There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch/Haircut
February 23, 2013 8:35 AM   Subscribe

This question is specific to NYC. I'm wondering what people's experiences have been getting free haircuts from the various schools around town - Aveda, Bumble and Bumble, Arrojo. Often, people offer free haircuts on craigslist and elsewhere, in order to get models for class projects. FWIW, I'm a male, 29 yo "hipster," although I'd also welcome opinions from women.
posted by outlandishmarxist to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I did this once in Chicago. I got a very good haircut at a very nice salon after responding to a Craigslist ad. The catch was that I had to come in at about 10 in the morning and it took about two hours. One student worked very slowly and carefully with a lot of supervision from a very experienced instructor who told her exactly what to do.
posted by steinwald at 8:42 AM on February 23, 2013

Aveda is not bad if you don't need anything complicated.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 AM on February 23, 2013

I used to do this fairly regularly at an Aveda school in Seattle. I was almost always happy with the haircuts, as the instructors would make sure that the models were ultimately satisfied. The primary downside is time. You may have to make yourself available at the time the student needs you for class, and it takes much longer than a normal haircut. When I did this, I always made sure I had a couple of hours available. More experienced students seemed to need a little less frequent checking by the instructors, but sometimes we would have to wait awhile for an available instructor to check the student's work.
posted by pril at 8:45 AM on February 23, 2013

I did it twice at Bumble & Bumble. One was a haircut I loved and one was just "meh". It's luck of the draw. But if you have the time, I think it's worth trying.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:49 AM on February 23, 2013

I went to Bumble in NYC. There was a ridiculously long line (I think it took roughly an hour to get to the front), but was rejected as my hair didn't match the type they wanted to train on (super-straight, long locks). It seemed like the models that did get haircuts were happy though. Not sure if all this is the same for men.
posted by Sakura3210 at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2013

I've gotten a lot of haircuts at the Aveda on Spring St, usually paying their low, low prices. I've always been happy. The instructors closely supervise and will step in to demonstrate or finish things off. The down side is that it does take forever. Students are slooooow. I'm a woman; a simple men's cut might be faster.
posted by Mavri at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2013

If you can, try to sign up to be the demo model - meaning, you're the model for the instructor and not the students. I did this at Vidal Sassoon and always loved my haircuts.
posted by Milau at 8:58 AM on February 23, 2013

I don't hold my experience as typical, but honestly the worst haircut I ever got was at the aveda in Chicago. The student kept making mistakes and then cutting to try to fix it. There were supervisors walking around, but two separate ones evaluated her work at the beginning and end, so they couldn't really see how different my drastic cut was from the trim I'd requested. It was also the first time I'd gotten a haircut that absolutely no one I knew commented on, despite the huge difference in length. I would not take that chance again.
posted by sundaydriver at 9:07 AM on February 23, 2013

I have done this at Aveda and Arrojo in NYC. As long as you're not asking for anything too complicated it should be ok. I like Aveda better. I've gone there and paid the $20 but also had free haircuts. The free ones are much slower but the results are pretty much the same. The instructors check in and fix things if necessary. I'm a woman getting two or three inches cut and layers and sometimes a front angle. Also, the Aveda products smell great.
posted by the twistinside at 9:57 AM on February 23, 2013

I went to the Spring Street Aveda as well, and while I got a good haircut, it took FOREVER and it wasn't a. That much better a haircut than I would have gotten from one of the $20 places by bringing a picture, or b. that cheap.

That said, I did get really good color for a quite good price for NYC--don't know if that helps you ;)
posted by supercoollady at 10:00 AM on February 23, 2013

I do this all the time, and have not paid for a hair cut in like... a year. I only go to places that do "professional development" or "advanced" classes for people who have already completed their basic cosmetology training (these courses are usually at largish, high-endish salons in mornings or evenings, not actual schools). As a result, I've only had stylists with several years of experience. A cut may take 2-2.5 hours.

I feel that I have always received quite spectacular hair cuts, but perhaps that's because I'm quite open-minded and not very picky. My philosophy is that if I get my hair cut for free, then I should give the person cutting my hair as much artistic and creative freedom as possible. When you pay for a hair cut, the relationship between you and the stylist is very clear: you receive a service, s/he is a service provider whose job it is to make you as happy as possible. When you get your hair cut for free, this relationship is more fuzzy (perhaps, more equitable?), as both of you are service providers and receivers at the same time.

I got all my hair cuts by responding to ads placed by the stylists themselves on a website called Salon Apprentice. It seems to me that it's really a "hairmodel's market", as I get responses back from the stylists 90%+ of the time. On the other hand, one stylist told me that it's quite hard to find female hair models with short hair, so maybe that's what's working to my advantage.
posted by yonglin at 10:11 AM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

My wife used to do this in San Francisco and always come out with good-to-"Wow, who does your hair?!" results, with the caveat that she isn't particularly picky and doesn't have a preference as to style, so they could do whatever they wanted to her within reason. Once she was whatever the equivalent of a "senior project" is, so she got some very good color, highlights, the cut, the whole nine yards for very little and looked great for quite a while.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:38 AM on February 23, 2013

I've gotten haircuts at Aveda Academy a few times in Canada and have always had decent to very nice results. One friend wasn't so lucky. She asked for long, sideswept bangs. Our other friend and I got our haircuts, sat in the waiting area for half an hour, and finally decided to check on our friend. We found her sitting in the chair with blunt, straight-across bangs and a frazzled looking student snipping off a millimeter here and there. It had taken her over an hour just to cut the bangs. It's really luck of the draw when you get students to work on you. The most junior level students could be finishing up their certification and already have a couple years of experience, or they could be brand new and have mere months. You can better your odds by requesting more advanced students.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:57 AM on February 23, 2013

From 2006-2008 I used to be a regular "hair model" for Bumble and Bumble. I'm a guy with super straight hair. I generally had to wait until my hair was really long (practically mullet length) otherwise they'd reject me, and I'd have wasted an afternoon standing in line.

The students were practicing razor cuts, which are a little scary for both you and the students. Generally no mishaps ever happened with my hair, but I'm also pretty easy-going about my head Generally the student will try and then the instructor would stop by and double check it.

It's a pretty good way to get a free haircut and if you don't mind waiting in the line and dealing with the inconvenience and slow process of it, it's worth it. You will need to have the right kind of hair that they're looking for, otherwise it will be a waste of your time.
posted by geryon at 11:08 AM on February 23, 2013

Got free cuts for years at Vidal Sasson, NYC.

One thing you need to completely understand is that the stylist is using your head to learn to do a certain cut/style. So you'll probably get a very hip and stylish look, but you will have little to no say in the actual style.

If you're open-minded, you probably will great a terrific style (and takes forever) but it may not be what you wanted.
posted by kinetic at 11:14 AM on February 23, 2013

Had a free cut at Vidal Sassoon in San Francisco (a woman from the salon approached me on the street and asked if I was interested and had time the following day). It was some kind of training for already established stylists from all over the country and not students per se. It took more than 2 hrs and was quite funny as the instructor would walk by and make comments about my face & hair ("make it sleek! straight! cold as ice to balance that round face!"). The lady who cut my hair was a hairdresser for more than 20 yrs and did a terrific job. It was the best hair cut of my life. Thanks, lady who cut my hair!
posted by travelwithcats at 12:32 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Three years ago I got a free cut as a hair model from an apprentice at Arrojo. Today, the stylist is working at a very high-end salon and does lots of editorial and fashion week work. Translation: she costs a lot. But because I was with her from the beginning, she gives me a fantastic cut for $50 every time, sometimes at her apartment! So, I'd have to say that I have had a great Arrojo experience. At times when she isn't available, I have returned to Arrojo to a stylist of her recommendation, and have been happy.
posted by greta simone at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2013

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