Mid-life questions: Can you ever leave your hairdresser?

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Sitting at lunch with a couple of Grande Dames from the fashion industry, I casually brought up the subject of hairdressers, explaining that I was keen to write a post about how women of our age have often formed a water-tight bond with their hairdressers. Leaving your long term hairdresser, even if it means updating and improving our look, is very difficult, I have a friend who reckons if she had to chose, she'd leave her husband before her hairdresser.

Sure enough, it turned out to be a hot topic. Angela has been with André for 15 years and now has her husband going to him. Leaving him (André that is) 'would never happen' she said,  because he keeps her looking fabulous by making her update her look regularly (she does always have fabulous hair). 

Brenda is still pining for Charles Worthington, who she says is the nicest person in the world and used to be her hairdresser when he and she were young unknowns. He has now become stratospherically successful and expensive and Brenda likens losing him to being abandoned by a lover, "You feel bereft and rejected" she says, and she is still looking for the brilliance of that original first cut.

I love my hairdresser, who is local and practically has a 'lock down' on his appointment book of adoring clients, who know to book months in advance for important dates. My hair appointments are more about therapy and gossip than hair and his interest in fashion means I often learn stuff while being groomed. I can't ever imagine leaving him.

TWR reader Dinah has recently left hers and emailed to say "I wore a hat every time I went out after I’d been unfaithful to Gianluca (her fabulous but expensive hairdresser). Then I took the coward’s way out and told him via a Christmas card that it wasn’t him, it was me … I have been going to him for over ten years and I always felt great after he’d done my hair – but considerably poorer. I justified the spending, figuring it was cheaper than therapy or botox. But then the last time I went to him I came out looking like a cross between Emma Thompson and Lynne from Neighbours. I wanted something a bit more edgy and a lot more cheap, so I booked in at Vidal Sassoon Academy, had my hair cut by a young Japanese student for £12 and was thrilled."

My sister mailed to say "Leaving a hairdresser would be like dumping a boyfriend, only worse. I’m not sure I have the guts. Very embarrassing ’it’s not you, it’s me’ kind of thing (clearly a theme here ladiesed). I’d certainly have to lie, telling her I was moving to Outer Mongolia and then never leaving the house without a full wig and beard disguise."

"Funnily enough I had a conversation about this with my hairdresser- who comes to my home- how's that for intimacy-  the last time I saw him" said Lorna when I mailed her with the distracting question. "Sometimes, he says, you have to 'break up' because  a new hairdresser can achieve an improvement by virtue of not knowing you – ie the closeness  of a long relationship with a client can often be a barrier to that radical rethink which to your old hairdresser is a risk. I think we hate doing it because we fear the consequences and know we are in danger of falling victim to 'the grass is always greener' syndrome.  We also know that if it doesn't work we will probably spend an enormous amount of time searching for just what we turned our backs on."

Lorna does point out that the comparisons with leaving a lover are inevitable because it's all tied up with our self image inside and out. What we forget is that to most hairdressers it's not a relationship, it's just business. "If you were to make a mistake and ask to come back" she said "unlike an ex- they'd be only too happy to have you."

One thing hairdressers could learn to do is improve their conversational skills. Globe trotting Zelfa has the perfect excuse for moving on when she's fed up with her current hairdresser, she says she's out of the country, but she raises an interesting point, "I'm fed up with small talk" she said, "I want to talk politics or about something interesting, at our age we've moved through talking about the weather." 

Do you have a close relationship with your hairdresser? If you have left, what did you say? 

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