I’ve heard that some women stay with their hairdresser longer than their husband.
As I’ve never been married, I can’t attest to that, but I can certainly say that my relationship with my current stylist, Amy, has endured for six years. It has seen me through the end of a relationship and the start of a new one, through ups and downs, illnesses, bereavements, a change of career, and all the flotsam and jetsam of life.
I’ve had more styles than your average person over my lifetime, mainly because my mum is a hairdresser and I had a stylist on tap for the first 20 years of my life. And then I moved away.
Initially, I managed, going back to Prestwick whenever I needed a trim. (I didn’t need colour then, my roots were still the same colour as the rest of my hair.)
There was a period in the mid-nineties when all my friends from home were settling down and getting married, and I would regularly take over the kitchen on a Saturday morning, requesting glamorous and elaborate updos, with delicate, pink rosebuds strategically woven through my dark hair.
But, eventually, I had to give in and find a hairdresser who wasn’t my mum. It was terrifying. I had no idea of salon etiquette. My first salon hair cut was ridiculous.
I was going to Australia and, in my wisdom, thought I needed to get my almost waist-length hair cut really short. “What do you want?” Asked the hipster stylist fella, who had a chic salon in Edinburgh and two lazy dogs at his feet. “Just chop it however you like,” I said.
God, it was awful. Totally unruly, sticking out at the back and on the top. An expensive mistake.
I found my first long-term hairdresser in London
When I then settled in London, I found my first long-term hairdresser after my mum. Cristina, who worked in a tiny, old-fashioned salon in Camberwell, was a Portuguese angel who looked like Penélope Cruz. I would go during my lunch break on a Friday, once a month, to coincide with pay day.
I moved house seven times and had five relationships while I was with Cristina and, believe me, she heard all about it (and them).
She ended up with at least three more of my team from work on her books. When a colleague got married, her whole day was taken up with just our office.
Eventually, I settled down and had twins, and so did Cristina – and we had a whole new crop of stories and challenges to share.
Everyone has hair horror stories
I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s had that sinking feeling when your trusted hairdresser announces they are going on maternity leave or, even worse, leaving the country entirely, as Cristina did when her marriage broke down. I didn’t settle into another long-term hairdresser relationship in London, just flitted around having short-term dalliances for a while.
I have had a couple of horror stories in my time – including an appointment with someone who emerged as a racist halfway through
But, now, I’m the one who is leaving: the town, the country… and Amy. I’m currently at the stage of seriously considering whether booking an appointment every six weeks to coincide with school holidays is viable, just to keep my favourite hairdresser. Amy rolled her eyes at this suggestion but, since she has even made it into my memoir, I don’t think it is too far-fetched.
I realise that not everyone has such a committed relationship with their hairdresser, and I have had a couple of horror stories in my time – including an appointment with someone who emerged as a racist halfway through. I skipped the blow-dry and left with wet hair, saying I’d had a message from my childminder and needed to rush home.
A unique, intimate and enduring friendship
Loving your hairdresser is not just about getting the best hairstyle. It’s also about friendship and trust; about all that you go through together.
Amy has been there during the challenges of the last few years: serious health problems and major life changes. She has squeezed me in for appointments at ludicrously short notice when I’ve had a last-minute event. We’ve laughed at some of my absurd stories.
She even taught me how to apply false eyelashes. (The eyelash technician refused to do extensions again because she said I’d wreck them.)
This all sounds like a recipe for enduring friendship, with its own type of intimacy. You initially go in for a good hair cut, but it’s so much more than that. You leave feeling invincible, wearing your bouncy new hairdo like a superhero’s cape. You are buoyed by the experience.
A good hairdresser becomes your trusted ally. No wonder it’s so hard to leave.
Donna McLean is originally from Ayrshire and is a mum of twins, writer and activist