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Maintaining Our Respect in the Salon

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At the salons where I work, one of my duties is to help train and guide our junior stylists. A topic often discussed is getting “respect.” Regardless of our time in the industry, feeling respected is essential for a satisfying job experience. “Respect,” specific to this discussion, means high or special regard: esteem. the quality or state of being esteemed. 

Respect, accolades, high follower counts, high guest count, etc… These things are often at the forefront of our goals and therefore critical elements of any achievement. In truth, these rewards are the byproduct of time worked and effort spent. Ergo, to achieve the aforementioned goals, time and effort will be required. For those of us new to the industry, it can be hard to accept that these honors are not handed out right away – regardless of what our school or social media lead us to believe. 

Image courtesy of Jesse Linares/Sam Villa ArTeam

Just as mastery has many levels and a process to achievement, so does respect. This test exists in every moment, and it affects (and is affected by) the habits we set daily. Often, when we feel like we aren’t getting the respect we deserve in the salon, it’s because we have forgotten a step in our routine.  

Dress For The Job You Want

Our job is tough. We have days wherein we don’t feel like dealing, but we must do it anyway, because the work doesn’t wait. Sometimes it’s easy to let ourselves off the hook as we prepare our appearance, to forgive ourselves for not putting our look together. 

It’s important to hold ourselves to a standard (or the salon’s standard) and to give ourselves time before our shift to get ready, especially during our first few years when we are building our clientele. A salon owner once said, “look as good as the guests you want, and you’ll get them.” Regardless of experience, guest count, or social status, in the salon it’s always best to reflect what good hair and attire looks like. After all, we are beauty professionals, and that’s how we are seen by the community. Even for dressed down or street styles, it’s always possible to “snap it up” a few notches. Our clientele notices, and they’re more likely to purchase products, tip better, and refer new guests. When we look our best, our confidence improves, and our best work becomes unlocked. 

Try It First

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve been asked questions by people. “What happens if I do this?” Or “What is X ingredient in this product?” I always ask, “What happened when you tried it?” Or “What did you discover when you looked it up?” Often, they reply that they did not try it yet, or they did not look it up. 

Most of the questions we have about hair must be answered by us individually. True, we need someone to show us how it’s done, but the nuance and personality of the technique (which makes it OUR technique) must be discovered through personal application. Meaning, we must do it ourselves. A lot.

Image courtesy of Jesse Linares/Sam Villa ArTeam

In the salon, in our first few years, we have lots of questions. It will always be impressive to our mentors when we ask them a question after we have attempted a technique ourselves – or tried to discover the answer on our own. Our questions will be more focused, and our mentor will have the opportunity to weigh our attempt against their experience and give us better answers. They will respect us for our effort and for respecting their time.

Make Time In The Breakroom Productive

The salon breakroom is a mysterious place. Within its confines, stylists can relax for a moment between guests, laundry is done, meals are consumed, education takes place – truly an oasis within a busy salon. However, when too much time is spent idle, this oasis can become an unproductive den of idle gossip, too much screen time, missed opportunities on the floor, and more.

If we treat our salon time as “on the clock” (especially if we’re paid hourly), we’ll keep busy. Being industrious throughout the day keeps the salon running smoothly and keeps our groove on. In a busy salon, there’s always something to do. During idle time the more hair we sweep, the more blow dries we assist with, the more shampoos we do, the more esteemed we become to our co-workers.  

Time in the breakroom serves a purpose – we all need a break! All the same, once we’ve accomplished what we went in there to do, it’s advisable to exit.

Run That Social Game, But Don’t Let It Run You

No doubt about it, a social media presence is a must for any serious hairdresser – if for no other reason than to provide physical information about ourselves and where we can be found. An expertly curated profile can drive business to us, promote our personal brand, even make us famous. Social media, like any other resource we use, is a powerful tool that can be abused. Too much time spent looking at the endless sea of other people’s work can sometimes wear us down and lower our confidence about posting our own work or ideas. Social networking can often turn into an imitation game, and more important than ever is the need for hairdressers to post their content with passion and honesty. Beware of comparison and its associated judgements.

Image courtesy of Jesse Linares/Sam Villa ArTeam

We should be ourselves when we post, and consistency in this is key to gaining real acceptance and genuine followers. Honestly, most of the great hairdressers we follow on social media earned their respect long before their profiles began to hit. Meaning, long before they presented us with something to look at/learn from, they spent the time working and suffering through many setbacks along the way.  The joy and confidence they exude is the result of their satisfaction in knowing they cannot fail at this point. 

Be Ever Progressing

Some of the finest rewards dispensed by being a hairdresser come in small satisfactions and gradual improvements that culminate in proficiency: the first step to mastery. Regardless of what “mastery” means to each of us, it is always the combination of time worked and application of technique. It may take years and hundreds of heads to finally feel comfortable with certain things! It is counterproductive to think otherwise. In my first hubric years as an educator, I would say that experience was not a key factor in mastering technique. In a way I was right – but I was also WAY wrong. Until our “masterful” techniques are tested against the multitudinous variables that peoples’ hair brings, we have not truly mastered them. I’m seventeen years behind the chair, and I’m still working on things I thought I had figured out years ago!

Mastering our tools and products takes time, and it is a process that is ever evolving. Just as we grow and change over time, so will our perception of mastery. The key is to be constantly improving. Now, this doesn’t mean we have to be taking classes every weekend, or regularly buying new wardrobe! A hairdresser told me once to “make sure your taste level always exceeds your hands.” What they meant is to always be reaching out for new levels of understanding, new levels of education. There’s always something different to learn. The trap is forgetting that. At higher levels of experience, it may be difficult to find something that challenges you, but the secret is in doing it anyway.

It’s our attitude that makes it – or breaks it.

Respect is something we all deserve, but it takes longer to earn it from others. This duality can be frustrating, but the time and effort spent will be well worth it. Remember, respect won’t come easy if it is the goal.  Instead, if we focus on cultivating the HABITS of those whom we respect, we will find exactly what we needed all along. 

Jesse Linares
Jesse Linares
Jesse Linares is a member of the Sam Villa ArTeam and an experienced stylist at TRACE SALON + SUPPLY.