Great Hair Day with Leandra Medine
Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine Cohen pays a visit to the newly renovated Salon at Bergdorf Goodman.
I am the least likely candidate for a radical haircut experience. I have effectively worn my hair the same way since it was long enough to wear down and parted in the middle. Only twice have I ever embarked on the adventure of a drastic haircut and, both times, my relentless pursuit of control led me to steer the ship clear of these changes. When I was a senior in high school, I cut my own bangs and ended up with, essentially, a mushroom cut layered over breast-length locks around 180 degrees of the front of my head. In 2012, about six months after I got married, I cut those same long locks, no longer festooned by the aforementioned mushroom, into some angles to the front and call it a look. I wanted to marry him for getting me so quickly—but we just shook on it; I by nodding in agreement, he by instructing me to stand up. Perhaps I was too distracted by the sparseness of the space—the way in which The Salon sort of looks like a spa with no products out on the rows of vanities that populate the space—to acknowledge what was happening. Hair poofy as ever and probably oilier than usual, he pulled out his scissors and started to cut. Was it happening right now—dry and freshly brushed? He barely even knew me! I could feel the weight falling off my head. I wondered how a bob. I meant to approximate Daria Werbowy’s cut (those wavy strands of hair that flirted with her collarbones incurred too irresistible an urge to sup- press), but accidentally chopped one side to chin length and thus had to even out the other side, rendering me a more accurate contender for the role of my mother’s fourth son.
When I am asked what I would do to my hair if I could do anything, I answer that I can do anything, and have elected to wear it as-is, thank-you-very-much. It is with this in mind that I took an elevator up to the Ninth Floor of Bergdorf Goodman, resisting the temptation of getting lost in the shoe department, where I was met by a reception desk at The Salon, boasting tons of abundant light even through the gloom of a soggy Monday afternoon from the giant windows against the back wall.
After being offered and subsequently declining a glass of Champagne in favor of sparkling water (which arrived with a paper straw, I’ll have you know), Herve, the stylist who would dress my head asked the inevitable: “What should we do with your hair?” I knew the answer—I had not cut my hair since my daughters were born 14—yes, 14—months earlier. It was lifeless, expired, dead, caput. I wanted it to look alive. Not distinctly different, but alive. Enough of a snip that my ends didn’t look so, as my husband likes to put it, “poofy,” but not too much that I might be mistaken for the subject of a drastic haircut. Couple that with some front layers—just enough to add body, as they say, et voilà. Done. I just wanted to look like me, but better, so you can imagine the relief that over- came me—the kind where my butt cheeks unclenched—when, instead of telling this to Herve, I asked him what he thought we should do.
Herve recommended that we cut a little from the bottom, add some angles to the front and call it a look. I wanted to marry him for getting me so quickly—but we just shook on it; I by nodding in agreement, he by instructing me to stand up.
Perhaps I was too distracted by the sparseness of the space—the way in which The Salon sort of looks like a spa with no products out on the rows of vanities that populate the space—to acknowledge what was happening. Hair poofy as ever and probably oilier than usual, he pulled out his scissors and started to cut. Was it happening right now—dry and freshly brushed? He barely even knew me! I could feel the weight falling off my head. I wondered how many memories were disembarking from my person but pulled myself together before I could turn this into a dramatic personal essay. Your hair, especially its dead ends, do not define you, I reminded myself. And it was two inches for heaven’s sake! I checked the floor. Those dejected ends looked like paltry dust bunnies.
After about four rounds of trims— down the back of my head and then in the front to create angles around my jawline, I was sent to the sink.
I sat in that chair and rested my head back, luxuriating in the feeling of warm water running down my head. If I’d been asked whether I wanted a third, or fifty-third wash, I’d have probably said “yes.” But alas, I was escorted away after a second wash to be replaced at Herve’s vanity, where, in 25 minutes flat, he produced the kind of blowout that lives squarely within the tension of a confusing directive like, “Make it look messy, but put-together.” I wanted to explain that there are very particular ways to blowdry my hair—that if you don’t blow it down (that is, over the top of my head instead of under the hair), I’ll end up
looking like a hammerhead. That if you try to curl the bottoms, they’ll revolt. But he was essentially done before I could impose a single instruction. Very few people actually get the tension right—it’s like asking for raw food, “but super hot, please!” You know the contrast—effortless, but not indicating an actual lack of effort. Not contrived, not unfamiliar—just you, but better.
Me, but better.
That’s how I felt when he was finished. Like I could trust him—I mean really trust him.
Maybe I could have stretched a bit further, prodded, relinquished control, asked if he wanted to do something drastic. Radical! Bangs, or a bob. Maybe next time.