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Getting your hair cut at a hairdressing school
If you live in a city where there is a hairdressing school, such as London which has Toni & Guy, Vidal Sassoon etc, you can get your hair cut for free by their trainees. In smaller towns, ask around - other salons may make similar offers.

The deal is this: you agree to spend up to three hours with the salon. You will get a free cut, usually to a high standard as it is fully supervised and the trainees will be doing their best to score high marks. You get to discuss the style with them beforehand, but it helps if you can be flexible. And if you hate it, you can either register for another cut in a few weeks, or let a manager know before you leave and they will arrange to put it right.

Mine was the best cut I've ever had! I went into Toni & Guy's school in St Christopher's Place with waist-length unkempt wavy hair and came out with shoulder length "square layers", feeling a million dollars!

The photo below was taken when I was very tired so I look awful but you can see what the cut looked like.

From this...

to this!

First of all you need to register with them - this is usually done on a certain day. So you should find the number of a school you want to visit from their website, then ring and say "I'd like a free cut from a trainee, please". The free cuts aren't usually advertised, so you need to ask! In the case of Toni and Guy, I was told I had to ring on Wednesday morning to register for the following week, first come first served.

I rang back and was booked in for an afternoon the following week. The telephonist was quite brusk, simply wanting name and number, then telling me where to turn up.

On the day, I was a little early, so I wandered around for a little before turning up at five minutes before the appointment time. This was a mistake - I realised there was a large queue of people inside the door and I was now at the back! While I was queueing, a laminate explaining the rules was passed around - these were all quite straightforward, explaining that I should turn my phone off, would have to stay up to three hours, and if I was unhappy I was not permitted to complain to the stylist but should talk to a manager. When I reached the entrance I was asked to sign a register to show I agreed to these rules.

By the way, the queuing took place on some steep and slippery tiled stairs - not accessible to the mobility impaired, I only just managed on my stick!

When I entered, a manager looked me over and asked what I wanted. I said "anything will be an improvement - whatever you like!" He looked at a whiteboard, which had the names of the stylists and what they were practising that week - "Stephan, Square Layers, Eric, Choppy Layers" and so on, before saying "Square layers!" and calling the stylist to take me away.

The stylist wrapped me in a gown and sat me down before asking me questions from his clipboard - what colour would I say my hair was, and was it natural? (Auburn, and of course!) He lifted small sections of hair and made notes about the thickness and condition. Then came the embarrassing question which revealed it was many years since I last had it cut, and that was when a friend did it...

Next I was led out to get my hair washed in a separate room. I love hairwashes - a free head massage! Then I was brought back to ] the main room and sat at a chair.

I should explain, it wasn't quite like your usual salon. It was a large room with around 40 stations, each with chair, mirror and ledge, so you could see everyone else and there wasn't much privacy. This made it harder to understand my stylist, who spoke little English! However a female assistant told me I was very lucky to get him, he was one of the best. We didn't talk much, though! This suited me, I'm happy to sit in silence rather than struggle to hear inane conversation.

My stylist brought out a flip-book of styles and photos, showing a step-by-step illustration of how to cut each style. He pointed to the one we were going for and asked if it was ok, and how long I wanted my hair to be. Looked fine, so I agreed! Then his manager came over and asked him about each stage, how long each layer was going to be, and so on. When he was happy, he gave the stylist the ok to start, and left him to it.

The cut took a while... it was done to perfection! The hair was all cut to exactly the right length, matching every strand above, below, sideways and even diagonally! My hair received a lot more attention than it's ever had before... remember these are students who will be marked on how well they perform, so there is no rush as in a salon to get you out the door, they want it to be perfect! I did my best to sit exactly as I was positioned, but I had to ask to get up and stretch a few times when my knee started hurting more than usual.

A couple of times, the supervisor came over to check the work, nod and pass on. He never once spoke to me, only to the stylist - it was very apparent that you are there to assist them, not for banter! So if you go, don't be surprised at the impersonal nature.

After every hair had been cut, and examined by the supervisor in great detail, my stylist dried my hair. He managed to dry it straight - they always do, and I never can! After one final nod, and a signature on the clipboard from the supervisor, I was told I could go. Two of the female assistants gathered round and asked if I was happy. I said yes. They said it looked great, so much better - I said it could hardly have looked any worse than when I walked in the door!

After two hours, I was able to leave. Some had already gone, some were still there, so I guess two hours is an average time, although you commit to three.

I was very happy with my new haircut, free and to a great standard!

This page last updated: 01 September 2022

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