What Is a Master Stylist? How the Hair Industry Secretly Defines Master

Are you getting your money’s worth for your hair services?

The hair industry is littered with names for hairdressers. Stylist, beautician, and hair designers are all terms used for the same profession, and that simply is a hairdresser. There are definitely different skill sets with hairdressers, and most of the time, the ones with vast experience in the hair industry do a good job with hair. However, we are about to expose some truths about what is a “Master Stylist.” Think about it. If you plan to pay for a Master Stylist, you probably want a little background to be sure you are getting your money’s worth, right?

Very Common: The “Sales” Master Stylist

In many mainstream salons, you will be surprised to learn that the different levels of achievement have nothing to do with skill, but with salesmanship. As a stylist brings more money into a salon week-in and week-out, then they can start advancing in title. It is akin to a salesperson reaching and exceeding sales quotas. The line of thought is that if more and more customers are coming to see a particular stylist, then he/she must be doing a great job, so give them a promotion!

Promotions based on money brought into a salon do not equal great services. It can mean that the stylist has a great personality, connects well with the guests, or can simply be a fantastic salesperson (smooth talkers can really do well to get promoted).

Don’t get caught into the trap of falling for these so-called “masters.” The good news is that you will eventually discover that there are consistent mistakes in your cut and color. Unintentional uneven cuts, holes in your hairdo, and green or orange color are “tell-tales” of a master that really shouldn’t have this title.

Common: The “Dinosaur” Master Stylist

The other master has “earned” the title from years of service in the industry (6+). Let me warn you, just because someone has done hair for 30 years doesn’t mean they have done it right for 30 years. If someone doesn’t receive any formal education outside of beauty school, then they are probably set in their ways and could be doing “it” wrong for the past 30 years, thus the term dinosaur. It is like buying a PC computer from 20 years ago and never getting an upgrade.

The fact is beauty schools only teach students how to pass the cosmetology exam. It falls right inline with what is wrong with our education system in this country. We teach our kids to take a test and they become great test takers but never truly learn the material. The same holds true for the cosmetology schools and their graduating students. Once a cosmetology student graduates and passes the exam, they go right into cutting client’s hair. Would you hire an attorney to handle your important case right after passing the bar, or have a doctor perform surgery prior to his internship? Of course not! But that is what happens with most stylists.

These newly graduated stylists who continue their work do get better over the years, albeit by trial and error. They cover up their mistakes with flamboyant moves and flowery language. Have you ever had a stylist aggressively cut your hair and expertly throw your hair around?

Now, many stylists have taken up a new trend to cover up their inability to be precise and that is by using a razor to sculpt your hair. If you have had your hair sculpted by a razor, then you know better than anyone that it takes forever to fix you hair in the morning as you try to look decent before you leave the house. Tons of gels, sprays, powders, bobby pins, and clips are used to keep it in place. I am sure if you had a choice you would use glue and duct tape if you could.

The fact is if you learn how to do something wrong and never know that it is wrong, you will do it wrong for the rest of your life until someone shows you different. The solution to this is education outside of the beauty school. Learning how to properly cut hair is only taught at the highest celebrated salons. But there is a catch. These advanced education classes are only 1, 3, or 5-day seminars. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? Well this means that of those that actually can afford to take the classes or take the time to travel to Chicago, New York, or California for these seminars, only 20% will catch on and the other 80% won’t (but they will still put their training on their resume). Even then, a 5-day seminar will not produce an expert, but will at least get the stylist closer to their goal.

Less Common: The “Template” Master

The template masters are the sneakiest false experts. The reason they are sneaky is because these masters have taken classes over the years for formal education giving the impression of a True Master Stylist. However the additional classes and training were about learning specific haircuts, not methods and techniques. One of the most notable successes in the hair industry is that of a popular national chain. They created a system where specific haircuts are taught and passed to their stylists. Each haircut is given a different name within their community and each graduate returns to his/her salon and gives their clients the cut they just learned. The problem is that the typical hairdresser jumps from salon to salon every 6 months to a year. They leave only knowing certain cuts, but never learned how to design their own cut. Actually, some of these salons will not allow for creativity because they want to keep a standard level of service across all branded locations. Therefore, they force fit all their clients into the same template.

RARE: The “True” Master Stylist

Very hard to find are the True Master Stylists which can be identified as being on the design teams of Vidal Sasson, Arrojo Studios, Ted Gibson and Jos Eber. You will find that regardless of the team, many of the masters on these teams were heavily trained either by Vidal Sasson masters, or trained by those coming from a Vidal Sasson trained master. One tell-tale of a true master is he or she DOES NOT USE CLIPPERS. Weather it is a man’s cut or a woman’s cut, clippers are a “bad word” for the true artisan. Unfortunately in some states such as Texas, trimming clippers must be used on the neck instead of a straight razor due to state laws. This would be the only exception to the use of clippers.

ALMOST EXTINCT: The Grand Master and His/Her Protege

The creme de la creme are those considered to be “Grand Masters.” A Grand Master is one that has won the prestigious Long Beach Venus Medallion(1), designating him as a world champion designer. Rarely, and only if you are lucky, you can find a protege of a Grand Master. A protege is someone who has done more than take a 5-day course, but has intently studied and trained daily with a Venus Medallion winner for 6 months to a year or more. Venus winners and their proteges are extremely rare gems that are hard to find. If you do find one, hold on to them with awe and respect, for the level of training and skill that they have acquired is second to none.

In a world filled with self-titled and over celebrated experts, interviewing your stylist is your best bet to finding the true master. It may take time and work to sift through the murk to identify the salespeople, the dinosaurs, and the institutionalized template cronies, but your efforts will pay off when you finally find that rare gem. In a following article we will go into more detail on what to ask a stylist, and how to properly examine their work to determine if you should give them an opportunity to work on your hair. Thereafter you can be confident that you are getting your money’s worth for their services.

References:

(1) International Salon and Spa Expo (2012). ISSE Long Beach Special Events Competition. Retrieved on April 17, 2012 from probeauty.org.