How to Actually Get the Haircut You Came In For

by Alyssa Shapiro

We’ve all been bright-eyed and bushy-tailed — mane-d? — at the salon, chatting up the hair stylist, hoping for a hair miracle. You've got the perfect cut in your head, and today is the day you're going to get it. So, when the world comes screeching to a halt an hour later, when the big, spun-around mirror reveal shows something a bit different from what you had in mind, it can be so frustrating — and even emotionally taxing — to think about the months ahead with the wrong cut incorrectly framing your face. (For instance: Bangs. Short bangs. Short bangs that required daily hairdryer action on a girl that likes to hop from the shower straight to the street. I’d show you a photo, but no.)

In the spirit of the coming new season, a new you, we talked to stylists at some of the best salons to see what they had to say about communicating your hair desires.

1. Before your appointment, do a little hunting and gathering. Stylist Chelsea Luna from the Dyer & Posta Salon in Atlanta recommends bringing photos of hairstyles and colors that you are hoping to emulate. Photos of celebs, from Tumblr, Pinterest, or beauty blogs are great references. She also recommends bringing in photos of hairstyles that you didn’t like on yourself in the past. That way, you won’t be reliving any nightmares.

“I love it when clients bring in photos of hair they love,” says Allison Woodruff from the Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. “Visual references are the best way to communicate. If you’re going for a big change, bringing photos of what you don't like are just as helpful as the photos that you do like.”

2. Come in with your hair styled how you wear it every day, says Krystal Phillips, another stylist from Dyer & Posta. “Most women come in with their hair up, dirty, or messy, because they know their hair will be styled when they leave. However, it’s difficult for stylists to visualize the way you like to style your hair unless it’s actually done that way!”

Woodruff agrees that it’s best to show up with your hair as close to the way you always wear it. “Natural is best — not too dirty, no ponytails or buns as they dent the hair and create unnatural texture.” Essentially, you want you stylist to be able to see what your hair actually looks like before getting started.

3. Choose your words carefully, and be honest! Woodruff points out that the lingo you use is key. “Often clients request that I make them look 'rock and roll', 'cool', 'edgy'. I can’t tell you how often I hear this and how often girls don’t really want to commit to looking edgy or rock and roll,” like Patti Smith’s super short layers of the ‘70s. If you’re going for a cool vibe, like say, a Kate Moss feel, bring in images! “Kate Moss is both edgy and rock and roll, but her haircut is always structured, she just wears it cool and natural.” So the styling may be cool, but the cut doesn’t have to be.

Be honest about how much time and energy you’re willing to commit to doing your own hair every day, says Phillips. That way, if you’re low maintenance, you won’t accidentally wind up with a cut that necessitates a daily blow out and added styling.

“I prefer it when girls tell me they never want to blow dry, but want to look stylish, or they want to highlight their best features, or they want to work with their natural texture,” says Woodruff. “This, ultimately, is what makes girls like Alexa Chung, Kate Moss, and Patti Smith look so effortlessly cool and sexy. They roll with what they got. And that rocks.”