Greg May Hair Architects
Greg May Hair Architects is squirreled away on the second floor of a Yorkville Victorian, and as soon as I walk in, I'm greeted by a wave of warmth from owner, Greg May. While his address suggests that he caters to Toronto's high-end luminaries, May is happy to welcome anyone through lower prices than you'd expect, and an array of freebie extras. Dark wood floors are accented by bright white walls and black-framed mirrors, but May's storage cabinet is a Husky--that is, the very brand used by mechanics. The brightly-lit, monochromatic salon has lent its services to the Toronto Film Festival for years, as well as the Junos.
One thing is immediately evident: May is serious about his work. He speaks with joyous intensity about haircuts--he's known for his textured version of a graduated bob--his past professional incarnations as a martial arts practitioner, a close call with the police academy, and his corporate years embroiled with hairstyling tenet, Vidal Sassoon. He's brought Sassoon's graphic sensibilities to his own work, drawing on its stark minimalism, while marrying it with Japanese haircutting techniques and tools that aren't often seen in Toronto. The final touch is his love of models--he shows me an old, River Phoenix-esque portrait of himself as he coyly admits that the Victoria's Secret catalogue is his "Bible."
Although May's services will cost you a pretty $175 ($125 for men), that's well below the neighbourhood high-rollers that ring it at $200 and up. His junior stylists are available for a more modest $60-$90 for women, $45-$65, and while they may not have the cache of a 20-year veteran, May eagerly endorses their talents. All of the hairstylists also do their own color, dubbed "colour-cutting," to create a holistic look, and it'll cost you between $65-$100 for solid color or $200 for a full head of highlights from May himself. There are no aestheticians on site, but May is happy to refer his clients to trusted beauty bars in the area, or even to next door's nail salon.
May is also dead-set on creating a full experience for his clients, from the offer of espresso-based drinks upon entry, to the dark chocolate tidbits on your way out, and the included offers of sushi from next door. May mentions that couples often have the hair-cutting equivalent of date night, replete with dinner served on silver trays and complimentary wine after-hours. May also offers fringe touch-ups, L'Oreal Powerdose treatments and scalp massages on the house.
Greg May provides his eponymous line of products in-store and online, and his formula was culled from years of working with other top lines such as Paul Mitchell and Sebastian. The line features the usual suspects--from heat styling protectors, to dry shampoos, to a much-touted sea salt hair spray--each circling the $20 mark, and it's worth mentioning that they smell fantastic.
Hair and its style is a personal thing. May talks his clients through his process, and discusses where his scissors are headed next before cutting. For someone whose work has graced magazine pages for decades, May is consummately down-to-earth. As a long-time hair model, I've seen reactions from both sides of the scissors run the gamut from tears to pure rage. As he cuts the hair of his client, I watch her shoulders--they're relaxed and easy, a telltale sign of pure trust. And at the end of the day, that's who you want handling your locks.
Photos by Jesse Milns