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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: Not at all. People need a good haircut for their job interviews. It puts them a cut above – pun intended.