Buzz jobs, flat tops, hair extensions, color weaving, and sun glitz are all part of the booming hair industry that generates billions of dollars annually throughout the nation.
In North County alone, there are more than 600 beauty salons and barber shops.
"The beauty industry isn't just going into a salon and getting your hair whacked off and blown dry," said Tony Ray, beauty director at the La Costa Health Spa and Resort in Carlsbad. "You don't need a haircut, you need a look," said the 27-year veteran in the business who created what has become known as the "La Costa look."
The look that Ray touts is individualized. If a person looks their best with a short, precision cut, then long, curly hair would be all wrong. And the look doesn't stop at the head, but rather extends to make-up, nails, clothing and accessories.
Today, coordinating hair style with lifestyle is important. The working woman wants a hairdo that goes from bedroom to boardroom in 15 minutes. The male executive wants a clean look that is acceptable in a conservative corporate environment, yet still has pizazz.
Less individual, but equally popular, is the trend to look like someone else--especially a movie or recording star. The younger set wants the M.C. Hammer or Julia Roberts look. And the real young set, said Cece Moore, owner of Kids Kuts salon in Encinitas with a laugh, wants to look like Bart Simpson.
Although the war in the Middle East touches everyone, military influence in North County is particularly strong. The Marine look is not only patriotic these days, but it is the style and attracts people who may never don a uniform.
There is no magic to finding the perfect hairdo or stylist, says Marilyn McDonald, owner of Poway Academy of Beauty. "If you see someone with hair that is in good condition and has a style you like, ask for the name of their stylist."
Although salon advertising is growing, especially in the franchise market, word-of-mouth still remains the top marketing tool.
Today, the typical shop serves a cross-section of customers--male, female, and children from all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
"During the 1960s when the Beatles were popular, guys started going to beauty salons because of their long hair," says Dave Miranda, co-owner of Golden Razor Barber Shop in Escondido. Although barbershops lived through the transition, the era introduced unisex salons.
It is a complex industry that is constantly undergoing change. Over the past decade, the booth rental concept caught on, and some stylists pay a monthly fee to work at a particular shop. Booth rental prices vary, but generally range from $100 to $200 a month. Other shops work on a salary and commission basis. At J.C. Penney's salon, for example, top-producers can supplement paychecks with bonuses or Hawaiian vacations.
Prices to the consumer are as varied as the salons and services they offer.
For instance, a haircut at one salon may be $9.95 and at another $36. But the cheaper cut may not include a wash and blow dry. Prices for children jump around according to the child's age--a cut for an 11-year-old might be $14, and one for a 3-year-old $10.
When you get into the big-ticket procedures--such as perms and hair bleaching or tinting--the price is determined by the brand of the products used as well as the skill of the stylist. If you are cost-conscious and don't want to be surprised when the primping is finished, it's advisable to ask first.
Salons have different personalities. "When I have my hair done, I feel like it's my time," says Mary Jo Becker of Oceanside. "I probably wouldn't follow my hairdresser if I didn't like the atmosphere or people at the salon."
According to experts in the hair industry, salons nowadays fall into six general categories: full service; children's specialty; department store; budget franchise; barbershop and neighborhood establishment. The following six North County salons were selected to illustrate each category.
La Costa Health Spa & Resort is well-known for its posh facilities that attract people from all over the world. What many locals do not know, however, is that the beauty salon is open to outsiders--non-guests of the spa.
Wanting to attract people in the community, Ray, the beauty director, says the salon offers its neighbors a 25% discount on most services.
"You can come in the morning between 8 and 1 and have a manicure for $16.20," says Ray. "There is a 15% gratuity added, so you don't have to tip if you don't wish to."
Full service at La Costa focuses not only on what the salon offers, but more importantly on how it's delivered.
"Service, that's what the '90s is going to be," said Ray. "You pay for the service and the knowledge that what you get is the very best."
Designed by Ray, the shop showcases the best at La Costa. A color scheme of soft peach and pale gray provides a relaxing atmosphere. A well-designed air-conditioning system vents odors in the so-called chemical room where color is mixed and applied.