Haircuts and hairstyle maintenance have always been things I have...dreaded.
In my mental chamber of horrors lurks bad haircuts, bad hair days, “oops-my-bad-I-just-woke-up” hair—which is why I went about with a shaved head during my junior years in high school. That way, I didn’t have to worry about anything to do with hair.
But during my senior years, I’d somehow gotten more conscious of how I looked. I began to worry about my hairstyle, at times catching myself staring into my mirror like the Lady of Shalott, transfixed for long moments while combing and re-combing, and even administering the occasional splatter of gel. This may explain why I sometimes had to run late to class, with or without taking...shortcuts.
Now, to avoid this education-depriving ritual, I keep my hair short, which means I frequently need to get haircuts.
Making hair decisions
Cutting hair can be symbolic of change, a rite of passage, a shedding of the before-you—and a pop culture trope that continues to be repeated: Tris in Insurgent, Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender, and, famously, Mulan in Mulan (huh).
This may be the first time you’re away from home and able to make hair decisions without your parents having to weigh in. So if you’re going for a major change in hairstyle, be confident and bask in instant gratification as you admire gravity pulling your chopped-off hair to the floor.
If you are more risk-averse, consider revisiting past photos of yourself and reliving your haircuts of yesteryear. Maybe you'll find an on-point hairstyle of yourself that you want to reassume.
Make sure, however, that your desire for a haircut doesn’t come from impulsive urges (e.g. 'I got dumped and, therefore, I'm going to shave everything off'), because it takes time for hair to grow back, and the novelty of a different look can wear off quickly.
Alternative ways of getting a haircut
I have never tried cutting my own hair, lest I Van Gogh myself. I don’t want to have my floormates cutting my hair over some toilet in the shared bathroom, either.
Fortunately, safer alternatives exist—on campus (On the Fringe), just outside campus (check out those along Wesbrook Mall), or a bus ride away to other parts of the city (I like to head to Nick’s Barber Shop).
Vancouver is also the workplace of many haircut apprentices, and services provided by these hairdressers-in-training can come at a lower price. Students at Blanche Macdonald Centre’s Learning Laboratory and Vancouver Community College Salon & Spa, for example, provide hairstyling services and hair treatments at local campuses.
“What kind of haircut do you want?”
When confronted with this question, I used to stutter, give a nervous laugh, and stare back at the hairdresser. Just, uh, shave the sides and trim the top...oh, and the back.
Here are some solutions I've learned:
Check out the hairstyles you like and affix a recognizable name to them, like a crew cut or a pixie cut, if possible.
Show photos of your desired hairstyle
Bringing multiple photographs of yourself or someone whose hair type or face resembles yours can help the hairdresser understand what you want. Remember to tell the hairdresser what it is you like about these references, such as the angle of the bangs. This information can help the hairdresser grasp your desired hairstyle.
However, try to be understanding if the hairdresser’s area of expertise doesn’t quite include your ideal hairstyle. Oftentimes, people use filters and Photoshop to alter the look of their hair and create unrealistic expectations of what hairdressers can do.
Hand over the reins
If you’re not feeling particularly attached to any hairstyle in general, go with the one that the hairdresser thinks best suits you. After all, it’s not their first time cutting someone’s hair...hopefully?
Snips of conversation from the haircut process
Explain what you want visually
Your definition of “shorter,” for example, may be different from the hairdresser’s, which may lead to you losing more hair than you would have liked. Use your fingers to show exactly how much hair you want to have clipped off.
If you’re witnessing a widening disconnect between how you look and how you thought you would look, don’t be embarrassed to talk to the hairdresser. Consistent communication helps you to avoid shrieking, when the cape is whisked away, “What did you do to my hair?”