Working in any industry that deals directly with the public can result in some... colorful interactions. As far as who gets the weirdest requests from customers, professional hairstylists undoubtedly come in somewhere near the top of the list. From unconventional haircuts to bonkers dye jobs to flat-out unrealistic curl expectations, a day behind a stylist's chair is rarely dull or predictable, especially if that chair happens to be in a big city.
I spoke with Lee, a stylist at Arrojo Salon (yes, as in Nick Arrojo the charming hair mastermind on What Not To Wear) in New York City to find out exactly how weird things get when she has her scissors to a client's head. It's a part of the exciting job she's learned to embrace, rather than freak out over. "As a stylist, you're here to meet the client's expectations," she tells me. "Even if they're the weirdest requests, we want you guys to be happy."
And with all the different personalities you're bound to run into in NYC — especially in a salon with a huge stylist training program, like Arrojo — Lee certainly runs into her fair share of odd requests. Here, she breaks down her top eight.
1. The Anime Aficionado
It's not uncommon for a client to bring in a photo of their favorite celebrity 'do for inspiration, which can occasionally lead to challenges if their hair texture isn't similar — like, for example, if that celebrity is an animated character. "I had a girl bring in a Japanese anime picture," Lee says, "And she specifically wanted the pointy-ness. She was so adamant about the bob being pointy at the bottom!"
Like a true pro, Lee did the best she could to meet the girl's request ("I was just trying to communicate that it was a 2-D drawing, but she was just not understanding what I was saying.") by adding a ton of texture then styling it with what seemed like pounds of hair gel. "I told her, 'You know, you're going to have to do all this work every day,' but she was into it!" Lee says, shrugging.
2. The Descriptive 'Do
Sometimes, when a photo just won't do, clients resort to other measures to get their perfect cut. "The first time I ever met one of my favorite clients, she brought in a list of descriptive words that describe her as a person and she really wanted a cut that embodied all of those words," Lee says. On the list were adjectives like sweet, smart, and playful — and Lee had to decide how create a haircut that really emulated all those things. In the end, they went with a loose bob and super short fringe. "She loved it," Lee says.
3. The Needy Hair Models
In addition to offering top-of-the-line haircuts, Arrojo has an extensive training process for all of its stylists, and, just like most cosmetology schools, offers up discount cuts for anyone willing to be a model for the class. Despite their getting a style on the cheap, Lee finds that these hair models can be a real PITA. "You probably get the pickiest people in these hair models," she says. "They want something a student's not working on or expect a lot from these girls and guys who are just learning." Luckily, this just provides a learning opportunity. "Part of our job as trainers is try to teach our students how to handle these types of personalities," Lee says.
4. The Mullet
Sometimes, a client comes along who rocks the heck out of a 'do you thought was unattainable. "I do have a client who has a really hardcore mullet," Lee says. "But it’s like his thing. He kills it," she continues, then goes on to gush about how long and luscious this particular mullet is.
5. The Artist
One time, the inspiration photo Lee had to work off of was hand-drawn by the client herself, and it was no easy 'do to recreate. "She was like 'I want the right size to be taller than my left side and I want [the front] to go forward and [the back] to go straight back,'" Lee says, "The drawings looked like they had been drawn a long time ago." Despite her best efforts, Lee still wasn't able to give the woman what she wanted. "She gave me a few tries, but I don’t think I was up to her standards," Lee says good naturedly. "I think she’s been chasing this asymmetrical, short, beehive-thing forever!"
6. The Illusionist
"Have you ever heard of giving yourself a face lift with your hair?" Lee asks, to which I replied that I have not. A woman came in with her old modeling photos as hairspiration, which were easy enough to recreate. "Afterwards she took her hair and parted it [as if she was making a half up ponytail] and said, “Hold this up,'” Lee recalls. "Then she grabs two pieces of hair [from her temples] and pulls them back so tight and ties them in a ponytail with a tiny rubber band and it lifts her entire face up!" When I insisted to know if it really works, Lee tells me that it does, in a way, lift the skin on your face up a bit. "It really freaked me out," she says.
7. The Unrealistic Dye Job
With all the rainbow hair colors trending right now, it's not uncommon for someone to ask for a super speedy way to lighten their hair — but it is one of the scariest things Lee has had to deal with. "You can [go from black to blonde], but you have to do it really slowly," Lee says. "And most people don't want to do it slow." The only way to get people to listen to her? "I say, 'Do you want to do this quickly, or do you want to have hair when we're done?'" Lee explains. I'll keep my hair, thanks.
8. The "Air Cut"
With the oft-repeated rule about getting your hair cut every six to ten weeks or so to keep it healthy, people can sometimes end up in the salon because they feel like they have to, not because they actually want a trim. "It only takes one time with them crying [in your chair] for the stylist to realize, 'oh… you actually did not want your hair cut...'" Lee says. To prevent those tears from ever happening again, Lee (and other stylists, she swears) may rely on the "air cut." "You go through all the motions, but you don’t actually cut their hair," Lee explains. There aren't any satisfying piles of hair hitting the floor, but Lee insists that people love it — and certainly don't leave sobbing. "It's probably the weirdest thing I have to do," she says.
Despite all the strange requests she's gotten, Lee's in love with her career. "That's what's so fun about being a stylist!" Lee exclaims. "You meet so many people that want strange things and that’s what keeps our job being really interesting."
Images: Courtesy Arrojo Salon; Giphy