But now hiring — and keeping — talented stylists and colorists at salons is more challenging. Junior stylists see other stylists’ success on social, but not the years of work that came before, says Abby Haliti, a colorist in New York and New Jersey who also does hair-color pop-ups internationally. “Assistants don’t want to sweep the floor anymore. When I’m interviewing people, I’m like, ‘Hi! Do you have a license?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, no, but I have Instagram.'”
Gen Z’s Z-isms aside, salons keep barreling toward entrepreneurialism. According to the Professional Beauty Association, most of the more than 1.2 million salon industry businesses in the US are independently owned — by women — and 33 percent of workers are self-employed, compared with 6 percent of the US workforce as a whole.
It would be pretty awesome to get your ends trimmed, your roots touched up, and your nails freshly manicured while you’re still cozy and having coffee in your robe at home. But salons are probably not going to be eclipsed by Real Housewife-style glam squads anytime soon. (The cost of at-home maintenance alone is prohibitive: “It’s always going to be more expensive because they are coming to you,” says Quintero, “charging for time, traveling, and the service. A house call is typically double what you charge in the salon.”) Saviano predicts the future is chair rental at salons, which means owners have to pivot while holding onto the very thing that makes the salon so special. “It’s the energy, it’s the people, it’s the hustle and bustle, and it’s the creativity all around you,” he says. Saviano now scouts stylists online, then lets them work as much or as little as they like. (His salon operates on a mix of chair rentals and hairstylists working on commission.)
Tran recalls growing pains from when his team would first show up at a new salon in 2015. “I am lucky that [the owners] would mostly trust the process,” he says of asking to control the music and lighting for the day. “It became like, we’re bringing the vibe.” More similar to a DJ than a traditional hair pro, Tran now has residences in four cities (he’ll travel elsewhere too), where you can book a cut or color — or for a shit ton of money, both — for $550 and up.
What All This Change Means for Your Haircut
After a decade of business, Tran and his cofounder Johnny Ramirez shuttered Ramirez Tran Salon earlier this year. “Big salons are dying in a way,” Tran says, adding that now it’s less about the celebrity colorist’s name on the building and more about the person wielding the foils. You don’t call Famous Stylist’s Fancy Salon because of its caché and ask to see whoever is available. You follow your own favorite beauty pros, both online and from space to space. That may entail pulling up a booking app and scheduling a trim, wherever it may take you. In 2021, 60 million beauty and personal-care reservations were completed using online scheduling software called Square, up 51 percent from 2020. “A fully staffed front desk is a thing of the past,” says Giannina Montanari, CEO of Ninette Hair Studio in Miami. And with it, the essence of having a great salon experience may be dying. When the person with the scissors wants to be famous, “it has ruined that little extra touch where the client is the star,” says Haliti, who believes people still crave a fully staffed front desk, call-for-an-appointment cadence, and a photo-free blowout. Where is that personal touch? [Clients] want to have that energy when they walk in, to have the receptionist or the assistant smile.”