Budget haircuts worth it?
September 14, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

SuperCuts/Fantastic Sam's/Rudy's/Hairmasters/ZeroZero - economical choice for a stylish haircut, or potential follicular nightmare?

I need a haircut, a dramatic one, but I am stone broke right now. I want to go from hair that's about 1/3 way down my back, nicely layered, to hair that's only about as long as the bottom of my earlobes, which I'd still like layered.

My real question is - am I REALLY getting a much better haircut if I pay $50 than if I pay $20-25 at a place like Supercuts? I've had about 5 shitty $50-60 cuts in a row, so I tend to think not, but maybe I'm just unlucky.

Is going to a place that charges so little for a cut a mistake waiting to happen, or have I been brainwashed by the fancy salon industry? How can they charge so little when other places charge so damn much?

PS - I'm in Seattle if anyone has a specific cheapass hair place/stylist they swear by.
posted by tristeza to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always had good experiences at Rudy's - I've been going to them for years. I'm in Portland now (yay Rudy's down here finally!) but I went to the Capitol Hill Rudy's all the time when I lived there. My only advice is, don't get attached to any one stylist there - they turn over pretty regularly.

If you like cranky old man barbershops, Jim's on 15th E (across from On 15th Video) is really good - don't go there if you want nuance or subtlety in your hair, though. Jim's an ex-military guy who does good flattop and buzzcut, anything else may not be in his realm.

Do NOT go to Hairmasters or Fantastic Sam's.
posted by pdb at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2006

My experience with Rudy's (not in Seattle, but in both LA and in Portland) has been overwhelmingly positive, but, then, I'm pretty low-maintenance about my hair. And, y'know, a guy.

(Not so low-maintenance, however, that I wasn't irritated by the incompetence on display at Supercuts the single time I made the mistake of going there.)
posted by dersins at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2006

I've had good luck at Rudy's in Seattle and LA. My results from supercuts, on the other hand, have been soulcrushing.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:00 PM on September 14, 2006

My Rudy's cuts in L.A. were also good, functional cuts -- not great, but in my experience unlikely to destroy your hair the way Supercuts will.
posted by scody at 3:02 PM on September 14, 2006

I think it really depends on who you get, doesn't it? I've know some great haircut artists who picked up shifts at SuperCuts-equivalents, but they also have some people who should not be allowed near a pair of scissors (I just had my har cut by one of them, I know). The benefit of going to a nice salon is that you know you are going to get someone who knows what they are doing. The down-side of that is that they have some very strong ideas about what they should be doing, and that may not coincide with what you want them to do. My wife once wanted to cut about 10" off, and someone at a very nice Newbury St (Boston) salon refused to do it!
posted by Rock Steady at 3:10 PM on September 14, 2006

If you want something radical, then you probably want to go somewhere with sufficient reputation for them to give you a freebie repair job if you're unhappy. You might see if one of the $50 salons has discounted trainee cuts, but word of mouth is always going to be important for things like that.

(This is where men have a real advantage.)
posted by holgate at 3:10 PM on September 14, 2006

Many of the people at those hair salons can cut hair well - they just don't because the expectation is that they cut it quickly, or they don't make any money. It might help to go at a time when they're typically not very busy, so the stylists have more time.

My last haircut was from a First Choice, cost $12, and is actually pretty good. I like it, I think, better, than the place that charged my $40 the last time I got it cut.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:16 PM on September 14, 2006

I used to go to the places in the mall, it it was pretty much hit or miss. I found an old man barber shop that does a decent job, and is more reliable than a mall chain. I've been to one of the nicer places, and they are better, just not three times as good.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 3:25 PM on September 14, 2006

The red flag in your post is the comment that you are looking for a "dramatic" change in hairstyle. In my experience, many of the lower cost haircutting chains are ok if all you're getting is a "maintenance" haircut (a slightly shorter and/or neatened version of the hairstyle you walked in with), but I'm not convinced they are the best places to go if you are looking at drastically changing your hairstyle. Seriously, at some of these places (think Great Clips) you can actually cause panic attacks on the part of the stylists if you can't tell them the exact clipper numbers their supposed to use on your hair.

This is a generalization, obviously, but the chances that a first-class hairstlyist who is highly talented (or even remotely competent) at giving complex haircuts would be working at a low-end shop like Supercuts et al are pretty slim. I suppose there is a chance you might find a diamond in the rough - someone who is just using their tenure at a discount chain as means of building up their resume to eventually obtain employment at a high-end salon, but do you want to live with the consequences if you don't?
posted by The Gooch at 3:33 PM on September 14, 2006

In my opinion, SuperCuts gives nice haircuts, especially if what you're going for is pretty basic. Their name isn't 'SuperStyle', though... so be forewarned that (Like TheGooch said) that it isn't really for dramatic changes. I have a regular person that I see every two months or so, and get a quick cut at Great Clips when I need a touch up.

If you can find one near you, and Seattle is sure to have at least one, try a beauty school/spa that's owned or managed by a national company like Aveda.

In fact, Aveda's Gary Manuel School is in Seattle and they have a 'Shampoo, Style, & Stress Relieving Experience' for $12-18 dollars.

Remember, this is class and students will be graded on how well they do. There's someone near by who is an experience teacher who is willing to step in and fix things if you admit there's a problem. They're there to learn, so tell them if you think it needs to be fixed.
posted by aristan at 3:49 PM on September 14, 2006

here's some links to their website and to their 'menu'.

Their address is 1514 10th Avenue and they're in the Capital Hill section. (I'm not in Seattle, so I have no idea where that is.)
posted by aristan at 3:51 PM on September 14, 2006

Bombaii Cutters in Kirkland is not terribly expensive and miles better than SuperCuts.
posted by frogan at 4:00 PM on September 14, 2006

$25? Sweet Christ, man. Go downtown and walk around until you see a barber's pole. That'll be, like, $10 and you'll end up with a man's haircut.
posted by waldo at 5:36 PM on September 14, 2006

Strangely enough one of my best friends just did this. She went from hair down almost to her butt to an earlength bob.

She went to supercuts because the salon next to the supercuts was closed. It cost her like 12 bucks and she loves it. She donated her hair to Locks of Love because it ended up being 15 inches of hair.

She is really happy, and her hair looks totally cute. I'm not sure if she got lucky or what, but hey.
posted by dozo at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2006

$25? Sweet Christ, man. Go downtown and walk around until you see a barber's pole. That'll be, like, $10 and you'll end up with a man's haircut.

I don't know if you were talking to me, but I'm a chick, dude. I should have said that in my post, but I assumed the "long hair/layers" would do it. (I'm always mistaken for a guy here, WTF?)

Anyway - thanks for all the input. I guess what was bugging me was that I HAVE gone to fancy places, and gotten consistently shitty haircuts, and I've gone to cheapos and gotten shitty haircuts. Obvs I need to be clearer or something, but jesus.

I went to Rudy's on Cap Hill before the 5:00 rush (excellent advice, jacquilynne) had her take about 8" off (!! hair above shoulders!! ), and she did a pretty decent job, I don't want to kill myself. $26 including tip.
posted by tristeza at 6:29 PM on September 14, 2006

Be careful just walking around downtown. I went to a place (Sigs I think) where the average age of the barbers was 80. Mine kept dropping his scissors and getting new ones because he couldn't pick them up.
posted by jefftang at 6:43 AM on September 15, 2006

What you really need to do, Tristeza, is find a girlfriend with a great haircut and ask where she has her hair done...and which SPECIFIC stylist she sees. Do this a couple of times and see if you get any repeat names. If not, go with the person/place you feel most comfortable with. IMO, low budget chain hair places are GREAT if you have a straightforward hair situation -- all one length, need a trim, etc. I wouldn't visit one if you're doing anything remotely complicated. Just my 2cents.
posted by theantikitty at 8:01 AM on September 15, 2006

I'd been going to supercuts for most of my life. It was cheap enough, could drop in whenever or call in to get my name on the list if there was going to be a wait. For a long time I didn't want to try any of the salon places because it was going to be more expensive than the $13-15 for a supercuts. the problem is that the cut can be very hit-or-miss there, even if you get the same person each time.

ask some friends where they get their cuts. I now go to a salon in LA where my fiancee has been going for about a year, and one of her best friends has been going for several years. it turns out i only pay a couple dollars more per (men's) haircut than I was at supercuts. the haircuts have been much better than any I'd gotten from supercuts, and I trust her recommendations on what product and shampoo to use.
posted by maffachu at 3:06 PM on September 15, 2006

Supercuts near me has always been good to me. Granted, i'm not super obsessive about my hair, and i'm not a woman, but they've always been courteous and friendly, and actually listen. I've made the mistake of going someplace more "upscale" before and having them totally botch it by not listening (had to pretty much shave my head after that) and won't ever do that again. It really does depend on your stylist, though.
posted by richter_x at 7:52 PM on September 15, 2006

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