After living in St Andrews for three years, I have come to the realisation that there are a few saturated markets in our little pebble of a town: fashion shows, charity balls, and (whoddathunkit) hairdressers. There is no doubt that the need to keep follicles strong, ends from splitting, colour from fading and bangs from blinding you must be addressed. Away from home and the trustworthy kung-fu-ninja-superstar (read: Mother) who has been your personal coiffeur since age 1, the decision to have a wee snip may seem daunting. And rightfully so.
After all, a hairdresser is so much more than a hairdresser. In fact, I feel for hairdressers. They thought they knew what they were getting into, but boy were they wrong. You see, a hairdresser is never just a hairdresser. A hairdresser’s unspoken job description resembles the symptoms of multiple-personality disorder. They must have the talents of Edward Scissorhands (on a good day), the creativity of Picasso, the chat of Jonathan Ross’ and Sigmund Freud’s love-child and an upper first in Snape’s polyjuice-potion-making class. The world needs its villains, and the cost of failing to perform anything short of a magical act of alchemy on your hair and (by extension) your face, is that hairdressers have become the scapegoats of human beings’ frustrated fantasies. Will you look like Beyoncé if I put some curlers in your hair? Sorry to burst your bubble, but no. And yet, we all know “I want to go blonde” in customer-speak really means “I want to be Kate Moss by the end of this OR ELSE”.
Whether they like it or not, hairdressers also take the brunt of their customers’ daily trials and tribulations. Ladies and gentlemen, the chair at the barbershop is not the swivelly equivalent of your analyst’s couch. But for all we know, it might as well be. The more longterm your relationship with a particular stylist, the more intensely personal the conversation yelled over the blare of the blowdryer. And all the while they’re checking on your levels of hydration (‘Another water?’) with the frequency of a 1960’s air hostess and ensuring the final product delivers the perfect balance of Carrie Bradshaw sleekness and DIY nostalgia to appease your homesick, Mamma’s-boy heart. Yeah, you.
Apologies. My anthropologically-wired brain might have taken over my keyboard’s free will in over-analysing the social dynamics at the salon. I know better than anyone how important the right hairdresser is. Your hair, AKA life (#firstworldproblemz), depends on it, and you don’t want it butchered into an unrecognizable mop. Especially in St Andrews, where minor change never goes unnoticed. We all share a collective fear of looking into the mirror only to see that Amy Winehouse has taken over our scalps, or to see our new Britney Spears’ post-HitMeBabyOneMoreTime do. Fair enough. But as you sit there fidgeting and fearing for your hair, you may at least take a little comfort from the fact that, depending on your reaction, the hairdresser might be fearing for their lives (yes, plural. Remember: Edward-Picasso-Ross-Freud-Snape).