Making the Cut: Students Crop and Color at the Serge Normant Salon at John Frieda

According to the Professional Beauty Association, the average price for a haircut in the U.S. is about $45. Manhattan is a whole other story. With prices ranging up to $800, it’s not easy to find a superior cut for a decent price. However, we at Beauty News want to let you in on a little secret. Many upscale salons offer training nights where you can get a fabulous cut for a fraction of the cost. With that, I headed over to the Serge Normant Salon at John Frieda for my “casting” and a quality cut that wasn’t going to break the bank.

John Frieda is just one of the many notable New York salons that offers discounted cuts by stylists-in-training. Every first and third Tuesday of the month, the salon holds “castings” where customers can come in and, depending on the length, texture, and color of their hair, are assigned to a particular student. Customers are then invited back on a following Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. for their cut. Students only cut hair while in class and are observed under their teacher (a professional Frieda stylist) during operating hours.

Gerard Touroul is the head stylist who teaches these artists-in-the-making. He focuses his instruction on visual proportion and inspiration. His students learn to take a careful, calculated approach to styling. According to Touroul, trends are secondary; what matters most is how the cut looks in proportion to one’s facial features.

I had the pleasure to have my hair cut by Aga, Gerard’s primary apprentice who will study under him for at least two years before having a chair of her own. She appreciates the style he presents and respects his impeccable work. Gerard explained that the difference between a beauty school education versus studying in a salon is that school teaches the basics while a salon teaches you standards. His tutelage is top-notch as he worked with Aga throughout the entire process of my haircut.

When I walked into the salon that evening, I wasn’t expecting to walk out looking the way I did. This could possibly be one of the best haircuts I’ve ever received! From precision and perfect layers to a remarkable reduction in the time it takes me to style my hair, I can say with confidence that this is the best $35 I’ve ever spent on a haircut.

After such a wonderful experience with my cut, I decided to head back to the salon for color. This time I had the pleasure of working with Emma Gregory, a charming woman from England who has been studying at the Madison Avenue location for just over a year. Instead of the foils I have become accustomed to, Emma lightened my blonde strands using the French method known as Balyage, meaning “to sweep.” This is a technique that takes experience and much practice, so be weary when just any salon claims that they are experts in this method. Instead of sectioning hair and applying color to the roots only, Emma used a special brush to hand-paint a thick mixture of color using various paint designs. She coated one-inch sections from root to end, creating a diffused line where the lightening takes place on the surface of the hair rather than throughout. This technique provides ultimate control over color application and allows for far more color contrast in the hair, resulting in very natural highlights. Painted strands are covered in saran wrap, which seals in heat thus omitting the need for any external heat from a blower.

After the Balyage treatment, Emma applied a gloss for an overall effect that lifted my newly painted highlights. The technique is a bit daunting at first, as it seems the colorist is not following any particular pattern and seemingly painting dye all over your hair. However, the end result is extremely natural and very flattering.

Similar to training nights for cuts, models (customers) chosen for color come in on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. Color will only cost you an almost unbelievable $40 – something almost unheard of on Madison Avenue, let alone a highly regarded international salon. One thing to keep in mind is that since you are getting your color or cut from an experienced student, if often takes longer than a regular trip to the salon. A full head of highlights may take as long as 4 to 5 hours so patience is key as well as planning. However if you are going to get a professional color or cut on Madison Ave. for $40 bucks, it’s time well spent. If you are interested in learning more about training nights, call 212-879-1000 for more details. Serge Normant Salon at John Frieda is located at 797 Madison Avenue near 67th Street.

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