How to find a good hairdresser – Kevin Murphy’s Salon Tactics

Kevin Murphy shares some interesting opinions in how to find a good hairdresser in this interview by Natalie Reilly. My friend alerted me to this article that appeared in the Sunday paper in Sydney and is online here.

Paper cut salon by Chadou Yama

Here are Kevin Murphy’s salon tactics:

  • If you can book into a salon in less than a week, you should be concerned. Says hair stylist Kevin Murphy, “The best hairdressers are booked out for about a month or so in advance.”
  • The person who colours your hair should not be the person who cuts it. “I don’t even colour hair because I’m not an expert,” he says.
  • Choose a hairdresser who has similar hair to you. “Stylists with long hair understand long hair and won’t cut it, but short likes short and straight doesn’t always understand curly.”
  • Further, choose a stylist who looks a bit like you. “If they have their hair styled in the same way and have the same length or facial features, they are going to have the same aesthetic as you.”
  • If you can’t find one who looks like you, choose a man. “I don’t want to sound sexist, but … [men] either want the woman to look hot or, if they’re gay, they want to look like the woman.”
  • Consult. Consult. Consult. “Consult properly with [your stylist] before you have your hair done,” says Kevin. “If it’s obvious they’re not listening to you, pretend you have another place to be and leave!”
  • Bring a photo. It’s a little quaint but it still does the trick. “I know it sounds daggy, but bringing a photo of a celebrity or another person’s style to show what you want is actually a great idea.”

I agree with Kevin about the consultation being extremely important. You can set expectations for what you want, and your stylist can explain what can be achieved.

Hairdressers are visual people – bringing a photo is often helpful as it’s impossible to describe colour in words.

I feel his tips are aimed at high end city salons however, and may not be relevant to smaller, regional salons.

What do you think of Kevin Murphy’s salon tactics? How did you find your hairdresser? Do you think men cut women’s hair better?

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  1. Stacy says

    I have never had a man cut my hair, actually. I usually call and get whomever is available, but lately I have gone to one gal that I like. My hair is pretty easy to cut…straight across the bottom. I used to have layers, but I really just like my easy haircut that I've had. I am getting better at actually planning ahead and calling after some bad experiences in getting my hair combed out. Yanking and pulling and pure torture. One girl even had long hair, so you would think she would have understood how to comb it out without causing pain. Never went to her again.

  2. Meg Day says

    I think this is great! I am currently in Cosmetology school and i think these tips are great for me because i can use what the client is looking for in me. Since I am just about to graduate i definitely don't have a full book, but the instructors at school tell us not to accept a position in a salon that isn't already booming with people, so its the same idea. Although most people i know don't have different stylists for color and cuts but who knows, I live in New Hampshire, Not

  3. Haute_Style says

    As terrible as it sounds- I really do prefer men cutting my hair. BUT females do a better job colouring it!
    Get post!

  4. Melody says

    I've never had a man cut my hair. I live in a rather rural area, so the idea that ANY salon would be booked a month out is a little amusing.

    A couple week would be tops to get the stylist I want.

    I do agree about stylists who have short hair always wanting to the cut the hair off, but I also don't know any stylists with long hair.

    Too bad there's not much variety out here. And that I don't have the budget to go have my hair done in Chicago :)

  5. Anonymous says

    I've gone to a few different women and one man. None of the women really knew how to cut my hair, especially since they all tend to like the straight look and I have wavy-bordering-on-curly hair and don't like straightening it (plus the straight look makes me look bigger than I am).

    And while the man likes to blow it out in a semi-80's style he is the best one I've been to so far. He understands what I am looking for and tries his best. He's the only one who hasn't done my eyebrows pencil thin. AND he keeps his curtains closed because he understands that getting your hair done is a pretty intimate experience for a woman because you are transforming yourself, even if it is from slightly unkempt to freshly cut and not a wow factor.

    My grandma went to him then my mom and now me. But I definately must live in a smaller town because the most that anyone is booked out is a couple weeks, not a month. AND I've never heard of someone who specializes in cuts vs color around here. I'd say that the tips are good guidleines. Definately take into account where you live.

    Oh, and pictures tend to help with color around here but not style. Usually you need a few angles if you are bringing a picture as cut inspiration.

  6. Clare says

    Part of the reason I love my hairdresser is because I can ring up on a Monday and get an appointment that Saturday. I can't plan my hair cuts too far in advance. I find I make other plans and forget I'm supposed to getting my hairs did. 😉

  7. Cait says

    i'm going to leave the whole "not the same person to cut who colors" and the appointment thing alone, because others have explored it ho don't live in major cities (the ONLY place that happens btw). There are also many reasons why someone would prefer a female or male hairdresser, some more valid than others. What really gets me is that this discounts the individual so wholly as to ignore the stylists artistry. i am an artist who does work commercially and i often have to appeal to a wide variety of clients. if someone assumed that i could only design to my own aesthetic i would be deeply offended, as well should the stylists who read this. i have had three fantastic (women)stylists in my lifetime (some in major cities who can cut and color with the best of them) all have short curly hair. this has never stopped them from providing me (the straight long haired client) with anything less than a great cut and color. To assume that a trained professional cannot step outside the box of their own personal experience and is offensive and self absorbed. i know, this is a hair blog but c'mon. mr. murphy, i think that your world view s rather narrow.

    • Mary says

      Here, here! I was appalled to read this article. I have heard similar comments from the guests at the salon where I work, and this ignorance is wide-spread! We have people that hang up when I tell them we have no male stylists, we have people simply walk in and look a the appearance of the girls and “pick” which one they want based on appearances, and the old “she’s good if she wears high heels” gag has got to be the worst one!

  8. mostly Stacy says

    lots of things on the checklist seem to be describing the hairdresser that is being interviewed. As a hairstylist myself I know that hairstylists generally have ego's and you need one because you constantly have to sell yourself. But his ideas seem quite unrealistic for the average Jane and a little Narrow. Really?? "I don't want to sound sexist but… choose a man." I've known plenty of great male hairdressers and an equal number of terrible ones. The same goes for women.
    I tell clients that move out of state and need to find someone new to ask people around them. If you see someone wearing a cut you love, ask them who does their hair.
    I agree that if the stylist does not seem to be listening to you… bail.
    Find someone that seems to love what they do. They will always be more creative and more attentive, and in general a better hairstylist… even if they cut AND color hair.
    The no brainer is to never go somewhere that is a chop shop chain salon. Even if you get a stylist that has some talent and ability, they only have 15 minutes to finish a cut and it's just not possible to achieve anything wearable in 15 minutes.

    love your blog BTW

  9. Ling says

    I kinda agree and disagree with some points. But then again, who am I to say? I have bad hair days everyday 😛

  10. Anonymous says

    This guy is an idiot and has completely made a fool of himself by stating these comments. I am a hairdresser of 15yrs have been a state educator for L'Oreal specializing in colour and global brand Ghd where i worked with some of the best hairdressers in the world cutting and styling. I have had long hair short hair blonde hair and black hair so where would i sit in this? I think this is a complete generalization of the industry and its artists. My opinion is if you only do hair you should know everything about hair. I believe you should know how to colour and cut as they are supposed to work in sync, if i was an artist painting i would not start a project and get someone to finish it! I have just opened a salon in Sydney and while i am not booked out i am working really long hours to accommodate my clients needs. I thought it would be interesting to see how the availability would be at his salon so i called and was pleasantly surprised to see i had many options within the week, yes that's right the week. I had met Mr Murphy once before and thought he was a jerk, this proves me right. He was probably a good hairdresser in the 80's but has obviously lost touch now.

    • Veronica Greene says

      Seriously Kevin Murphy? I’m appalled by this list. One for the fail. Yes you are indeed sexist. You’ve lost my respect permanently.
      15 year highly educated hair veteran. Award winner and motivational speaker. This list is bogus. I can’t even believe its real. Consult and photo, alright but everything else is just completely irrational.

  11. ren says

    I am no "ëxpert", just an average consumer, but this interview makes Mr Murphy sound…DUH! Please remove yourself from this clound you are on and live in the real world with us mortals. I know the Kevin Murphy name and respected it, but having heard these opinions, i think my respect is a little displaced.

  12. Jordan Rae says

    Ha, reading this post and these comments are so interesting.
    I am a hairstylist who went to a school and worked in a salon where they were thought to be "high end"

    AND might i add… i live in Oklahoma City. not exactly the fashion meca of the world.

    But I think his points are good because he sets goals for himself, and has high standards. I would love to be booked out for a month, but there are so many stylists and everyone does need to find someone that works for them.

    I also understand the cut/color situation, but i enjoy both and won't give one up, even if I love cutting more.

    And i love his products.

  13. me says

    Unfortunately I have to agree about men stylists. Every women I’v ever had cuts my hair way too short. If I say I want it shoulder length it ends up around my eyes. And they argue with me about wanting to keep it longer even though it looks better on me.

  14. Artist says

    I do agree with the anonymous this Kevin Murphy is an idiot how are you going to find a hairdresser that has same hair as you and same face features as you. As a hairdresser we change our hair all the time a different make up makes our face shape look different as well and all those hairdressers who claims they are booked a month in advance they most likely work only couple days a week and if your a client looking for a hairdresser I don’t think is a very good idea to find a hairdresser that your not able to see them with in a week a specially with today’s women they all work and live very busy life style they can’t plan their hair appointment months in advance. Kevin Murphy your an idiot.

    • Matthew says

      Also…finding someone who has the same hair as you is rather idiotic. They dont do their own hair. Someone else does their cut, and their color.

  15. annie says

    I have never had a good hair cut. I have baby fine hair and I just wish that one day I would find a hair dresser who has an artistic sense of making a person look better with the way the hair is cut/coloured. Balance the cut/colour like an artist to suit my face/head shape. Not just giving me the same old cut/colour that everyone gets. It is soooo hard to make them understand. I always end up with over-processed, dry, horrible looking hair – usually it looked better before they started! I don’t know!

    • Hair Romance says

      Oh no Annie! Maybe ask your friends (or a good looking stranger) where they get their hair done. Recommendations are the best way to find a new hairdresser

  16. says

    Trevor Sorbie who is one of the best hairdressers of our time has been bald most of his adult life! does that make him a crap hairdresser? The ultimate test of a good hairdresser is how busy they are. And to do this you must attract and retain clients at the highest possible price. High prices pay for best quality training and well motivated and highly paid stylists. As for finding a good hairdresser – look around us. TV, magazines, the media etc all show us what ‘good’ is don’t they? When you see a great looking cut and colour just go straight up to them and ask! It will make their day and eventually make yours too. By the way – I’m a salon owner and stylist of over 30 years and run a team of 35 stylists. I love this industry and love caring and making people happy. If you have those 2 attributes then the rest just falls into place. Kevin – respect to you but I think you need to get out more – clients do cancel appointments at the last minute. I think it’s naive to believe even best stylists in the world don’t have the occasional free appointment. :) (rant over)

  17. says

    He’s left out the best tactic! If you see someone in the street or somewhere with a really great haircut, stop them and ask where they went and who did it. I asked a woman in my Pilates
    class and have never been more delighted with the result!

  18. Matthew says

    This is actually ridiculous. Heres how you find the best hairdresser.
    Step 1. Go in…consult with one of the stylists there. show up a bit early so you can hopefully see their work. or go with someone a friend has suggested. See how you click.
    step 2. Book in for your haircut.

    Whether your stylist has a vagina or a penis is completely absurd.

    Source:Me, a male hairdresser that can guarantee my Penis is not involved in your service at any time.

  19. Jack White says

    When you said that people with your same hair will understand better, it was like a light went off in my head because I just noticed that people with shorter were the best with my hair. The last lady that cuts my hair had short hair and she was awesome! Thanks for helping me figure out this interesting phenomenon. Now I know to request the short haired people.

  20. Hair Romance says

    He sounds fantastic! Love when you have that relationship with your hairdresser. Your hair sounds gorgeous too x

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