The Five Traits of a Great Stylist
If your younger self routinely chopped not only your dolls’ hair but also your own, your little brother’s, and that kid’s from down the street, you may always have felt destined for a career in cosmetology. But success in this industry is about more than just early-childhood scissor wielding. Do you think you have what it takes? All stylists are different — and that’s part of what makes this industry so fantastic — but great stylists all possess five definite traits.
1. You’re a good listener.
Finding success as a hair stylist means listening to your clients in more ways than one. We all know the old saying: that hair stylists make better therapists than the real deal. It’s true that many of your guests will love rehashing the ups, downs, and dramas of their lives with you (and chances are, you’ll have fun listening). But the most significant act of listening you’ll undertake as a stylist is during the initial consultation with your guest, before their service. Don’t let the rehashing of their latest workplace drama overshadow your obligation to clarify exactly what they want from their service. Before you pick up the shears or mix the color, it is imperative that you and your guest have communicated clearly and are on the same page.
2. You are creative and visual, and you know how to make your visions a reality.
Part of being a successful hair stylist means staying on top of the latest trends, and the truly great stylists have the skill to integrate those trends into their clients’ personal style. At the same time, being a slave to fashion can be so cliché. Your elevated taste and killer eye for design should let you set a few trends of your own. At the end of the day, what is most important is you can not only generate a vision, but can execute it.
3. You are honest.
If a guest wants a look that you think won’t work for them — whether due to the cut, the color, or the fact that their lifestyle simply doesn’t allow for the necessary styling or maintenance — you must be able to tactfully let them know some other ideas that would better suit them. A great stylist understands how a look will work and wear in the long term, and can identify whether it’s a good fit for the guest. It’s one thing for your client to be happy with their new look when they’re walking out the door, but it’s another thing entirely to make sure they’re just as happy a month later. And speaking of honesty: one of the number one complaints salons receive by guests is sticker shock because they didn’t know how much something would cost. If you suggest an add-on or elevated service while your guest is in the chair, make sure you convey the added costs. Nothing dulls the thrill of a killer new coif — or kills a great relationship between stylist and client — like an unfriendly, unexpected cost on the bill.
4. You possess technical skill and manual dexterity.
All the honesty, creativity, and listening skills in the world can’t make up for a bad haircut. Being a good stylist means committedly learning the ins and outs of several techniques — and staying hungry for more education and training once you leave school. We’ve all heard “practice makes perfect” throughout our lives, but it bears repeating because it’s true. You have to make sure you’re familiar with a number of techniques and tools, that you work on building stamina in your hands, and hone your ability to keep your energy up while working on your feet all day. You are Michelangelo and the guest’s hair is your Sistine Chapel.
5. You are adaptable.
Adaptability is the crucible in which the first four requisites come into play. An excellent stylist is unfazed by changing trends, new tools, client visions that come way out of left field, and the millions of tiny inconveniences that somehow fill everyone’s lives. You never know what your day will bring you, so it’s imperative that you’re confident that your creativity, vision, and skill can all come into play to help you achieve a stellar result and a happy guest — no matter what pops up.
All photos are property of Douglas J.