Salon School Cuts: Is It Worth The Chop?

Susie G

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When most people hear the two words “free haircut,” it’s natural for folks to seem suspicious and wonder what the catch is.

Well, when most salons are offering free haircuts, it might mean that a) they just opened up and are trying to lure in new clientele, b) the owner of the salon is having a really good day or c) your haircut will be done by a stylist-in-training at a salon school. For most cases, it will be the latter.

But why do salon schools offer free (or even discounted) haircuts?

Most salons and cosmetology schools actively look for hair models to help their stylists-in-training gain hands-on experience, as well as crafting their skills accordingly to a salon’s specific style and standards.
But the idea of trusting the look of your locks to a “newbie” can be a scary thought for some. For others, it’s a thrifty way of getting your ‘do done with nothing to lose.

Well, I consider myself one of those “others” as I’m always finding ways to do things on the cheap, plus I’ve had way too many bad salon experiences where I literally ended up paying someone way too much money to completely ruin my hair. So if a stylist-in-training mucks up my hair, I know it will eventually just grow out and no wallets will be harmed in the process. The bottom line is that it’s just hair – not like I’m loosing a finger or toe or something else that can’t grow back.

The other week I got an email from Bumble and Bumble.’s Bb.U Model Project after a friend suggested I check out their website to see if they needed models as I had been in dire need of a haircut and didn’t want to shelve out crazy dollars for the service. On the website, visitors are asked to fill out a registration form asking for contact details as well as information on their hair type and haircuts they would be interested in getting. The email I received said that the school was currently looking for volunteers interested in getting their signature Razor Bob cut. According to their website, the Razor Bob is “…one length around the perimeter of the head, with the possibility of layers to frame the face. It may fall anywhere from just above your shoulders to just below your chin.” After looking at example photos of the cut on the site, I figured it was a good length and probably a good frame for my heart-shaped face. Plus, I seriously needed to chop off all of my dead, winter hair so I could get a fresh start for the spring season!

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Bumble and Bumble.’s Bb. Headquarters in the Meatpacking District, NYC

After having confirmed twice with the school for my 2 PM appointment, which then got re-scheduled the day-of to noon, I headed to the Bumble and Bumble headquarters in NYC’s Meatpacking District where their Model Project, salon and cafe are located. There were about 20 other women there as well, all getting the Razor Bob cut. One of the receptionists showed us all to the back, where there were rows of empty chairs and mirrors. After each of us were shown where to be seated, we then waited a bit to meet with the two instructors who were supervising the session. One of the instructors I spoke with was really sweet and asked what kind of look I was going for today. I mentioned to her that I would love to have a clean, preppy, and 80’s-esque haircut as I had been watching way too many episodes of 21 Jump Street lately.

Slowly processing if what I had said was meant to be a joke (which certainly was not), she smiled and nodded, and said that sounded good. A few moments later, I finally met with the stylist who was going to be cutting my hair today. She then asked me what I was looking to get done, and told her exactly what I told the instructor. We both then headed back to the wash room to get my hair rinsed out. While in the chair I started asking my stylist a million questions like, “Is this your first time at the school here?” and “How long have you been cutting hair?” By playing detective, I got to find out that my stylist had actually been cutting hair for over 22 years and owns her own salon in California. This was her second time at the Bumble and Bumble school, where she came out here in order for her to receive continuing education credits for her cosmotology license (Yes – hairstylists need continuing education too for their licenses, just like physicians and pharmacists, which can be received through salon school training sessions like the ones offered from Bumble and Bumble).

Finding out that my stylist had been cutting hair for almost the same amount of time that I have been alive on this Earth made me feel a lot better about the experience. I became instantly more positive, open-minded, and even lowered my guard a bit around her as I felt like I could actually trust her with my hair. As for the rest of my time in the salon chair, my stylist did a great job listening to what I wanted as well as following the directions given by the instructors in order to achieve the perfect Razor Bob cut, fit for my own personal look.

Overall, I had a great time at the Bb.U Model Project, and I walked away with a great, free haircut. I also even made a new friend – my stylist!

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For those of you who are very protective of their hair, and may feel that a complete criminal background check is totally normal in order for you to trust someone with your locks, than maybe going to a salon school for a free haircut is not your cup of tea. But if you are brave enough to trust complete strangers, and not too attached with your hair, then I would recommend considering going to a salon school for your next chop!

But before you go ahead and sign up to be a model for the closest cosmotology school near you, read our advice below on what to expect and where to go, to make sure you have a regret-free experience!

Do research on the salon and the school – From checking out their website, to asking your closest circle of friends, and to reading the fine print on the agreement form, be sure you know what you are getting youself in to. Most places will also ask you to confirm your attendance a few times before the session, and let you know if you are going to be getting a specific type of cut, style or color. If you wanted just to get a trim, make sure you are going to get just that before you walk away from the chair with a bob!

Have an open, flexible schedule – Some sessions can be anywhere from 2 – 4 hours or even a full day especially if a stylist needs models for a special exhibition. Also, salon schools may have to move your appointment around at the last minute in order to fit everyone in, and make sure there are enough models at the session.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – I was asking A LOT of questions at the begininng of my one-on-one session with the “student” stylist, like how long they have been a stylist, is this their first training session at the school, how do they like the program at the salon, etc. It’s a great way to build some comfortability with the person who you are trusting your hair with. And if you aren’t getting the answers you were hoping for, feel free to speak with the instructor to help ease any worries you may have.

Major hair brand names like Bumble and Bumble, Paul Mitchell, Toni & Guy, and Vidal Sassoon, have schools all over the world and are almost always looking for models. Even most independent salons in major cities are always on the lookout for hair models as well. These salons are usually places who have a big group of professional stylists employed, and who also train up-and-coming stylists on-site as well. Therefore, you probably want to avoid going into salons who operate on a smaller scale.

In the New York City area, we recommend visiting the Bumble and bumble. Model Project (415 West 13th Street, 6th floor, New York, NY; 1.866.7Bumble), Arrojo Studio Academy (56 King Street, New York, NY; and Cutler Salon (57th Street, New York, NY; 1.212.308.3838). Feel free to contact salons directly to see when they’ll be needing models for their next training session.

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