By Kelly Hushin
There are few corners I can think of in Manhattan that capture “Lower East Side cool” like Stanton and Ludlow streets. Fitting then, that one of the trendiest salons of London’s East-End should choose to open its first US location on that very hipster-friendly spot.
In just a few years’ time, Pimps & Pinups became for London what Shampoo B or Glenn Jason has become for New York. (Don’t worry; we’ve got features on them in the works too.) If you aren’t hip to those references, basically the London salon became the go-to place for the haircut that you saw on that cool rock star whose name you can’t remember but whose video was practically on repeat on MTV2. What’s that you say? You don’t WANT a funky-chic hairstyle? It won’t work with your Wall St. business suit? Well times are a’ changin’ people, that suit may now be retired. If you need to brighten your spirits with a little pep in your style (it can be temporary, you know) then your hair is a good place to start. You know you’d be lying (to yourself and to us) if you said you’ve never at least fantasized about sporting something a little risqué.
I must admit; I do more than fantasize about such hairstyles. I actually have to stop myself from experimenting with my hair. But when I heard that Pimps & Pinups had opened in the states – and hailed from my other favorite city in the world – I decided my “natural” phase was over. It was time to return to what I love best: funky. I soon found out that Pimps & Pinups was a place where I could do this and not feel pressure to ascribe to an over-the-top modish style. While it is smack-dab in the middle of hipster heaven, no employee at the salon – regardless of full-body tattoos and ultra-rocker hair styles – makes you feel any less cool for having a somewhat “normal” do.
John Hoad, the manager at the New York location, set me up on an appointment with Michelle, who would surely bring me back to the chunkier head of highlights I was looking for, while keeping in mind that my day job is a far cry from running a tattoo parlor (i.e. I had to be at least a little restrained in my new style.) Michelle sat me down and after talking to me for a few minutes said, “Looking at your hair now, I would think you’re someone who likes very thin highlights,” which is exactly what I do NOT like, but seem to have conned myself to wear for months now. We decided on a mixture of dark undertones with some thick, very cool, blond streaks, especially toward the front of my head.
John Hoad. We’re always fond of a Brit-bloke
While a myriad of Redken colors sat on my head in a mass heap of foils, John sat in the chair next to me and told me the story of how the New York Pimps & Pinups came to be. It turns out that John is chummy with Simon and James Charrison, the Australian owners of the London salon (emphasis on the ‘sa’lon, for proper British inflection like John’s). One night while the three were out at the pub, talking about who would manage the US location, John piped up and volunteered. He moved to NYC a month or so before the late fall opening last year and has seen the salon start to gain a good rep like its London-counterpart. Mostly this is because of the laid back and welcoming atmosphere he and the employees promote. Sometimes it’s too laid back: a couple of blokes wandered in one night and John offered them a beer like he does all of Pimps & Pinups’ guests – thinking they were clients or friends of someone in a chair – and of course they accepted. After a while, he and the rest of the staff realized that these fellows had no plans for a haircut nor were they waiting for someone who was getting one.
But John didn’t mind – this is what the salon is all about. Getting a haircut is something you should look forward to, not dread, he said. Both he and Michelle ensured that not only was I getting a quality (and super-chic) new color, but that I was comfortable while I was getting it. I’m now back to my hair comfort zone, which – ironically – is one a bit more daring.
As for the name of the salon, John says there isn’t much of a magic formula there. It just sort of “happened,” and ended up generating a good response. “People walk by and they aren’t sure what we are, but that’s part of the appeal,” he said. The neon green sign, jet black interiors and ’50s style mirrors and lights prove his point – no one could walk by this place without at least peaking inside to see what it’s all about.