[Authors note: I was inspired by reading the reviews on Yelp for this salon . In particular this review from Maya. Fun fact- I went there myself once after seeing it on instagram but before reading all the reviews. You can imagine how it went.]
Lockdown had ended a few months ago and I still hadn’t gotten a haircut. My mousy wiry bob had grown out to nearly my bra strap. But I couldn’t wear it down because it was a frizzy mess and looked like took triangular shapes. So I adapted to a style of wearing my hair in a ponytail most days to keep it out of the way.
It was easy enough for the low maintenance in lockdown to keep my hair up and ignore the horrendous shape it was in. But not only had salons opened up so had the world. I was back to social nights and trying to date and this rat’s nest was getting out of hand.
I had seen this really trendy salon on Instagram. A bunch of cool people I follow had gone there and gotten really good haircuts. So I thought that surely they would do great with my texture. Some of the photos show curly hair in wet curls so seemed like they knew what they were doing. So I booked an appointment online for a few weeks from now and started looking at some cool styles. I was thinking of a shoulder-length bob with lots of layers so it wasn’t so triangular. Maybe even some shorter bits around my face. It seemed they could help me get something cooler than my current state.
The day of the appointment came and I took the train from Brooklyn into Manhattan and walked down into the east village. The salon was on ground level and you could see inside from the streets. It was brightly lit with lots of sunlight in the waiting area.
I walked in and up to the register but no one was there. There was one young girl with shoulder length hair sitting in the waiting area. I stood there waiting not sure if I should sit down or announce myself. Finally I saw the stylist I booked in with, a Japanese girl, and she was in the back talking to someone. I saw her notice me then ignore me for a few minutes as I paced there. after a few minutes she came out to the reception.
“Can I help you?” She asked, seemingly annoyed.
“Oh. I have an appointment” I said, squeamishly.
“Um with you i think?” She looked at the computer for a moment.
“Cara?” She eyed me.
“That’s me” I said.
“Let’s go, over here” she motioned to her chair.
The salon itself was three clear plastic chair in front a mirror that ran the length of the wall. Right behind the chair we’re two backwashes shampoo bowls. It was a very tight space and the cold clear chairs didn’t look comfortable at all. I approached apprehensively and sat down in the middle chair as the other two were unoccupied.
“Okay, what are we doing?” My stylist, Masi, said and she stood behind me.
She was short and curt and already I felt ill at ease. But I pulled out my ponytail and let’s the hair spread out on the chair behind me.
“Well as you can see it’s quite a mess. I think was thinking we could bring it up to about here” I said pointing to my shoulder. “And then add some layers so it’s not so bulky. Less weight. You know”
“Yes, we’ll go short to shoulder and remove bulk so it’s choppy layers.” She said unenthusiastically.
“Yes!” I said, “that’s exactly it. Glad you understand what I mean”.
“Miles, can you come shampoo client”
Out of no where another person appeared. He was cute, glammed up and with straightener long black hair. I tried to stand up to go to the bowls but I felt his heavy hands on my shoulders.
“No, stay.” He said abruptly. So I sat still. Momentarily there was a flutter and the white cape was thrown over me. The stylist held the cape in front of me like a matador.
“Hands in” he said but I didn’t hear.
“Hands in the sleeves,” he said again annoyed. I realized there were holes for My hands and I clumsily put them through.
He tightened in around my neck. It was huge and white and said “Crop Collective” across it. It covered my whole body and nearly my feet.
“Now follow me” the shampoo boy said again. I lumbered up with the large gown and made my way to the bowls behind the chair.
I thought this was going to be the highlight of the trip but this was the worst head massage I’ve ever gotten. The guy was trying to tear out my hair. It was so painful. To keep me distracted I noticed the girl from the waiting area had taken one of the seats. Her name was Tilly and she looked young, probably a freshman at NYU. She was dressed very hip with boots and jeans and a white t-shirt. Her shoulder-length hair was curly. Less frizzy and wiry as mine but also curly.
I could hear her telling the stylist she wanted something really cool and shorter for summer and talking about different pixie cuts. “Something really easy to maintain. I’ll be traveling and all over this summer so easy grow out or recut.”
Despite was seemed like such an exciting haircut the stylist was very disinterested. She loosely was picking up bits of the girl’s hair then letting them fall back into place.
“If you want an easy haircut we can just do buzz it,” the stylist said nonchalantly. I’d never heard someone suggest buzzing a girl’s whole head of hair so casually.
I saw the girl’s eyes widen. “Oh no that’s definitely too short.”
“Okay no buzz cut but easy to care? I’ll do Pixie then yeah”
I could tell the girl’s initial enthusiasm and excitement were turning into uncertainty.
“That could be cool. We can still keep some of the texture and some length?”
“Sure,” the stylist said, “we keep some parts long”
After only 5 minutes my head-scratching was over and the shampoo boy ushered me and my floppy gown back to my seat. I stared at myself in the mirror with my hair in a floppy towel. Tilly was being caped next to me. I tried to smile encouragingly at her. Her nerves were appearing but she tried to smile back as the cape subsumed her.
My stylist appeared again, this time her hands had black latex gloves on and scissors in her head. I straightened my back in the chair. She combed my hair out very briskly and about as gentle as the head massage before it. Then, without any preamble, she took her scissors to my shoulder and cut the hair straight across. Half of it came spilling down the cape and into my lap, while the rest fell into a pile on the floor. I gasped at how fast it happened. Next, she pinned the top of my head up with a big clip. Then she took hair from my sides and was going through and rapidly snipping away at pieces. She would curl hair into a knot and then just chop into it. I was anxious to see the end result because this was terrible. Hair was flying everywhere and my cape was getting covered in 5 inch long pieces of my hair brown hair. I was totally saddened. Rule number one of cutting hair like mine is to never thin it out or cut it wet. She was breaking both of them! I sat there watching myself as the torture continued. I knew It would be a bad haircut at this.
I looked in the mirror at the girl in the chair next to me. Her situation was no better. Her stylist didn’t seem to be following any sectioning pattern and was just putting her hand on the girl’s scalp and chopping off any hair that was above her knuckles. She started at the front and the whole front section was snipped to half an inch. The girl’s jaw dropped. The stylist put her fingers on the girl’s head again and snipped. A torrent of rain dropped in front of her face and plastered onto the cape. In about a three-minute stretch I watched the girl go from beautiful shoulder-length curls to looking like her head just got ritually sheared. Abruptly her stylist stopped, grabbed the mirror and showed the girl the back.
“See I left some length in the back” the stylist said, showing how she’d left essentially a rattail that ran down to her shoulder. She also had slightly longer sideburns that made her hair look a bit like a Chelsea.
“See, keep some length, easy to maintain” the stylist said. I could tell the girl was in shock after losing all her hair so fast.
“My bangs,”she said “oh no I don’t like bangs. They make my face look so small.
“Should have said that before we have you tiny bangs. I told you easy to maintain.”
I returned to my own situation. I watched as my long top hair was let down and covered up the massacre on the sides of my head. I was expecting Masi to style the top layer into the shorter bits. Instead she took two short snips of the bottom and left it. She quickly grabbed the mirror and showed me the back.
It looked terrible. I realized now after just 10 minutes of cutting she thought she was done with the haircut. I had shorter than shoulder length hair. And it looked terrible. Still wet and unstyled, the back and sides were so short but the top layer just sat over them. It had terrible shape and I knew once dried would be even worse. I tried to explain this to Masi.
“Can we blend the top into the sides a bit more? I really dont like it thinned because it’ll be too frizzy.” I tried to reason.
“Okay but you want to remove Bulk?” She queried.
“Well yes but without losing too much.”
“This how it will sit if we keep long. You don’t with thin but remove bulk? Ugh?”
She looked frustrated at this point and threw up her hands shaking her head looking at my hair. At that moment the door opened and two girls walked in, one with hair to hair waist, and another with a super chic shag mullet.
Instantly Masis mood changed. They were clearly friends and she quickly got up to go hug and greet them. I was left there to stare at myself in the mirror— my hair looked horrid and wet so I looked like a sad wet dog. I was still tied up in this cape with a giant pile of hair in my lap. Some solid chunks of length from the initial chop and then a flurry of other hacked hair from the sides also littering my chest. I was so embarrassed. Masi had just left me to sit here covered in hair while she chatted to her friends just a few feet away. They kept making eyes towards me and giggling.
I focused my attention on the girl in the next chair. She too wasn’t so happy with the result. Her long bob now hacked into an uneven mess close to her scalp.
“I just…” Tilly said disheartened “I just want to easy and simple. My bangs I’ll have to fuss with every day now.” She pouted.
“You don’t like the bangs. Okay. So you like the sideburns? kept these long bit for you.” The stylist said twisting the weird long hairs around her cheekbones and the rattail at her nape.
The girl gulped. Their different interpretations of “longer bits” were evident now.
“They’re fine I guess. It’s Kinda cute.”
“Okay you no more want bangs and simpler but keep these bits.” the stylist said clearly annoyed and trying to get this show on the road. Her next client had already arrived.
“Okay,” the girl replied meekly, staring down at her cape-covered lap.
“To get it when I will use clippers. Will make it super simple and easy for you.” The stylist said reassuringly and patted the girl on the shoulder. The girl looked concerned and watched as the stylist grabbed clippers from her drawer. They were huge and they roared to life. The girl instinctively moved her head away but before she could even get a word in, the stylists put her hand on the girl’s forehead, and clippers at the crown, and pushed her hands together. A line was sheared straight down the top of the girl’s head, nearly to her scalp. Her face went into shock: the stylist looked at her eyes in the mirror then turned back and pushed the clippers over her head again. This was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in a hair salon the stylist was buzzing this girl’s head and it didn’t even seem like she wanted it.
“Oh so cool Yommi,” the girls in the reception said.
“Yeah, very en Vogue. Like 80s punk”. Another one side nonchalantly.
I looked back at the girl in the chair, completely in tears looking over at the cool kids in the lounge. Her long hair she entered with was completely Unsalvageable. the stylist buzzed everything on her head down to the scalp leaving only the sideburns and rattails. It was a hideous cut and it seemed only the girl and I knew it. She looked pitiful with the buzzed clippings all over her and the long lengths in a pool in her lap. Us side by side looked miserable.
My stylist approached.
“Okay, what do you want?” My stylist said coming back behind my chair. I look at the reception and the two girls were taking seats but eyeing me up.
“We can go shorter. Do something simpler” my stylist said bluntly. She eyed the client in the next chair. I looked at the client: her head was now buzzed nearly to the scalp. I didn’t want to end up like her so being shorter was not an option.
“No that’s okay. This is fine.” I said resigned to cut my losses and get out of here before it got worse.
I was expecting her to take the cape off. But instead, she wiped my neck with a towel and said “okay let’s go take your picture.” she waved to me.
I stood up, the curls of brown hair in my lap slipping to the floor. I felt clumsy walking around in the bulky white cape. I followed Masi through the waiting area where the girls smirked at me in my silly state. I kept my eyes on the floor as we passed. Masi went through the door to the outside and I followed her. “Stand there,” she said pointing to the salon sign. I went and stood there pitifully. We were on E 10th street and people were walking everywhere. Masi was taking pictures and I tried to smile but I had this huge clumsy cape on and wet hair that looked frumpy. A group of middle-aged women on an afternoon booze party past and all pointed at me. A crew of teenager skateboard kids rolled by and laughed at the silly women on the street in full salon garb.
My co victim emerged from the salon behind her stylist, looking forlorn and completely dejected. She was also still covered in the branded cape, tiny hairs still littering her shoulders, neck, and face. She waited on the street watching me and endured the final part of this torture.
Finally, the photos were done and the girl took my place by the sign. Her face still covers in tears, she tried to smile on the street as more people passed and pointed out her wild haircut.
I followed Masi inside silently. I went back into the waiting area and stood facing the stylist’s friends again. Soon Masi released me from the cape.
“Okay $150” I was shocked. I paid silently for what amounted to a 10-minute hacking and humiliation.
I paid and left.
I passed the other victim on her way back in. As the stylist took off her cape and revealed her outfit underneath, a skirt and tube top, I forgot how preppy this girl was when she went in. Now she was left looking like a skinhead. No way to turn back now.
I left as quickly as I could. I felt I had been violated in there like it was one of the cruelest experiences ever. I spent the next week with half-hearted compliments from friends and colleagues. But my hair never sat right and I had to use so much product to get it to work.
I called the salon upset one afternoon. The receptionist on the other end said that they don’t do refunds but they could give me a corrective cut. Is sighed, while before I wanted to save as much hair as I could I knew that this hair wasn’t wearable. It would be better to have shorter hair that sat right. So I agreed. The stylist said an appointment was available this afternoon and Masi could squeeze me in. I confirmed the appointment.
I spent the last hour at work distracted and staring at the clock. I’d been butchered just two weeks before, what was I doing going back? As the time came and I left my office, I walked to the salon in a trance. Nearly 30-minute walk and I don’t remember anything before arriving at the door of the salon. It was more crowded than the last time. There were probably 4 girls in the small waiting area and all three chairs were occupied by girls covered in the big white capes. The floor was covered with hair of every color— green blue pink red blonde black— as if they hadn’t swept the floor all day. The receptionist took my name and I sat in the waiting area, cautious of all the eyes on me.
In a few minutes, one of the stylists was done and removed the cape of their client. She stood up in her new pixie with a bit of a rat tail. The large pile on the floor and her unsure hands said her hair was a lot longer when she sat down. They came to the reception and paid.
The stylist came to the two girls sitting on the bench across from me. One had long thick red hair almost to her waist. She was wearing a long floral dress and looked a bit more classical than this radical environment. Next to her was her girlfriend, wearing short crop top jeans, and a black shirt with cut-off sleeves. She had a backward hat over her short black hair.
“Mary?” The stylist, Yummi, said rushedly.
“That’s her,” the girl with the short hair said. Her girlfriend, Mary with the long hair, was looking very uncertain.
“We’ll follow me,” Yummi said dryly. They turned and walked to their chair.
“Oh, this will be so cute” Mary’s girlfriend squeezed her arm as they stood up. Mary looked unamused.
Another stylist had already finished with another client. They were going through one client every few minutes.
I tried to stay distracted on my phone. I felt the girl sitting next to me nudged me. I looked up and Masi was standing behind her chair, wiping the chair off. A girl with a short mullet was paying at the reception. I trudged towards the chair, towards my doom.
My boots passed over hair that lay everywhere. I plumped down in the chair and before I can say anything the white cape covers me. I put my hands through the holds knowingly.
“Okay so you want this fixed up,” Masi said toying with my hair.
I figured I wasn’t going to get a good cut by telling her what I wanted so I might as well let her do her thing.
“Yes, just do whatever you want to make it look good”
“Okay,” she said bluntly.
I take a deep breath. In the mirror, looking any myself back in this chair, it feels like a terrible deja vu.
She picked up her scissors and pulled my hair up. She cut barely 6 inches from my scalp. She pulled off a huge 9inch chunk of hair and tossed it on the cape-like it was waste. She kept pulling and cutting all across the top of my head. I must not have breathed for a few more beats. Masi was maneuvering around the chair as she kept using her scissors to hack my hair off. I have littered my brown hair now and deeply regretting this scissor happy lady to have a go at my hair.
As Masi was moving around my chair she bumped into Mary’s girlfriend.
“Oh sorry,” the girl said as she moved. Masi was super friendly with her and they started flirting for a second. That was the first time I caught sight of poor Mary. She was sitting in the clear plastic chair, the nylon white cape smothering her from next to feet. While her wet red hair was still long in the back her whole top had been hacked away at nearly the scalp giving her a harsh mullet. I could see the front was supposed to form a short of a fringe and she has some sideburns near the front too. But several feet of hair lay limp in her lap as she looked at herself in the mirror on the verge of tears.
We made eye contact in the mirror. She smiled at me and I smiled back. We were in the same predicament.
My stylist and her girlfriend continued chatting as Masi came back to cutting my hair. Mary was watching in the mirror and becoming jealous of her girlfriend flirting with Masi as Masi was barely looking as she snipped more inches off the back of my head.
I heard Mary whimper to her girlfriend from her chair “Sarah” to get her girlfriend’s attention.
“I’ll be there in a minute” the girlfriend said and went back to Masi and my haircut.
My bonnet had transformed into a hipster shaggy mullet at this point. I was fully committed with bangs and hair over my ear.
The waiting area was getting more crowded and about 3 more long-haired girls has entered since I’d sat down. They were all watching me and Mary getting our shearing.
The girlfriend turned back to Mary.
“Oh, Yummi this is such a cute cut. See I told you you’d look gorgeous Mary.”
Mary didn’t seem so sure. Her hair from her ears forward was a short pixie crop like Emma Watson. But the back hung long and curly. Personally, it made her look like a trucker. I did not find it a cute haircut. Nor did Mary from the looks of it.
The girlfriend put her hand on Mary’s shoulder and started playing with the hair on top of her head. She turned to the stylist.
“Let’s go a little shorter on top. This is a good length but I don’t want to have to bring her back here in two weeks. Let’s go a decent bit shorter.”
“Sure thing babe,” the stylist said.
“Sarah please…” Mary pleaded. “It’s already so short”
“Hush now. You think anything is too short.”
I went back to my own image. I don’t know what I was expecting coming back here. But there I was again staring at myself and my curls lying all over my lap and around my chair. My hair was reduced to the one haircut this stylist seems to know how to do. Soon enough she pulled the cape off me and I stood up.
“All done,” Masi said without even asking me if I was happy with it.
I stood up and dusted myself off and made my way to the reception to pay. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me and my haircut.
I could hear two girls behind me chatting.
“That girl in the chair is getting such a cute cut,” the girl said referring to Mary. “I think you’d look so cool with that.” I turned around quickly to see another masculine girl stroking her girlfriend’s long blonde hair. The blonde was shaking with nerves. Soon enough I heard Masi call them over to her chair.
As I finished paying I turned to take a last look at the salon. The long blonde had taken a seat in Masi’s chair.
“I’m loving her hair” the girlfriend said standing pointing at poor Mary. Her hair was nearly to the scalp on top and she was clearly crying.
“Oh that’s a too short babe” the long blonde said looking at Mary.
“That’s the perfect cut.” Mary’s girlfriend chimed in. “She’ll lol so cute!”
Masi threw the cape over the long blonde and it consumed her in its cocoon. She had the most pitiful look as she watched Mary in the mirror knowing that was going to be her soon.
As I was picking my jacket up I saw Mary rise from her chair. The long locks fell to the floor. She wiped off her tears and trudged with her cape swishing past the reception keeping her head down to pass the watching eyes in reception.
I passed her, standing in the street gowned up and posing for the whole block to see. I never had my haircut at that salon again. I used to pass it on walks or out with friends and it would always be crowded. Occasionally as stylist would be out there taking pictures of their client’s new haircuts. Eventually, It felt too risky to even walk by, worried id gets trapped for another scissor happy stylists whims. I looked at all the reviews and it seems I wasn’t the only one to suffer the same dismal fate….