Photo courtesy Aveda Institute DC
Class Photo Day when I was in 1st grade was quite the experience.
I made the bold decision to go with a “mad scientist” hairstyle that was the result of seeing how long I could go without getting a haircut. It goes without saying that after that class photo I made it a mission to get regular haircuts. Trust me it’s good for the world that my hair doesn’t reach those levels ever again.
When I moved down to these parts I experimented with different chains before settling on a couple of Hair Cuttery locations that I usually visit at the top of every month. The results would range from good to bleh. So when my roommate recommended a visit to the Aveda Institute DC over at Gallery Place I was open to try out the school of cosmetology for a high risk/reward experience.
Even though the thought of actually making an appointment to get a haircut seem somewhat daunting and metrosexual like, my roommate reassured me that many males interested in well grooming do it. I made the call and scheduled an appointment for Saturday morning. The time slot worked well since I wanted to get up early to shop at H&M nearby. Maybe I’m more metrosexual than I thought.
I arrived early at Gallery Place promptly at 8:30, the storefront that sat between The Loft and City Sports already had a line going out the door. I thought I was lucky that I made an appointment til I realized that the entire line had appointments for the same timeslot and were all being pushed upstairs to the salon/studio area.
The upstairs portion of the institute appeared to take up the entire second floor of the commercial building. The sight look like it was pulled straight of a Bravo network reality show. Bright lights, modern style, and the low drone of techno music filled the space. Rows upon rows of styling stations were homes to an army of cosmetology students. They all donned black clothes and aprons but each had appropriate pieces of flair that told me that they were creative, ambitious and ready to win Project Runway cut my hair.
As we went upstairs we lined up at a reception desk where each of us confirmed our appointments for a second time while signing legal waivers. I was getting my haircut by a student, not a master- so they probably didn’t want me suing them if I were to lose all my friends, my job, and any chance of meeting ladies because of a bad haircut. I eagerly signed- anxious to become somebody’s guinea pig.
They lined us up against the wall as I checked out the soldiers of style gulping down coffee and gossiping before getting their assignments from a teacher. I took a look at the group and realized I was one of two guys that were getting haircuts. So much for not feeling emasculated. Each of the stylists were handed slips of paper and proceeded to call out names. I heard my name called over the music of my iPod and I walked over to a girl who looked like MIA. Her name was Isabel and she had long dark hair and wasn’t wearing pants- she was donning that leggings and a really long sweater look that told me she was trendy and “with it.” She wore a black scarf around her neck and had a pair of brown leather boots then stopped at her kneecaps. Yes I was checking my stylist out and I have to say it was the first time I’ve done that. Usually the nice Asian ladies at the Hair Cuttery don’t get that kind of reaction from me.
She walked me across the room and sat me down. We then had a short discussion about my hair that was more in-depth than the usual two sentences I give my usual stylist. She was took notes of what I said and tossed a couple ideas out that she shared with a supervisor. It was funny being a visual aid for the student who opened with, “Patrick likes to wear his hair short. He usually doesn’t do a lot to his hair on a daily basis so today we’re going to…” Now I definitely felt like I was on a reality show.
The supervisor listened, agreed, and signed her sheet. She then asked if I wanted scalp massage. “It’s part of the Aveda experience,” she replied when she saw my quizzical reaction. Of course I agreed and she presented a sample of oils and got to work. Scissors have yet to touch my hair and I was already liking what I saw.
After the rub down she shampooed my hair with some kind of exfoliating shampoo that she was excited to try, “I haven’t gotten to use this one yet so I’m excited to see how it works.”
We then got to business of actual hair cutting. She opened a black case that looked suitable for a fine cigar or a 9mm. It held a pair of scissors that she used to attack my hair.
Unlike my usual haircuts which are often a mindless speed through of chopping different lengths of hair, Isabel’s work resembled an artist attacking a canvas. Her cuts were calculated as I saw her work on my hair carefully and delicately. “We are all perfectionists here,” she told me while pulling strands of hair and measuring them up, “some people think they can come here and get a cut in an hour but we want to do a good job and we pay attention to detail.”
The cut lasted two hours but it feel like two hours. I was fascinated to see the transformation of my hair that was occurring at a slower pace than my past cuts. It gave me lots of chances to give feedback and hear my stylist arrive at all the same conclusions I usually hear when I get my haircut. “Wow your hair grows in fast,” she replied while trying to navigate my scalp.
After the cut was done a supervisor came over to inspect the results and answer a couple of questions she had about approaching different parts of my head. The supervisor showed her a couple of tips while finishing up the back of my head. Isabel and I then proceeded downstairs where I paid and parted ways. The cost of the cut wasn’t too much more than what I would pay at Hair Cuttery- and I felt it had higher upside to have an aspiring student get all creative with my head. Of course I did risk getting a bad cut from a beauty school dropout, but that was kind of adventure I was up for this month.
I was pretty happy with my cut and I would definitely recommend Aveda for anyone looking for a Salon experience at a discount- and is willing to gamble a little bit.
713 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001