The foundation of a great men’s haircut is the consultation. To me, having a consultation before giving a client a haircut is EVERYTHING. It’s the foundation and sets the tone for the experience, gives the client confidence and the stylist direction. It’s the roadmap to success with each and every client that sits in a Fleischman, A Men’s Salon chair.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times in my life I have gone to get my own haircut in NYC and have been given little to no attention from the stylist regarding my hair type, texture and natural flow, not to mention being asked what I was hoping to achieve before sending me to shampoo and going in for the attack. And when that’s the experience, inevitably the end result is a haircut that wasn’t what I wanted or what was right for me or my hair. I’m left pissed off, disappointed and angry I spent the money.
There are several elements to a consultation that make it effective. I thought I’d run through what I consider to be a proper consultation and if these things aren’t met next time you sit in your stylists chair, I suggest you call an audible and get out of there and find someone who cares about your hair and about you because without a proper consultation you will never get the best men’s haircut you can.
*As a side note, this list is written with NEW clients in mind, but you should know that clients I’ve been cutting for ten years still receive a consultation, scaled down since I know them and their hair, but I still like to see their hair dry (before going to shampoo) when they walk in so I can see what worked (and possibly didn’t work) the last time they were in so we can always be striving to do things better. There are many times a client who has been with me for years comes in with a new style in mind or wants to change something up a little. Without a consultation, I don’t see how a stylist and client can stay on the same page. Your stylist, if good, should always want to know what the plan is before your head ever hits the shampoo bowl.
So without further ado, here’s my list of what to keep in mind as you are getting a consultation:
1) Good Haircut Consultation: Your Stylist Should Get To Know You
I always formally introduce myself to the client and give him the chance to introduce himself to me. I ask him what he does for a living and how much that affects his hairstyle choices. It almost always gives me insight into why he wears or wants to wear his hair in a certain way. It helps me to decide where I want to go with his hair. It used to be that business professionals like many of my clientele weren’t “allowed” to rock longer hair in the workplace, and by longer I’m not talking about anything crazy long, but maybe longer on top with potential to wear it conservative sometimes and a little less structured other times. Thank god these days things have loosened up a bit with regard to hair in law firms, banks, etc. Today more than ever, I have more options I can actually reasonably discuss with clients. There are ways to give a men’s haircut that will be appropriate for work and also for play. Men are no longer bound to something that only works for work and can’t be manipulated for outside that bubble. I love that a good men’s haircut can be versatile. All you need are the tools to know how to do it and that’s where our stylists come in with the right cut and then right instructions on how to achieve versatility.
Bad Haircut Consultation: Stylist Asks No Questions
Juliana, our receptionist, has a story of going to a new stylist for a haircut and the stylist came over to her, took a very quick look at her hair without asking any questions or giving Juliana the chance to talk and then tried to send her to shampoo without gauging from her what it was she was trying to achieve. Juliana stopped her and asked if she could show her a picture of something she had in mind for her cut and the stylist proceeded to say, “I need to take a break from you for a minute because you are too much for me right now.”
Needless to say, when the stylist walked away Juliana grabbed her purse and her coat and walked right out of the salon. Not understanding the importance of a consultation is the very first sign that the stylist is unprofessional, unconcerned with your needs and wants and just down right lazy, none of which we stand for in our men’s salon.
2) Good Haircut Consultation: “Why Are You Here?”
I always ask my client how he found us and why he is trying out a new salon. This gives the client an opening to provide us with background on his last experience(s) and let us know why he came to us to try something and someone new. He obviously decided to make a change for a reason and knowing how he ended up in my chair will help make sure he’s given best haircut possible.
Bad Haircut Consultation: “When Was Your Last Haircut?”
I hear a lot of stylists ask this and it always makes me crazy. First of all, who the hell can remember when they last had a haircut? When you are meeting someone for the first time I don’t really see why that matters. Stylists will say, “it’s so I know how short the last stylist went.” Why does that matter? He decided not to return to whoever he went to last and it’s probably because of how short or how shitty they cut it so I say, don’t ask that question, it’s irrelevant. The client obviously is trying out someone new most likely because they were dissatisfied with their last cut, so WHEN it was cut last really doesn’t matter in a consultation with a new client.
What matters is why they are here with us today and what is it that they are trying to achieve here, now, with us. The past is the past and when they got their haircut last with another stylist just simply doesn’t provide the kind of feedback that’s useful. There are so many other questions we should be asking in the short time we have a guy in our chair and that is not one of them.
3) Good Consultation: Assess The Hair
After getting some background info from the client on how he found us and why he is here, I then need to quickly (and I mean quickly because none of our guys want this to be a long process, I mean they need to get in and out of the salon in a timely fashion and get back to work after all!) assess his hair and figure out what he likes and doesn’t like about what he currently has going on.
I like to say a line that is reminiscent of Nip/Tuck, when the plastic surgeons used to say “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” My approach is usually something like: “So tell me what you like and don’t like about your hairstyle.” Since so many new clients that come in don’t know what they need with regard to their hair, asking this question gives me a window into the way they see themselves. I want to find out what they like and what they don’t like about their current haircut so I can use that information to give them a result that is in response to their feelings about their hair.
Bad Consultation: “What Would You Like To Do Today?”
When I hear a stylist say, “so what would you like to do today?” Clients almost always say, “I need a haircut.” And that makes me laugh every time. It says a lot about the head space our guys are in about their hair. Most likely, they might have acknowledged that they need a new approach to their hair or their wife, girlfriend, partner, buddy, or coworker has said “your hair looks like shit” prompting them to go to a new salon. At this point they have already diagnosed their haircut as bad but they don’t know how to treat it! A doctor wouldn’t ask a patient “what do you want to do about this fever?” A good doctor asks the patient about their symptoms and then recommends a course of treatment. At Fleischman, A Men’s Salon all our stylists take this approach.
4) Good Consultation: Learn About Your Hair
Do you understand your hair’s growth patterns, cowlicks, or texture? Can you describe your face shape and how it should influence the haircut? Most men cannot and that’s why educating the client about his hair is a critical part of the consultation. A good stylist needs to be able to assess all these elements and explain to the client how they all factor into the haircut. The results are a great men’s haircut and experience. Educating the client about his hair is a critical part of the consultation. I find that most of our new clients come in highly uneducated about their hair. They never really thought about it. They don’t think about how the weather affects their hair or how to apply product properly to achieve a successful end result. It’s here in the consultation that we can start the learning process.
Bad Consultation: One Size Fits All
Most stylists outside of our salon have the same M.O. with regard to cutting men’s hair. Their approach is to simply cut the hair shorter than it was when the client arrived. Every haircut is the same shitty shorter haircut with little to no consideration for any of the elements listed above. It’s a “get ‘em in and get ‘em out approach. In this case the client is going to get more or less the same haircut as the guy that sat down before him. Unless these two guys are identical twins the idea of each client walking out with the same haircut is ridiculous.
5) Good Consultation: Honest Is the Best Policy
Education leads to my next point. Be honest and forthright about what is really going to be able to happen during a client’s visit (especially during a first visit). My husband always reminds me of the first time he came into the salon (yes, that’s how we met!) and how I said to him, “This is going to be a process. It’s going to take me a few haircuts to achieve what I ultimately want for your hair. Since I am cutting over another stylist’s haircut, you need to give me more than one visit to get it where I want it for you.” It’s the truth, every haircut is an evolution until we are in maintenance mode. (By the way, my husband initially thought that was a ploy to get him to come back in so I could see him again when in reality I say it to everyone because it is the truth!!! LOL)
A client will come in with a picture of Justin Timberlake or Brad Pitt and ask me to make his hair look like the picture. Chances are his hair is nothing like the hair of Justin or Brad but it’s my job to assess the client’s hair and then educate him about what we can do to get it to look similar. I always want to explain to a client what is and isn’t possible and make sure they understand and are on the same page. They may need to grow their hair several months to get some length before I can blend and shape to get them to their ultimate result. They may need to grow a sideburn or let a natural neckline grow in. They may need to do all of these things and more. This is the critical part of the consultation and they need to hear this kind of stuff come from us. They need to understand and agree to trust us.
Bad Consultation: “Sure I Can Do That (Or Anything Else) Easily!”
There is nothing worse than just yes-ing a client to death while knowing there is no way in hell his hair will ever look even remotely like Justin’s. We can get pretty much any guy’s hair to do something close to what they came in asking for, but not without their buy in and not without educating them and making sure they have the necessary patience and are willing to put in the appropriate time a given hairstyle may need. For us, honesty is the best policy and giving it to the client upfront will only make for a better experience, a better approach and a better end result.
After all is said and done in a consultation the next thing you must ask yourself as a client is do you have the confidence in your stylist to do what she says she will do. If so, the only thing left to do is sit back, enjoy your shampoo, sip your scotch and leave the heavy lifting to the skilled women of Fleischman, A Men’s Salon who pride themselves on their honesty, talent and skills. That’s the formula for a long and happy client/ stylist relationship!