How to Break up with Your Stylist

7 years ago
Hair stylist and client

Breaking up with B. was easy, I suppose. I simply stopped calling.

It was time. After 14 years together, he might have deserved a little more from me; maybe an explanation, a simple "it's not you, it's me." But the truth is, it was him. And I couldn't face him.

Once he was a friend, someone I invited to birthday parties and nights on the town, introducing him as the most genius man to ever wield a pair of professional shears. He not only knew how to tame my unwieldy frizz and blow me out like a red carpet star even in the heaviest August humidity, he could always get a party going with his cockney accent and repertoire of double ententres. Then things changed.

He was having personal problems. He had started drinking -- even more than before, and that's saying something. He developed  telltale burst capillaries on his face. He seemed hungover in the mornings, but I knew if I didn't make an appointment before 11AM and his first pint, I was taking my hair into my own hands. I expressed my concerns, but he waved them off. I knew it was over.

Eventually B. gave up his own business, and started working out of random salons, each one less welcoming than the last. The former haircutter to New York's rich and famous fell hard.

I gave him one more chance. The last time I saw him, he showed up 30 minutes late and trimmed my ends for 20 minutes; I deemed it a haircut in the same way a Saltine cracker is a Filet Mignon. I sympathized for him as a friend, but not for a professional who charged me $125 in cash for a butcher job created in a Guiness haze.

I walked away. And I still feel guilty. Especially when one of his regular emails to his dwindling client list shows up in my inbox, asking for work. I can hear the desperation, but I can't go back.

So what do you do when you want to break up with your stylist?

Not every story is as clear-cut as my own, but that doesn't mean you don't have a right to change. And that your stylist doesn't have a right to know why. Turns out, there are actual tips and advice for this sort of thing.

1. Switch salons completely. I like the analogy in this Monica Corcoran LA Times blog post that switching stylists but staying loyal to a salon is like "dating an ex-husband's brother." It also guarantees not spending an uncomfortable hour in a chair, feeling their eyes burn holes into your back. I've been there. Trust me on that one.

2. Be nice and give your stylist a heads up. This Modern Mom post points out that you should share your unhappiness with your stylist first and see if you might come to a solution together. If you feel like you're in a style rut, perhaps the stylist has felt like she didn't have permission to make changes. Or maybe this is just the motivation she needs to seek out new inspiration.

3. Remember that honesty is the best plan. Angie's List suggests writing a breakup note, thanking your stylist for past service and explaining the move.

4. Be firm and polite. Jodyne Speyer, the author of the humorous Dump 'Em: How to Break Up with Anyone From Your Best Friend to Your Hairdresser, agrees with the breakup note idea, and takes it one step further, proposing that you send flowers if the stylist was a friend. (Oops.)

5. If it's a money issue, be honest. And don't be embarrassed; you're definitely not alone, and salons know that better than anyone. You might be able to barter or uncover a way to get the cost lower. I have one friend who started seeing her colorist's assistant instead, with his supervision, and cut her bill in half. That's a huge savings in a NYC salon.

Man, I'm so non-confrontational, I don't know how many of these I could actually do. So how about you?

Do you have any great tips for breaking up with a stylist? Have you ever faced a horribly awkward hair moment with your ex, just when you were finding happiness with someone new?

Liz Gumbinner is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the shopping blog Cool Mom Picks and the author of the personal blog Mom-101, which she always writes wearing pearls and perfectly coiffed hair.

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