Breaking up with your hair stylist can be hard to do. Think about all those hours he spent listening to you bitch about your boyfriend not appreciating you the way he should, or how she took your side as you complained about your messy roommate and irritating co-workers. But sometimes the day comes when that spark isn’t there anymore, when the haircuts become routine and monotonous and you either make up a lame excuse — “I decided to grow my hair out” — or you just stop calling for new appointments. You’re not just in the mood for a different haircut, you want a fresh perspective on your appearance.
Personally, I’m sort of a salon desperado. I’ve broken up with lots of stylists and have had a few memorable one-cut stands along the way. So if you’re tired of your old hairdresser or just moved across town and aren’t sure where to go, take advantage of the snipping around I did recently with some of the city’s best stylists.
Gamine Silver Lake
Julie and Ezra
Okay, I’m in love. I tend to play the haircutting field, but this time I really mean it. I fell in love with the cute Silver Lake salon next to Pho Caféon Sunset (No. 17 noodles while my color sets in? Sweet). It opened up a few months ago when owner Julie Rosenberg moved her shop east, after feeling like a change herself. She had built a small empire of steady clients over the 10 years at her previous Gamine incarnation off Fairfax Avenue close to the trendy Spanish Kitchen in West Hollywood. But her eastward migration wasn’t as easy as she thought it was going to be. She lost a quarter of her clients after the move, and construction on Gamine Silver Lake went 12 months over its projected completion date — it was designed by architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena, who also designed Pho and the art gallery Blum & Poe. But the superclean look, modeled after 2001: A Space Odyssey, is supercool.
Rosenberg, who has stunning red ringlets, takes me to the back to wash my hair in an Italian-made sink that is the most comfortable thing that will ever cradle your neck in a salon. Next, I sit in an elegant white leather chair where Rosenberg cuts my hair and tells me about her other stylist, Ezra Black, who is gaining a big following. I know at least three people who are devoted to Black.
“Ezra is going to be a star,” Rosenberg says as I watch Black work — she’s totally stylish, wearing a gossamer dress that looks like it’s made of moth wings. “You’re gonna be hearing a lot more about her.”
Because of Rosenberg’s close to 25 years of experience in the business, she charges $150 and up for a cut. But to fit in with the price point of the neighborhood, she hired Black, who charges just $60 for a haircut — at least that’s her fee right now.
An hour later, Rosenberg is done with me, and I have a new, short, choppy, wedge-y shag that I don’t need to blow dry. I love it. I’m sensing that this might be the beginning of a beautiful relationship — oh, the haircuts we’ll do, the colors we’ll see.
And on my way home, someone at the gas station asks me for my hairstylist’s number. 2845 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (213) 413-8808; Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; haircuts by Julie $150 and up, Ezra $60.
Umberto Beverly Hills
Umberto gave me one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had — and I’ve had a lot of haircuts. The salon itself feels more like a department store — two levels, with more than 50 hairstylist stations, aisles of hair-care products and hair accessories, a makeup wing, and even a jewelry counter and café. But Umberto, in his 60s, distinguished and handsome — and George Clooney charming — takes his time with you. First, he asks you about your lifestyle — are you the type to take your blow dryer on a camping trip or are you wash-and-go? He asks what you do for a living and kind of gets your vibe. He makes a suggestion or two. Then he approaches the haircut like a sculptor, making decisive, crucial snips with his scissors. He carved my shapeless mane into a deceivingly thick-looking and very un–Beverly Hills collarbone-length shag. Suddenly, I had versatile, easy hair. I dream about getting my hair cut by him again. There is totally something to be said for experience. 416 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6395; Tues.-Wed. & Fri.-Sat., 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thurs., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.;haircuts by Umberto $150.
Missy Elliot, Halle Berry and Tyra Banks come in through a separate entrance at Sessions, where heavy velvet drapes are drawn around certain styling stations to give high-profile clients a little privacy. Why are they making the drive to Pasadena? Sessions, according to stylist Alexis, specializes in accommodating ethnic clients who might want processes like weaving or relaxing. A friend told me that his Iranian girlfriend and all of her pals are hooked — they’ve finally found someone who understands their hair. And the salon itself is lovely — the red brick walls and vaulted ceilings give the place a swanky loft feel. Alexis begins every session with a scalp massage (nice touch!) and a deep-conditioning shampoo. She schools me in lots of different stuff, from hair care to styling tips, before I walk out with an angled bob with fringe — Alexis doesn’t call them bangs. Sadly, I fear the I-5 will ultimately keep Alexis and me apart.112 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena, (626) 795-8856; Tues., noon-6 p.m.; Wed., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thurs., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; haircuts by Alexis $100.
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You could call Martina Herrer an old love of mine. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, has a sexy German accent and was my first hairdresser when I moved from New York to L.A. She’s an amazing stylist. I stayed with Herrer for years and even got her to make house calls a few times when I moved to Santa Monica and didn’t have a car. She also played matchmaker on occasion by scheduling appointments that just happened to overlap with one of her eligible clients (with her looks, she attracts a large male following). I trust her suggestions in all things. Now she’s manager of Clark Nova, the retro salon with old-fashioned, wrought-iron barber chairs, all the best magazines and a rotating art gallery on the walls. Maybe it’s time to rekindle an old relationship. 8118½ W. Third. St., W. Hlywd., (323) 655-1100; Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; haircuts by Martina $75. Right now you can get a 20-percent-off first-time coupon on the salon Web site, www.clarknova.la.
If it’s your first time, you can get a $20 introductory haircut at Trim (though you’ll cough up 20 more bucks for a blow dry). I went to Dina, who wasn’t very friendly but gave me a cool, hipcut. The space is what you’d expect from a salon on Abbot Kinney — clean, laid-back and beachy. The staff is young and well versed in the haircut of the moment, but there seems to be a high turnover. Trim used to be the place to go for hair extensions, but nobody gets those anymore, right? Anyway, you can get a decent cut for not a lot of money, and they have wine and beer. 1424 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-3330; Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; first-time haircut $20.