I’m not surprised that hairdressers are the fifth most trusted profession. I’ve been a hairdresser for 24 years and have lost count of the times I’ve heard ‘I trust you’ and ‘you’re the first person I’ve told’ and ‘I love coming to see you’.
The trust covers so many different things. Knowing that with my scissors and comb, or my bowl full of tint, I could potentially make or break someone. Knowing that I’ve changed someone’s life or restored their confidence because they’ve trusted what I do creatively. To get to the point in my career when I’m asked for a new haircut or colour change and to be told ‘just go ahead, I trust you’ is immensely satisfying.
I’ve a wonderful client who, when she first came to me, had recently lost her husband and was in the throes of grief. Trying to cope with a life that had been turned upside down, she felt she needed a new look. Sensing that a full-on change wasn’t actually what she wanted or needed, I made a subtle change and then, as her trust in me grew over subsequent visits, changed her hair little by little. With this, I could see her confidence grow, her self-realisation that she was an attractive woman and that it was OK for her to have hair that others noticed and commented on. I remember encouraging her that, yes, she should go and buy a leather pencil skirt like one she’d seen in a magazine and made suggestions as to where she could get one. I remember being told that that skirt was the best thing she’d bought in years and she felt confident and sexy in it. Seeing her five years later with a wonderful new man in her life and so happy, sporting amazing hair, and being thanked for helping her on a journey of transformation made us both cry.
It’s the most amazing feeling that her putting her trust in me helped her become a new person.
I’m also a keeper of secrets.
I believe the reason I’m told secrets is that I rarely know the person the secret needs to be kept from. Often an outpouring from a client is because they’ve no one else to tell and it’s safe in my chair. You take some weird self-oath as a hairdresser that you have to keep secrets. I’m sure the only person that knows more secrets than a hairdresser is the receptionist in the salon!!
I’ve been told by clients that they’re leaving their partners, about affairs, illnesses, about going to prison, about work problems. I’ve had people break down and cry in my chair because they can.
I’ve also become a vat of information that clients trust from me, from book recommendations to mascara.
It’s about learning what each individual client needs from me. I’ve a client who loves a particular TV programme which probably isn’t that cool to like, but trusted me enough to mention it in conversation, discovered I like it too, so now we have a ‘secret’ fan club.
It’s about understanding people and taking a genuine interest in a way that maybe only their partner or best friend does. Or maybe more so. It’s giving someone your undivided attention for an hour or two. It’s about listening and letting someone tell you whatever they want. It’s allowing someone into your life too. I always say hairdressing is about so much more than what I can do with my scissors and comb. Some of my dearest friends were first my clients, and I have days I jump with joy because I have 8-10 clients back to back whom I love to see and talk with.
Clients put the highest level of trust in you, such as someone flying from Geneva to Boston via London so they can have their hair done because they don’t trust anyone else.
It’s knowing a client trusts you enough to be told that they can’t have lilac hair because they’ll look like they’ve had a blue rinse and not look like an East End hipster.
It’s having to confirm your contact details every time a client comes in and ensure them you will alert them immediately should anything change.
It’s being told that you must never ever give up hairdressing or move out of the country.
It’s having someone who has not had had a haircut for two years because they couldn’t find you.
So it doesn’t surprise me at all that we, as hairdressers, are one of the most trusted professions because we’re artists and therapists and entertainers and magicians all rolled into one.