When asked to identify the two most important characteristics of a hair-styling salon, I always respond without hesitation that they are hipness and the desire to take risks.
Now some of you may not need to think twice about the characteristics to look for in a hair-styling salon, but if you have an observant eye you will concede that many people do. A recent conversation with a friend prompted me to address myself to those people. In the conversation, my friend revealed that when he goes to get his hair cut he goes to the "cheapest joint" he can find, and once there, he "just sits down and tells them to cut it short."
That gave me food for thought. Just that morning I'd gotten an exceedingly fashionable 'do at Diego's, a commendable salon in The Loft on JFK Street, and I decided to employ the experience as an educational tool for my friend and those who, like him, have a devil-may-care approach to their coifs.
A haircut at Diego's costs $40, or $25 with a junior stylist, which puts it at the top, cost-wise, of the Harvard Square salons. At Supercuts, Jerry's Underground and La Flamme, cuts cost $9, and at DHR they cost around $20. For the sake of comparison, I should add that a haircut at a glamorous boutique like Vidal Sasson in Boston costs upwards of $100, and at even ritzier salons, like those frequented by President Clinton, prices rise to $200 and above.
Still, most of you would probably think twice before spending $40 ($46, with a 15 percent tip) on your hair, especially when you could walk a few blocks and pay one-fourth as much. But Diego's has an ethos to match its costiliness, making their haircuts a very different experience from listening to Jerry ramble for 20 minutes.
The first thing you notice about Diego's is that it's really, really cool. It's all full of white, glossy things and flattering lighting, and most of the people who work there are also white, glossy and flattering, and totally hip. (Thrillingly, you get hands-on treatment from two of these hipsters, since at Diego's there is a separate person to wash your hair.)
The first thing you do when you get there is sit down and have a long heart-to-heart with your stylist. Mostly you'll be talking about your hair, although it's totally fine to tell big secrets about yourself and people you know, and you should keep saying, "I can't believe my hair. It's so wretched. I'm going to die."
Your stylist will nod sympathetically and ask open questions, and will usually say some weird thing about how your hair is alive and you have to listen to it.
A fabulous thing about Diego's, and what distinguishes it from less posh establishments, is that its stylists are completely fearless and up for anything. If you go to Supercuts, for example, you will be expected to issue specific, but nonbinding, instructions. But at Diego's your stylist will suggest any number of kicky cuts for you, and will give you lots of sage advice about caring for your hair.
My stylist, who I'll call "Marie" although that's not actually her name, advised me to try a short-and-puffy in the back, longer in the front look, which I of course rejected out of hand. She wasn't in the least offended, and we launched into a very pleasant conversation about mousse.
Marie instructed me to use Prell shampoo to remove artificial colorants from my hair, a surprising breach with canonical styling tips. Every five minutes she said, "This is going to look really cute. I'm excited." I would respond, "Yes, so am I." Marie and I achieved a harmony that is rare in interpersonal relationships. I felt that she cared about me and wanted the best for me, and was looking forward to cutting my hair again some time in the near future, and I gave her a big tip.
When my hair-cut was over, all of the hip people standing around gazed judiciously at me, and I knew that I was being welcomed into their midst. The whole experience made me feel very happy.
57 JFK Street