Not Your Father’s Salon


I remember being a freshman in college on a trip home to see my family. I needed a haircut, so my father said that if I wanted for him to pay for it I would be going to a lovely local chain that shall remain nameless. They cut his hair just fine and if it was good enough for him it was good enough for me. My mother, who normally went to a more upscale salon, also decided to give dad’s hot spot a whirl. I ended up getting every layer imaginable and my mother looked like a greaser from “The Outsiders.” Not quite the look we were going for. We recently forgave dad.

Why are there so many people who think that they can cut and/or color hair? It’s frightening to walk into a new situation and not count rosary beads under your plastic cape. But ladies, there is hope! You know your hair looks good when other people want to know where you got it done. Nicolay Loor and Ken Cranford from the Stephen Knoll Salon,, in NYC are your new hair gods. These are men with years of experience, incredible expertise, and they actually listen to you.

Nicolay,, grew up in Ecuador and even at age 12 knew he wanted to do hair. After his mother locked the scissors away because she was against it, he found gardening shears to cut the maid’s hair. At 18 he came to the U.S. to get a degree in Business. Thankfully, he followed his true calling.

After working at a downtown salon that called for punk color dyes and perms he later assisted as a colorist at LePene and then came to Stephen Knoll. “I’ve always been known to choose the most difficult path given to me” and for Nicolay, that meant color. He’s established quite a following and has worked with all kinds of women, from Kristen Davis and Connie Nielson to Edi Falco. Oh, and all those “Nice and Easy” spots Cindy Crawford shoots? Let’s just say they’re very nice, but not so easy. All that being said, “I’m not impressed by money. I want to impress you with my work and I’m very confident with what I can deliver.” And I can attest to that. One afternoon I came in to get my highlights done and heard a familiar voice behind me. Cindy Crawford was on her way out. Nicolay came to me, made no mention of it, and treated me like a little star.

His philosophy on color is “to enhance someone, not make them over.” To him “enhancing” means working with skin tone and eye color to determine what natural hair shades would be most flattering. “Makeovers” are a shift in gears, a big change which should take into account the way you dress as well as actual maintenance of the hair. For example, if someone wants to go platinum blonde but doesn’t want to be at the salon every few weeks, it may not be the best choice for them and he’ll let them know. Nicolay is great for everything from color correction to hand painting hair for extra dimension.

After color you need some styling and that’s where Ken Cranford comes in. He also started out in college, for commercial art and advertising, but by 19 was working at the Richard Stine salon on Madison Avenue. He later went on to open his own salon on the Upper West Side with business partner Jeffery Stine called Les Copains. After a while they moved back to Madison Avenue and later Ken found his way to Stephen Knoll.

Ken’s philosophy is to find the individual’s personality and “make their life easier. I don’t want to fight what their hair does, even if it’s not ‘in style’. Clean, healthy, manageable hair with a minimum amount of work for the client” is his goal. He loves for people to bring in photos and is great at creating “period” looks as well as current. However, if you break up with your boyfriend, don’t expect him to jump on the bandwagon, “I don’t do emotional haircuts? Come back in a week.”

You’ve actually probably seen Ken’s work on the “Montel Williams Show” makeovers, “Good Morning America,” and Clairol’s Blue Chip infomercial as well as styling the locks of Jennifer Lopez, Liza Minelli, Anna Nicole Smith, and Jamie Lee Curtis. He loves doing fashion shows and shoots but prefers them on the side. “The salon is grounding.”

And what do these hair gurus suggest for you to use? Down to the nitty gritty, here we go:

Nicolay’s favorites:
*The Stephen Knoll color line which is currently only available in Japan but will be here soon
*Avocados for conditioning hair
*Back to Basics Sunflower Detangler ? use as a leave in conditioner and shine enhancer
*Herbal Essence ? cheap and good
*Steep 2 bags of chamomile tea, wash hair, condition, and pour the tea over your hair for crazy amounts of shine and do not rinse – this is especially good for sun-damaged hair
*Instead of at home dyes use color enhancing shampoos – less room for error
*Use products with low alcohol levels

Ken’s tips:
*Alternate your shampoo every 2 weeks to reduce buildup
*Dilute your shampoo by 50% with water for a gentler everyday alternative
*Strong fragrance in products = alcohol = drying, stripping of color, and irritation to scalp
*When blow-drying use a protectant like ID Care Heat Silk Lotion Protectant or Infusium 23
*Deep condition once a week
*Light waxes protect against humidity/blowdrying/and moisturize split ends
*Having to use more than 2 products at once means you’re using the wrong products
*Resist trends if they’re not geared for your face shape or lifestyle
*If you want to try out a new stylist but are feeling nervous, go in for a blow dry before you ever make an appointment for a cut.

Needless to say, I walk out of the Stephen Knoll Salon looking sunkissed, beautifully coifed and feeling like a princess. They are genuinely nice men who take time to find out what it is that you want to explore. And hey, it’s probably better than the guy who cuts your dad’s hair, right?

The Stephen Knoll Salon is located at 625 Madison Avenue, 2nd floor, 212-421-0100.

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