St but he should be because he is the BEST!
    I bet he did know that the blonde was lying but he is too much of a gentleman to call her out on it.
    You hair sucks - Stephen can fix it!

    Posted by a shadowblade groopie May 26, 09 08:20 PM
  1. I have been with Stephen for about 25 years and I would NOT let anyone else put their scissors on me. Today, I used my "Redemption" card as I am unemployed and received a FREE haircut from Stephen who was, incidentally, preparing my hair before it falls out from chemotherapy! He also offered to color it for FREE to fill in where the gray was showing. As far as being affordable...Stephen did not raise my rates for 6 years as I am a longtime client and will gladly now pay more because he is WORTH IT!
    Stephen is a master...he is loyal, honest and more than fair in his pricing.
    He is simply the BEST and has kept me looking great with a head full of difficult hair for a very long time! Love you Stephen!

    Posted by T-Bird September 3, 09 05:33 PM

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