Like most of the population reared in the 1980s, I suffered through countless perms, inhaled gallons of Aqua-Net and worshipped the daring ‘dos of Molly Ringwald.
There was a period in the ‘80s where I styled my hair with L.A. Looks gel mixed with blue Rit dye. Also, in the same decade I did my own “razored bangs” with a Daisy shaver (a la Jessica Lange in Crimes of the Heart).
By the ‘90s, I was operating under the theory that rolling in beach sand absorbed excess oil, relieving me of the need for shampoo. Perhaps most embarrassingly, I let my hair grow untamed but for infrequent visits to a cheap hair chain, where a less-than-inspired stylist hacked off the split ends in under five minutes. Still, doing the math, she earned a dollar a minute for her trouble. Plus tip.
And then, sometime around the new millennium, it all changed. The way some women wake to the insistent ticking of their biological clocks, I realized an urgent and desperate need for professional hair salons. I needed stylists with first-name-only names, and preferably celebrity clientele. That’s right, I require a stylist to the stars. Is this because I’m a legend in my own mind? Perhaps. More likely, it’s because I like to gossip about such weighty topics as Reese Witherspoon’s unfortunate bangs, and Sisely Treasure’s completely awesome rocker shag. The stylists at the cheap chains simply don’t have time to care.
I also like to leave a salon most of a day’s pay lighter and more than an hour later knowing I have hair that others envy. If only for the time it takes me to walk to my car and then ruin the ‘do by driving home with my windows down.
Asheville and the surrounding area, happily, boast a wealth of talented stylists, and I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of testing their wares. Here are a few of my favorites:
• Larry at Ananda Hair Studio (22 Broadway St., Asheville, 232-1017). I met Larry when he first moved to Asheville and was working for an overly-decorated Salon on Pack Square called something like “The Zebra Stripe.” Larry relocated to Asheville from Texas where, at one point, he was Stevie Ray Vaughn’s stylist. Since moving to North Carolina, he’s opened spacious, light-filled Ananda on Broadway (note that the mirror frames are his own design) and also operated the salon at the Grove Park Inn Spa for a time.
• Amanda at Studio Chavarria (84 Walnut St., Asheville, 236-9191). I happened onto Amanda at a different salon more than a year ago. I needed a trim, she had an opening. I showed her a picture of Kelli Ripa’s layered cut and said “I want that,” and Amanda didn’t laugh. She’s kind of like the best friend you wish you had in high school, plus she can do highlights. Your best friend in high school probably couldn’t do highlights. Your hair probably suffered through a period of streaks and leopard spots as a result.
• Gregory at West 1 Salon (43 1/2 Broadway St., Asheville, 254-5633). From a professional (if slightly mysterious) background, both Gregory and his salon seem to specialize in sleek, modern minimalism. Gregory mentioned he’d worked on high-profile fashion shoots before moving to Asheville. This slipped out while he was styling America’s Next Top Model contestant Kathy Hoxit’s hair during an Xpress shoot. Add to that, his low-key style, his great accent and the fact that his wife, Paige, always has the best hair cuts. Gregory is a stylist worth seeking out.
• Blu at Jonathan Salon (100 Daniel Drive, Hendersonville, 582-7033). My most recent find, Blu, is an expert colorist and can boast an impressive celebrity clientele. Getting a style at Jonathan Salon is a bit like stepping into a campier version of Steel Magnolias, complete with small-town gossip and plenty of laughs. Blu has endless tricks up his sleeve that he’s willing to share (he can tame curls with gel and a pillow case; he can recreate 1920s waves with a wooden dowel and tin foil), and focuses much of his talent on helping charitable causes.
If you have a favorite stylist, tell us about him or her here.
—Alli Marshall, fashion editor
Photos from Studio Chavarria.