Miss Manners: How to Leave the Salon Unscratched

[I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the epitome of prim and proper- heck, who really is nowadays? But looking around at the misguided youths of today *ahem drinking buddies*, I’m starting to think that Miss Manners might have been onto something. While you may never need to know how to greet a duke or how to tell which fork is REALLY the oyster fork, knowing how to deal with people whom owe you money, how much to tip, and how to address the ever annoying licorice-in-teeth conundrum without being rude might actually come in handy in the real world.

I’m not trying to be your mother – oh goodness, no – I’m just here to help you out of those little etiquette dilemmas. So here goes: a quick lesson in etiquette. The sh*t you might actually need to know.]

I always leave salons with bad hair cuts. (Although I must admit the last one was my fault- it should have tipped me off right away when I realized the hair stylist did not speak a word of English.) Anyway, last week reader Josie asked us to feature an article on hair-salon etiquette: “manners pertaining communication with your hair dresser from conversation to tips, how to react if you don’t get the expected results, etc.” So here’s to you Josie..

Small talk. For most women (and some men), their hairstylist is their therapist, best friend, psychic, and lover (you know, hypothetically speaking) all rolled into one. What you tell them is completely up to you, but remember that while there is practically an unwritten rule about the stylist-stylee confidentiality, your stylist isn’t legally obligated to keep quiet. Just because you trust her to give you a killer hair-do, doesn’t mean you can trust her to not tell everyone about your cheating on your taxes, boyfriend, calculus exam, whatever. In fact, salons are havens for gossip, so just be careful.

On another note, if you don’t want to talk to the person cutting your hair, you really don’t have to. I’ve been there; once you run out of small talk (“Yes, it is hot outside, isn’t it?”) and have nothing more to add to the conversation, the silence gets pretty awkward. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, politely escape via magazine. Relax. It’s okay; just make sure to glance up now and then to make sure your hair is coming along the way you’d like.

Bad haircuts. What should you do if you end up with a bad cut? Ask them to fix it. And by “ask” I mean “tell.” Yes, it might be a pain in the butt for them to redo your hair, but remember that you’re paying them for the service. If your hair doesn’t come out exactly the way you want it to, it’s not rude to expect someone at the salon to fix it. It’s better for them if you speak up and get a haircut you love than to walk out unhappy and tell everyone where that mullet came from.

Note: This isn’t a free pass to be bitchy or to start crying and threaten her with the scissors. If you’re unhappy with the results, calmly explain to the stylist what’s wrong with the look, why it isn’t what you asked for, and offer up a suggestion on how to fix it.  This can usually be avoided by bringing a photograph/sketch of the exact style you want from different angles or explaining beforehand your definition of “just two inches.”


I hope that helped clarify some things. I’ve had my fair share of salon disasters (going in for red hair…coming out with purple?), so I’m pretty confident in these tips.

And once again, if you’ve got any etiquette conundrums, questions or gray areas you need help sorting out, let me know in the comments. I’ll be sure to help you out in next week’s column!

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