You learn something new every day. Now, I discover that in addition to ensuring that your passport and visa are in order and you've purchased the necessary study abroad insurance before heading off to London, you should probably visit your favorite hometown hairstylist and get a quick trim before you take off across the pond to study in the United Kingdom. It seems a new fashionable, obscenely expensive venue has taken the place of restaurants and bars: hair salons.
Today, one can visit a hair salon and beg for a haircut in much the same way wannabe dancers used to crowd the club doormen at the closed rope gates, desperately hoping for admission. For approximately the cost of your roundtrip airplane ticket, you can get a cut, color, style and perhaps a manicure at the rarified establishment formerly known as a beauty parlor. There are small differences between their secret handshakes and at one, the customer can actually choose the type of haircut for which they'd like to pay dearly, but all the shops seem to militaristically rank their stylists—apparently all named after old daytime soap opera characters—and the most popular seem to thrive despite providing the antithesis of customer service. As one customer of Headmasters reviewed her recent experience on Yelp, "Today I discovered what happens when you get a 20 quid hairstyle. A beautiful man, who may or may not know what he is doing, shears off all your hair."
The Can't-Miss Salons to Visit While Studying Abroad in London
Unless you somehow meet Madonna and become instant best friends or sell your roommate to a Saudi prince, peeking into these salons is about all a student studying abroad can afford. Nonetheless, here are the secret castles of beauty for your planned trespass—pun intended. Take note that one of the first requirements is to name it something no one would ever associate with the business of cutting hair.
This posh salon has been crowned queen by almost all the common fashion-related names. Among the standard cuts, colors, styling, pedicures, manicures, massages, waxing and such, one can also purchase a luxurious full set of deluxe Siberian mink eyelash extensions at the unbelievably low price of £120, or about $200. No animals are harmed in the collection of these eyelashes, so the minks must be obligated to pluck out their own eyelashes to donate to Taylor-Taylor, presumably to pay for the owner's speech therapy lessons to correct that awful stutter.
This second shop in Camden proudly proclaims that it is not a "franchise," an unsurprising statement as its home page features an Asian woman with purple hair standing up against gravity in large clumps. Here, you can get only the cut and only by a peon in an afternoon for a relatively low price of £40, or about $65. As one Yelp customer boasted in an understated way, "Everyone in Tusk was super friendly and joked around with me without being overly gossipy. It has an edgy feel without being TOO Camden High Street, if you know what I mean." Unfortunately, at a salon that boasts clients like David Beckham, you likely won't be able to afford to hang around long enough to ever really know what she means.
This salon in Soho is one of the few to openly post prices on its website, perhaps in an acknowledgement that the cost of a haircut might impact a customer's budget. Established in 2005, they are known as "colour experts" and seem fairly down to earth. Perhaps they were mistakenly included on this list because of the salon's name.
This shop is said to be reasonably priced because of access to student hairdressers' work and their less expensive prices. We're also familiar with the brand and its association with hair. At the Aveda salon, they also provide manicures and pedicures. Unfortunately, they give away the real experience of their salon on their webpage: "What makes this salon appealing is that is refreshingly un-sceney: no air-kissing, fuss or celebrity gossip." Spin fail! Why would you need to deny this behavior? None of the other shops have.
Again, yet another name that just proclaims, "We cut hair here!" No wonder English is said to be one of the more difficult languages to learn. You know a place is trouble when a positive Yelp! review runs for paragraphs explaining the nine different times a customer attempted to get an appointment or walk-in service. Her hair probably grew half an inch during the process. Unsurprisingly, customers are often advised on the hairstyle they're receiving at that very moment. The unknown costs of the salon's haircare services, which don't appear to be available online, add to the salon's air of mystery.
Thanks for the Memories
Enjoy your glimpses of the pampered elite. After you graduate and are among world travelers, perhaps you can name drop and pretend you were a customer once. You could even place David Beckham next to you at the manicure station. Have a good time window shopping and be prepared to leave promptly when asked. Your travel health insurance is meant for other issues.