There are seven fundamental types of catastrophes. Beauty is not one of them.

Natural Hair Chronicles: Chicago Hair Salons, Big Chops & Blonde Streaks

[photo credit: tumblr]

[photo credit: tumblr]

This post got pretty long, fairly quickly, so it took a few rewrites. In a nutshell, I’ve had 26 stylists at 22 salons in 24 years. Here are a few worth mentioning….

Introduction to Salons

At 18, I was introduced to the world of upscale beauty salons by a friend who grew tired of my hair complaints. She was a client at Van Cleef Hair Studio, a posh downtown salon, and insisted I make an appointment. I was immediately in awe of its size, its elegance, all the services offered and the hair! The clients had lush, bouncy, thick heads of hair, really beautiful and like nothing I’d seen at Ana’s shop. Prices were higher than my neighborhood beauty shop, but definitely worth every penny.

The hallway entrance to Van Cleef.. walked that walk so many times, so many years ago...

The hallway entrance to Van Cleef.. walked that walk so many times, so many years ago… [photo credit:]

I was a faithful client for three years. My hair flourished under the care of Rahni’s team. It was also at Van Cleef that I had my brows waxed for the first time, my first facial and mani/pedi. I had a standing bi-weekly hair appointment…

[photo credit:]

[photo credit:]

Growing hands

At 21, I was introduced to Kim, a new hairstylist at Rueves, a chic brownstone salon not far from Van Cleefs. Rueves had become my new go-to for brows, facials and mani/pedis. Kim was looking to build her clientele. We hit it off & since her rates were less expensive than Van Cleef, I decided to give her a try. One of the best decisions I ever made for my hair. First, she finished in an hour for blow-outs and two for relaxers. I was always at Van Cleef for at least 2-3 hours, no matter what. Second, she did this thing called round brushing, although well-known now, it was completely new to me at the time. My hair loved it. Something strange happened too, my hair started growing, like a weed! While always thick, I was accustomed to my hair’s length stopping at the neck, and then the shoulder once I started roller-sets. Didn’t bother me to think it unusual, that is until it reached my shoulder blades so quickly under Kim’s care. I had a standing bi-weekly appointment but it was short-lived, she married a few months later and quit the hair business altogether. 

My hair under Kim's care. She added a few layers & a side swept bang.

My hair under Kim’s care. She added a few layers & a side swept bang.

The Cut

After that, I was on the search for a replacement stylist which landed me at Mario Tricoci on Orchard. Called for a recommendation and made an appointment with Daniel, a lead stylist. Daniel had a thing for short hair. I noticed the client before me had short hair, and Daniel told me I’d look great with short hair. I laughed at his suggestion. His did good work so I became a client.

Several appointments later, he mentioned there was some breakage in the back that he’d need to trim to “even out”, I recognized what he was trying to do and warned him. He insisted, he just needed “to trim the breakage“. I reluctantly gave the okay. He picked up his scissors, and started to cut the side of my hair where there was NO  breakage. My mouth fell open, I could barely breathe, I pulled my wrap off, stood up and started yelling at him. He begged in a whispering tone to please let him finish & I’d love it. I was almost in tears, a crowd of other stylists started to gather. Daniel continued to plead with me. He HAD to cut it now, there was no other choice. I don’t know why I didn’t call his manager, really let him have it. I was angry enough at the time. I told him he just cost himself a commission because I wasn’t paying for this & he had better clean it up and make it great. He promised me I’d love it. When he finished, I grimaced, made my way to the changing area, and left in a huff! Took a few days, but I grew to love it, except the thickness of my hair required a more precise cut. Told him he was off a bit, he didn’t like the criticism, that was the end of that…

The only picture with my short hair. It was so thick & humidity just poofed it out terribly.

The only picture with my short hair. It was so thick & humidity just poofed it out terribly.

The Blonde Streak

After Daniel, I found myself at Chez Charles in Chicago’s Jewelers Row. An old building with lots of little businesses (mostly jewelers) tucked away inside. Charles Johnson (may he RIP) was legendary on the Chicago salon scene. His loft was on the seventh floor and it was there that I had my first (and last) experience with professional color. I wanted a smidge of caramel highlights in the front but my stylist Sean gave me a blondish chunk that ended up damaging that part of my hair. It was on to the next…

The only picture of the blonde streak, and it was taken on a hot humid day at Wisconsin Dells.

The only picture of the blonde streak, and it was taken on a hot humid day at Wisconsin Dells, when my hair was a mess.

White Girls can do Black Hair…gasp!

After that, I headed over to Mario Tricoci’s new location at 900 N. Michigan, in the heart of the platinum shopping mecca of Chicago. It was there that I experienced my first (of many) non-black hairstylists. Of course, my caption above was written with humor, but I learned early on there’s a lot of truth to it. I’ve heard first-hand from salons & stylists that don’t know how and are not trained to work with black hair. This, is a topic too loaded for this post, but I’ll cover it in a later one. Anyhoo, Gio was a bubbly, hilarious brunette from Italy & she was very good with my hair. When she left, I moved on to Renata, a soft-spoken lil lady from Russia, who spoke little english but her blow-outs were so great, who cared. Eventually, she too left the salon.

I really liked my hair under Gio's & Renata's care, they were great stylists.

I really liked my hair under Gio’s & Renata’s care, they were great stylists.

And then there was Walter…

Ultimately, I ended up back at Chez Charles and started seeing another stylist there, Walter. He would remain my primary stylist for the next nine years and three salons, as I followed him to several other locations after he left Chez Charles. 

The pictures below (ages 26 & 28) showcase the great Walter’s work. I referred others to him as well, like my sister & my mother. Overall, I’d been fairly pleased with my hair and those who tended to its thickness. Though I complained about it, I appreciated its ability to withstand and bounce back from pretty much anything…. until one day…. I unexpectedly lost most of it and quickly realized the health condition my doctor diagnosed as “no big deal”, was anything but… more to come..


One comment on “Natural Hair Chronicles: Chicago Hair Salons, Big Chops & Blonde Streaks

  1. Pingback: Natural Hair Chronicles: The Breaking Point & My Last Relaxer | SUITE7beautyTALK


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