Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hair Trauma

So if there is anything about myself that I get really obsessed about, it's my hair. I'm Asian and I can do just about two things with my hair: 1) make it stick up; or 2) part it. I go for the latter (I part to the right). But styling is another issue. I am forever in search of the perfect hair product. I used to use gel, but I got tired of the wet, "Ross from Friends", crunchy look. So I finally upgraded to pastes, creams and pomades. I soon realized that I need to have at least two or three types of product because the pastes/pomades work better when my hair is close-cropped and short, whereas the creams work best when my hair is longer. In any event, I have yet to find a product that I can depend on all the time. I've had some good runs. For a long time I was using Aveda's Flax Control Paste. At first I thought this would be the only styling product that I would never need. It gave a nice hold, but still left my hair soft. But then my hair started to look limp and flat. Also, I got tired of the incredibly strong smell. It wasn't that unpleasant, and a guy I used to date actually really liked the smell, unlike some Aveda scents that you could choke on. But it was just so STRONG. One time when I was in the gym locker room, a guy told me he recognized the smell of my hair and "guessed" that I used Aveda. I thought maybe he had the nose of a bloodhound, but a couple of other people recognized it too in the strangest of places. Yeah, this stuff has got to go, I thought to myself.

So since then, I've tried everything--Stephen Knoll (also too smelly), Charles Worthington (too greasy), Bumble & Bumble (too shiny looking), Terax (doesn't hold well), Rene Furterer (too "crunchy"), Frederic Fekkai (too girly), Kiehl's (which I'm a big fan of), Davines (too sticky), MOP (was ok, maybe i'll try it again), Aesop (they don't make a pomade), Phyto (no pomade or paste either) and the list goes on and on. You name it, I've probably tried it.

I've also visited my fair share of barbershops and salons. When I first moved to New York, I frequented barber shops including Feature Trim & Chelsea Barber, but I got really tired of the barber just taking the clippers and running with them. The last time I was at a barbershop, I got so nervous about my barber's free will with the clippers that I said, "You know, I don't want my head shaved." Although, I have always wondered how I'd look with a buzz cut. Hmmm....

Then I went to Arrojo Studio of TLC's What Not To Wear fame, but I got so turned off by the wait and the prices there that I decided not to go back. Then I checked out Robert Kree in the West Village, which was decent and although not a bargain, was somewhat reasonably priced for New York at $65. But I just wasn't really wowed by any of the cuts I got there. Robert Kree, though, wasn't a total loss. I found one of my staple hair products that will hopefully continue to be in my medicine cabinet. The Moldit stuff is great. It gives me that matte, texturized look that I'm going for.

It was time for me to go on the hunt once more, and then I found Sam Wong. Sam has a small salon in NoHo on Elizabeth Street after being above the Mercer Hotel for ten years. He only works three days a week and has been cutting hair for a long time and has lots of celebrity clients. I went to him because he's from Hong Kong and I figured he'd know what works and what doesn't work for Asian hair. I was right. He always gives me the best haircuts. And his assistant who gives the scalp and neck massages has magic fingers. So why did I leave? Well, I got tired of paying $100 every 4 or 5 weeks for my haircut .

I then checked out the John Allan Club. John Allan's is an interesting place. They bill themselves as a Gentleman's Club where you can have a beer, play pool, get your shoes shined and get haircuts/manicures from blonde women in little black dresses. You can really feel the testosterone-y ambiance the minute you walk in. For the services, you can either pay a la carte or you can pay an annual membership and get all the haircuts/manicures you want. At $65 for a shampoo/haircut + manicure + hot towel + shoe shine, it's not a bad deal. The women who do the services are all very nice, but there's a definite and amusing hierarchy. When you sit down, you first start chatting with your shampoo girl, and then the manicurist meets you in your haircut chair (or whatever it's called) and chats some more. Finally the Queen arrives, your stylist. The manicurist shuts up while Queen Stylist chats me up.

At any rate, John Allan's was ok, but then the last haircut I got there was TERRIBLE. I actually got it cut again a week later when I was in San Francisco and got a great cut. There I went to a place called Elevation. But I remember looking at their website and seeing "Largest street level salon+cafe in San Francisco." Uhhh....so what? Is that something really to brag about?

Come to think of it, my best haircuts have actually been at places outside of New York. I've gotten great cuts in Toronto, Chicago, Vancouver, and Sydney. Oh in Sydney, I still remember "Mac", this cute Aussie surfer guy who actually lived in New York a few years ago and knew the guy who cut my hair at Arrojo (Nick Arrojo is Australian and hires lots of Aussies.)

So last night I got a haircut at a new place with a funny name, Sergio Limpopo. Overall, I'm very pleased with my cut. I think I'll continue seeing them for a few more visits. I got their name from a friend of mine and was most attracted by the price--$40. The one thing that was annoying was the girl took FOREVER to cut my hair. I think I scared her when I told her that I was visiting her salon for the first time because I hated my last haircut so much at John Allan's. I think she actually tried to look at each individual hair on my head. I thought I was gonna fall asleep. Well, the cut was actually only about an hour, I guess, but still...I thought it was a long time.

As you can see, I've spent a lot of time researching the topic of my hair. The funniest thing is that I've asked for the same cut for the last 14 or 15 years and it really doesn't look that special. Just tapered in the back, short on the sides and top and textured and parted to the right. That shouldn't be that hard to do, right?


Byf said...

I've never known anyone who could write so much about hair product.

I'm ashamed for you that you would eschew Aveda products. Aveda is practically my religion.

Anonymous said...

From Jayne: Products are a BIG PREDICAMENT. As you say, some are too smelly, some do not have the range needed as hair grows, and some just do not work. Sigh. I once had a hair dresser (from Britain, here in C'ville) remark how "uptight" Yanks seem to be about getting their hair cut. I did not comment, and the person went on, "After all, if you do not like the cut, it will grow out ..." Now I ask you, should I have to *pay* for something that I *have* to grow out, and deal with how I know it looks during said grow out??? I think not. So no wonder about tenseness when I try a new person. My current hair wizard I have been seeing for over ten years. He listens, cuts well, and is fun. He has horses, a parrot, and several other critters. He is threatening to retire. ACK!

EM said...

until i was in my early twenties my mom cut my hair. my grandmother had her own salon, and my mom learned from her, but i always got a very simple haircut because of it. i still have yet to venture into anything complicated because i'm terrified it'll mean i'll have to do something other than wash it and brush it in the morning. products scare me. that's why i like kristy, she lets me cut her hair and try interesting products on her head instead of mine. now when i go to a salon (think SuperCuts for $12) i get a simple cut, and since learning how to razor the ends of hair on kristy's head, i razor my own the way i like it when i get home. and still no products necessary. someday i'll give in and go to a REAL salon and pay for a REAL haircut, just not quite yet.

teahouse said...

Wow. Thanks for the summary of good salons! You're better than Citysearch.

About a year and a half ago, I started getting my hair cut in Chinatown. $13 a pop.

Jase said...

If only I had the patience..

In anycase, I only trust Asian barbers/stylists to cut my hair, and in NYC's chinatown, an abundance doesn't nearly describe it.

I get my $7 haircuts in a Chinatown barber shop; $9 if you want a wash/head massage. Add in a $3 tip and you get $12 -- and if you think about it, that's 30%!

There's also a 'nicer' Asian salon, Top Cuts, that'll set you back $20.

As for hair treatment, I volumize with some light mousse and control with Physique wax/pomade - works all day long.

Anonymous said...

have you tried the pomade from American Crew its the only one i use now i really like it ...it leaves my hair soft yet styled...redken makes a pretty good hair wax too...i only use hair product that is unscented or leaves a subtle, pleasant smell..otherwise yuck!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sergio Limpopo is the proprietor's name! He is from Russia, and gives a great haircut and highlights.