Getty ImagesRogan Macdonald
What’s the most you would you be willing to pay for a haircut? For me, I’ve long been of the mindset that a quick visit to my barber shouldn’t cost me more than $ 20. Not only am I on a tight budget, but it’s always worked out for me well. That said, I do know it’s different for everyone. In the U.S., the average cost of a men’s haircut is $ 28, according to the Professional Beauty Association. Prices tend to skew much higher in urban, metropolitan cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
However, high-end salons for men can be found nearly everywhere, and haircuts at these places can easily start at $ 50 for the most basic service. To be honest, I’ve always been interested to see what it’s like for men who pay a pretty penny to get their haircut at a fancy salon. Like many guys, I want my hair to look the best it can, and maybe a high-end salon could offer that. But is a more expensive haircut really worth the price? I pondered this question as I scheduled a cut with celebrity hairstylist Oscar Blandi, owner of the Oscar Blandi Salon in east midtown Manhattan, which is the largest salon in New York City. Each of his stylists charge between $ 80 to $ 200 for a regular men’s haircut. While that may seem exorbitant to the average client, I was curious to experience it for myself and see if it’s really any different from the haircut I would normally pay $ 20 for.
Upon entering the second floor salon on Madison Avenue, I was immediately drawn to how huge it was. A tremendous amount of light beams through the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the sprawling 13,000 square foot space. After checking in with the friendly receptionist, I handed over my belonging and wrapped myself in an Oscar Blandi-branded robe. While passing through everyone to take my seat at Oscar’s station, I took note of the clientele that was made up of mostly older, rich-looking women with expensive bags and designer shoes. At one point, I sort of felt like a fraud patronizing a place with so much wealth and bougie taste. I quickly tried to let go of my insecurities and made a solid effort to act like I belonged, accepting a bottled water that was offered to me while smiling at the staff.
Finally, Oscar made his way over and introduced himself to me before we got started. After some quick small talk, I told him how I wanted my hair to be cut. He contemplated my high skin fade request and offered something else instead. “I don’t think it should be so short,” he suggested. “That kind of look is being worn everywhere. You need something a little more classic.”
While I was a little thrown off by his bluntness, I figured he knew best. Who was I to disagree with someone who cuts Jimmy Fallon’s hair and used to work his magic on Tom Cruise? As he proceeded to cut my hair his way, he began to share more about his salon, tips for guys on choosing a barber, and why guys should consider choosing an upscale salon for a haircut.
How would you describe the majority of your male clients who book appointments at the salon?
As we are such a big salon, we cater to a mix of primarily established working professionals such as CEO’s, lawyers, doctors, finance executives, brokers, and TV personalities. Many of our clients are professionals that work with other people and are in the business/ entertainment limelight. In addition, we also have have a fair amount of younger male clients in their 20s/30s that start young and continue coming back to the salon every year. I would say that our general male clientele lives a good lifestyle and is able to visit a high-end salon.
What are the advantages of booking an appointment at an upscale salon like yours vs. getting a regular cut at a lower-priced barbershop elsewhere?
When you book at an upscale salon, you are buying into experience and trust. Someone who works at a high-end salon is held to a higher standard and is therefore exceptionally trained and has reputable experience – sometimes even 20 or 30 years of experience. People like this have seen a thing or two, and they are able to understand the needs of your hair more easily and able to prevent a foreseeable problem. Especially dealing with male clients who mostly have shorter hair, you need to really focus on the different textures (curls, straight, wavy, spiky, etc.) to prevent hair from sticking out on the top or the sides. Often times at cheaper salons, the haircut might seem fine at first, but over a couple weeks it doesn’t grow in the way they want it.
What are some key things every guy should look for when choosing a place to get their hair cut (and when choosing a barber)?
First and foremost men should do their homework and look up the background of the stylist, their experience, reviews, and the quality of the salon. If you’re trying to change or create a new look, its important to have a good conversation with a stylist that will give you the pro’s and con’s of what will and won’t work with your specific hair. Beware, because often times smaller salons will just execute what you ask for without giving a proper evaluation whereas larger, more established salons will engage in a realistic dialogue about what’s possible. Lastly, at high-end salons men should look for barbers who fully understand their lifestyle, schedule, the whole package.
With these tips in mind, I realized that if your budget allows for it, a higher-priced haircut definitely has its pro’s. For example, in the middle of my cut, a young lady showed me to a reclining chair to get my hair washed. The experience was deeply satisfying and at one point I almost fell asleep while she lathered on the shampoo and conditioner, all while massaging my scalp and running warm water over it with just enough pressure. “It happens all the time,” she said about my dozing off. After drying it out with a plush towel, I walked back to Oscar’s station so he could finish the rest and apply some product.
While the final result looked nice, my biggest takeaway was that you’re really paying for the ambience, attention to detail, and level of service. I’ve had plenty of inexpensive haircuts that looked just the same, if not better. Though it was a great experience, the entire haircut only lasted about 15 minutes. What I gathered is that it’s not so much the price that should dictate where you get your haircut, but more the relationship you have with your barber and your communication with them. For my particular lifestyle, I think my $ 20 cut works just as well. I will miss the nice robes though.