Haircut Negotiations

I get my hair cut every four or five weeks because I like my hair short, and I pay around $50, plus tip, to get it cut each time. There are a lot of reasons why I pay $50: I’ve always been completely satisfied with my cuts (I got a lot of bad $20 haircuts from Supercuts before I made the switch); the place I go to is conveniently close to my apartment; it’s really social and a great place to have a conversation with everyone who is getting their hair cut at the same time—I led a discussion about credit card debt this weekend (Susan Orlean wrote about the vibe of this place 20 years ago); and last, but most important, I actually have a terrible haircut phobia where I literally start shaking in my chair (“Are you cold?” “No, I’m just terrified!”), but I don’t shake if I trust the hairdresser, and at this place, I do, so I gladly hand over my money each time I have an appointment.

On this particular Saturday appointment, I was armed with a question that Logan asked out of the blue one day while we were at the park.

“Oh, look at that girl’s hair,” she had said. “It’s so short, and it looks so good. The problem with short hair is that it grows out quickly and starts looking bad, so you have to get it cut a lot, and that’s expensive, obviously.”

“I have short hair, and I get it cut often,” I said.

“Yeah, but it costs a lot more for women to get their hair cut.”

Which: True! So that was the question I asked when I got my haircut this weekend. If a woman with short hair is getting a haircut, shouldn’t she be able to pay the cheaper price that men pay?

My hairdresser told me that women who get short haircuts aren’t really getting a men’s cut, and it requires a different sort of skill.

“If a woman were to get an actual man’s haircut, it would probably look bad on her,” she said. “We have to consider the shape of her head, and her face. If we’re cutting it that short, she’ll want to be pleased. Also, the women’s prices here aren’t so much different than the men’s.”

The price was about an $8 difference, depending on the stylist.

“Well, what if a woman wanted to get a man’s haircut,” I asked. “Would she be able to pay the same price as a man?”

“That’s a good question,” she said. “And now that we’re talking about it, it’s important to have this discussion when you’re having your initial consultation with your stylist, because if you felt really strongly about it, you could probably negotiate a lower price.”

“So, if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” I said.

“Exactly. We obviously have close relationships with our clients here, and we want them to be happy.”

So there you have it. Haircut prices can be up for negotiation—just make sure you have a good reason to ask for a discount.


Photo: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia


52 Comments / Post A Comment

melis (#42)

You guys, I don’t know if there are official spoiler policies I should be following here, but I don’t care, I am so excited for the reveal when Mike realizes that he was Logan all along and Project Mayhem is moving forward with or without him.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

When I had short hair, I went to a salon that offered half-priced cuts every 3 weeks. It would have worked out perfectly if the stylist hadn’t started butchering my hair after about 4 cuts. Now I’m growing it out and would like to go short again, but I live in the land of the $75 haircut and that’s just . . . not doable for me. Unless fellow district dwellers want to make recommendations. (Hint: please make recommendations.)

And I can relate to the haircut phobia. Especially since I once paid $85 for someone to give me a haircut so mind-blowingly awful the only way I could fix it was to shave my head.

@MuffyStJohn By “district” do you mean “of Columbia”? If so, I’ve been reasonably happy with the haircuts I’ve gotten at Bang Salon (there are various locations, one of which is across the street from my apartment). A cut with a Level 2 stylist is $44, and I have somewhat-complicated (curly and very thick) hair. Every single person I know in DC gets their hair cut at Immortal Beloved, but the thought of $100+ for a haircut makes me physically ill.

@MuffyStJohn Recommendation of a place to avoid: I got a horrible, horrible haircut at Trim in Adams Morgan. Totally disregarded what I asked for, made me look like Nancy Grace.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@mirror_father_mirror $100+ for a haircut is an obscenity. I’ll definitely look into Bang. I went to one of the PR@Partners locations and it was grodier than a Holiday Hair, but much, much more expensive. Also: mediocre!

@Vicky Johnson@twitter Sorry about your hair! I tried to go to Trim but they were like booked for weeks and super rude on the phone so NO DICE. After Mediocre Cut I thought perhaps I had made a mistake by not waiting for them but clearly I wasn’t missing anything.

clairkin (#1,279)

@MuffyStJohn Definitely go to Bang!! I’ve been to 3 people at the Verizon Center location, and gotten three good haircuts, all for under $50. I’ve also been to a few pricey/snooty places in DC, and have not been happy with any of the cuts I got there. I think at the fancier places they think they know better than you and don’t listen. Bang is great, you can book online, it’s not super expensive, and I’ve never been kept waiting there either.

orangezest (#317)

@MuffyStJohn I’ve had good and bad cuts at Bang, but my hair is kind of finicky. If your hair is shoulder-length or longer, it’s probably good to go.

I’ve had two haircuts at Immortal Beloved that were transcendent, though. I usually get one a year and fill in with Bang, because I can’t afford $90 every 3 months.

highjump (#39)

@MuffyStJohn Joining the chorus of people telling you to go to Bang. Love everyone at their Verizon center location. If you have long hair tell them you don’t need/want it blown out or other extensive ‘finishing’ because that is $10 more.

pain (#661)

@MuffyStJohn Just to be different (I had roommates who gave bad reviews of Bang, but other people seemed to love it), when I lived in DC I went to Yodit at Salon Revive at 9th and U. Loved my cuts and color.

cherrispryte (#19)

@MuffyStJohn YAY TEAM BANG. The first time I went in there, I said “cut off the bottom foot and a half of my hair and dye what’s left the brightest red possible” AND THEY DID AND IT WAS AWESOME. I’d been going to PR@ Partners for a few years before that, and my stylist would always talk me out of going short/red.
I go to the Bang at Metropole (and to Vida! and once, to Aura! I LOVE THAT SPACE IT IS LIKE MY HOME.) And anyway, everyone there is the best.
Also, Bang used to let you pay $7 less if you didn’t get your hair blow-dried (which, with curly hair, it’s for the best not to) so I was getting a baller haircut for $37 plus tip.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@cherrispryte This is the best endorsement so far! I really hate stylists who refuse to give you what you want because they think they know better (read: the stylist who refused to give me bangs last week). And Verizon center is like a 5 minute walk from my office. I almost wish I needed a haircut right now so I could try it!

Also saving the Yodit suggestion, just in case . ..

charmcity (#1,091)

@all – I just got back from a haircut at my beloved, family-owned Greek salon in Rosslyn, where I discovered that they jacked the price from $30 to $49 since I last visited. Thank goodness for city-specific Billfold commenters!

@MuffyStJohn Other cheapish salons in DC that haven’t been mentioned here yet:

VSL in Dupont, which can be really good depending who you get (Shirin was my favorite). $35 for a cut before tip, last I checked.

Bubbles on Capitol Hill, which is no great shakes but a step up from Hair Cuttery/SuperCuts. Might be biased because I was growing my hair out, just not a good look for me in general. $35-40 for a cut.

Tracy & Co. on Barracks Row, where I got my groove (aka pixie haircut) back. I look awesome now. $55 for a cut before tip.

Eastern Confederacy is apparently the newest coolest salon in town and it’s in my new neighborhood (Mount Pleasant). Their idea is you shouldn’t have to use products to make your hair look good. Haven’t been yet but it’s $55 before tip, I think.

cherrispryte (#19)

@cuminafterall I’ve had bad experiences with Bubbles – they do a hard sell (like, super-hard) on their line of products, and one time in college I went there to get my precious red locks dyed a more “natural” color (its a long story, involving my mother threatening … something? if I still had red hair at commencement) and the woman doing the color correction LITERALLY called me an idiot for dying it red in the first place.
Hence my deep and abiding love for Bang.

@MuffyStJohn Glynn Jones in Dupont is pretty reasonable for women’s cut and color. I have long hair and do highlights/lowlights, and they charge me I think $130. The work is better quality than my old salon, which cost close to double than that, and it’s better than another old salon of mine, which was cheap but horrid.

I hate getting my hair cut. I find it very stressful because the hair stylist always has their own (far pricier) idea of what they want to do to my hair. Also because it costs so much I put it off until I really cannot put it off any longer and then deal with a slew of snarky comments about how I need to get my hair cut/coloured more often. Also I have never found one hair stylist I like enough to stick with. Also the salon I usually go to, the stylists always claim they’re putting “my colours” in the system, and then when I go back there are no colours in the system for me. Also they always lowball their estimates of the cost by at least a hundred dollars which pisses me off. WTF hair stylists. I hate you all.

So this last time I a) separated my cut and colour into two different appointments to make it more manageable cost-wise. And b) went to a different place near my work to get my hair cut to see if I could find somebody I like. Maybe I’ll go back there.

Anyway sorry for the novel but here’s the good stuff – the cost breakdown that makes me want to vomit and shave it all off:

Cut: $71.47
Colour (colour + highlights): $210.80
Total: $282.27

the place where i got my hair cut is a salon called curl up and dye. yep, that sounds like a great plan right about now.

@redheaded&crazy in conclusion i think next time i’ll be dying my hair from a box. :\

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@redheaded&crazy And this is why I’m just letting myself go gray. Because $210.80 Jesus H. Christ.

I will say that is the best hair salon name ever though. Someone should send them an award.

@MuffyStJohn I know. I know. I know. I do actually do box dye pretty often but this colour job was … emotionally motivated, let’s say.

the good news is, it looks really good. i mean, at least? right?

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@redheaded&crazy If it looks good and you’re happy, then that’s a definite bonus! And to spend $200 every now and then on a dye job is a splurge; it’s more the idea of doing it once every 6-8 weeks that makes me cringe.

Getting my hair dyed never works anyway. My grays are ungodly persistent and the rest of my hair always lifts super orange (even when going darker, somehow, it turns out orange). So I’m telling myself I look distinguished with all these grays.

@redheaded&crazy I also find haircuts stressful for these reasons, plus the small talk REALLY stresses me out (I’m bad at it, and then the hairdresser thinks I’m a silent serial killer). But now I’ve started going to a Japanese salon, where they’ve been consistently giving me the best haircuts of my life for cheaper prices than the other places I used to go, and the language barrier is such that there is little room for either browbeating me over not getting haircuts frequently enough, or for uncomfortable small talk.

@werewolfbarmitzvah I go to a Chinese guy in a strip mall place called “HAIR CUTS” or “BARBER” or something who charges me $15 and doesn’t say a word. It’s perfect.

Megano! (#124)

@redheaded&crazy I always bring in a picture, and no one has ever tried to upsell me. I guess it’s because if you bring in a picture it seems like you know exactly what you want? Or maybe I just look cheap, lol. Well, like once on products, but I didn’t have the money to buy them if I wanted to. I think the most I ever spent on a haircut was $65.
And I colour my own hair. I really like the foam hair dye, but I haven’t had great luck with red hair. There is also this online service called eSalon( I had to review it for my internship. It’s pretty good colour, $25, and they customize it for you based on a survey/picture. It’s little more labour intensive than other kinds, and if you have highlights it’s no good (oh and it kind of took a really long time to get shipped to me), but it something to consider!
Also, I don’t understand the small talk. I can’t hear them half the time over blowdryers, and I definitely can’t hear them when I’m getting my hair washed. It’s kind of annoying, frankly. It also annoys me when I’m at the dentist and he talks to me with his hands still in my mouth!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@redheaded&crazy My mother spends approx $100 for cut AND color, and thinks it’s a lot. I keep trying to tell her how cheap it is.

I find haircuts and dentist appointments to be about the same level of stressful, which is low-to-medium, depending. And I don’t chat much. You do your work, I’ll just sit here, OK?

@redheaded&crazy Curl Up and Dye is a Blues Brothers reference! It’s the name of Carrie Fisher’s salon where she sits and paints her nails while reading the manual for a rocket launcher.

And, for no real reason (WHY WOULD I NEED A REASON) here is a link to the scene with James Brown where John Belushi does backflips down the church aisle.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

Mike Dang, you and I are neighbors. I got a good cut a couple months ago from the Blondi’s over on Amsterdam at 82nd, but have been to Robert Stuart before. I have to give credit to the guys at Blondi’s, though. He told me that I probably shouldn’t highlight my hair because the natural color is really nice. That is the opposite of what every other stylist ever has told me, and it’ll save me a ton of money in the future.

bookworm (#481)

My husband was tired of getting terrible haircuts, so my aunt taught me how to cut his hair. I think I do a pretty good job, plus we save a good bit of money. It seems to me like men get overcharged nowadays if they want anything other than a barbershop-type of cut.

Goodness. I’m suddenly feeling glad that a combination of anxiety, low salary and laziness has led me to spend the last few years with waist length hair that I pull into a ponytail and hack at with sharp scissors every few months. Costs nothing, and nobody can ever tell, anyway. (Even when I do that obnoxious “GUESS WHAT’S DIFFERENT” dance at them.) Seriously, though, salon phobia is such a money saver! Downside is looking like a damn hippie.

interesting article. i haven’t seen a lot of salons that have one price for men’s haircuts and another for women’s. often it’s broken down in terms of length.

if you develop a personal relationship with your stylist and begin complaining about cost, they may agree to cut your hair at their house, usually discounted from the salon price by $20 or so (on a $60 haircut) because the salon isn’t taking the cut. i did the same thing for personal training and was paying $30/hour instead of $80.

but definitely don’t frame it as “you charge mad cheddar for haircuts!” say something at the end of the appointment like “wow, you cut my hair so well. i wish i could afford to keep coming here.”

mannequinhands (#1,278)

The salon where I go (in Columbus, OH) is lesbian-owned and has a mostly gay clientele. When I kept my lady-hair short (as in using the clippers on a #3 in the back) they only charged me, and all the short-tressed ladies, for a men’s cut. Now my hair is chin-length and actually takes half the time to cut, because I am growing it out and it only needs a trim/reshape instead of the whole clippers + trimming the top evenly business. And I now get charged for a women’s cut.

So I’m paying $10 more for 10 fewer minutes in the chair. I’m happy with my hair, and I’m only paying $28 for the cut, but I don’t know. My partner has a sort of complicated but short cut with lady sideburns and faux-hawk action, and she gets charged $18.

@mannequinhands OMG I came here to say THE EXACT SAME THING. Well, basically. I think I go to your salon!! And yes, when I had shorter hair, they charged me less, but now that it’s chin length, it costs more even though they’re just trimming while I grow it out!!!!!! BUT everyone there is super nice, and $28, it seems, is still a decent price to pay. Plus, we live in Clintonville, so it’s super close to our house! Ah, small world, eh?

jane lane (#281)

I recommend befriending some housewives who used to cut hair professionally but now just do it out of their houses. They’re probably the best part of living in the suburbs. My last cut perfectly good cut was $10 and she wouldn’t accept a tip, either. I can’t fathom paying the $40-50 +tip that most of my friends do, let alone $100.

I cut my own hair, I also cut all my friend’s hair. I’ve never been happier with my hair. We’ve all actually cut our own hair since college, so it’s been at least 8+ years of practice. To wit:

@The Dauphine I have definitely had my sister give me hair cuts before. T’is indeed the better way.

@redheaded&crazy As long as I don’t get to artsy when I’m doing it. I also try not to cut my hair if I’m in a bad mood, or going through some drama because I will take too much off, but as long as it’s just a teeny trim to get rid of some splits, that’s really all I need.

cherrispryte (#19)

@The Dauphine I dye my own, and dyed lots of people’s in college. I’ll trim my bangs, and hack off a part of my hair that grows disproportionately fast, but my overall hair style 1) is vaguely complicated and 2) makes me incredibly happy, so I’ll stick with the professionals for the major cuts!

@The Dauphine I ONLY cut my hair when I’m in a bad mood. It’s very therapeutic. It makes me feel in control of something. But I’ve definitely ended up with lawn mower bangs doing it.

kellyography (#250)

I go to Soon Beauty Lab in NYC and they do in-between and bang trims for $15. For a full cut, I pay about $85 because I’ve been going to my stylist for like six years, but when I started going to her, it was more like $50. I generally get a “regular” hair cut twice or three times a year, and then just do in-between trims the rest of the time. They do men’s cuts, too!

sarabard (#1,284)

I am a woman-ish person and I get a men’s haircut, and I pay the men’s price. HOWEVER: for this to happen I had to specifically go to a stylist who was comfortable giving men’s haircuts to women. I’ve had lots of stylists who refused to cut my hair like a dude’s because they thought it would look bad. THEY WERE WRONG IT TOTALLY LOOKS AWESOME

mishaps (#65)

My salon charges more for women as well, and the prices even for men are so, so high. I pay it. I pay for color there, too, though if I could find someone cheaper to do that, I might.

It is my one great personal-care-and-grooming splurge. I live in jeans and buy makeup like once or twice a year, and I can’t keep a manicure so I don’t usually try, but goddamn, I had so many bad haircuts in my 20s, and I’m not going back.

Titania (#489)

Actually, this was just in the news, surprised it wasn’t reported on here before:

Forget needing a good reason to negotiate–gender-based pricing is flat-out illegal in NYC. Hair is hair. And unless you’re one of those “number three on the top, number one on the sides” guys, your haircut is done the same way ours is. Don’t even get me started on why it cost $3 to dryclean your shirt and $8 to dryclean mine.

Non-anonymous (#1,288)

As a male person with less and less hair as time goes on, it seems less and less worthwhile for me to bother with a professional haircut. I’m sometimes tempted to do it at home, myself, with electric clippers. (I have one of those 1/4″ long all over jobs in mind, rather than a completely shaved head.) Does anyone out there do this? Can you give me any advice or recommend any good instructional websites?

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@Non-anonymous I did this for like 2 years (with 1″ clippers). Most of the kits come with an instructional DVD, but honestly it’s one of those things that is so simple a monkey could do it. Once you’re over your fear, you’re golden!

Non-anonymous (#1,288)

@MuffyStJohn Great! Now I just need an instructional DVD for getting over your fear….

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@Non-anonymous Do you drink? Because whiskey comes in mighty handy at a time like this. (Also, using clippers is actually fool-proof enough to be done drunk. Serious.)

elizabeast (#629)

Short hair, so expensive! A few months ago I made the call that I cannot afford the upkeep on my short hair and I’m letting it grow out. What’s really sad is that my haircuts are only $40, with free bang trims in between, BUT CHOICES HAD TO BE MADE!

Also, my boyfriend and I both see the same stylist, and we both get the “friend” rate. Mine is $40, but his is somehow $20…which I guess could be justified because I could probably cut his hair myself if I wanted to (but I don’t want to, because I don’t want to be blamed for messing it up).

This is crazy! I’ve been cutting my own hair for about 7 years. I’ve had short hair, long hair, dreads (college, not a sign of bad hair taste is swear) I cut my own bangs either side swept or straight across. I trust no one but me with my hair and had never had a haircut I liked before this. And the products they tell you you need are crazy.

When I cut my hair I use big kitchen scissors or a disposable razor. I have long shaggy layers and man, that disposable razor can take out a lot of hair weight without changing the length. And the cool thing is, if I do something wrong, I don’t have to pay myself to fix it. If I notice I missed a section or messed up my part or something, I fix it the next day. Each cut usually takes like three days to finish actually.

Most places around here charge separate men’s and women’s prices. A few have two tiers for women: shorter hair (usually above shoulder length to start with) and everything else.

I usually get my hair cut twice a year for $25 at an Asian place (mostly because I’m cheap, but also because Asians understand Asian hair) and trim my fringe will nail scissors in between.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@redheaded&crazy you live in Toronto, right? Go see Jamie at Shampoo. She has changed my life. I have curly red hair, and she makes me look hot. She/the salon is not that expensive (55 for cut, plus HST, gaah, government, plus tip). I don’t colour my hair, but I’m sure it can’t be as much as that place you went to!

@robyn.andrews indeed I live in Toronto! Also I work right by kensington so I will definitely try that out.

My hair colour was particularly expensive because I got my hair dyed as well as highlighted BUT I am definitely shopping around for other options so thanks for the rec!

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