The Saloon seems more like a Queen St. tattoo parlour or vintage shop than the quaint Harbord Street salon that it is. Unlike my usual salon - with its perfectly aligned modern chairs, and an all-in-black cast of snooty coiffeurs - Saloon's atmosphere is refreshingly casual. Mix-and-match vintage barber chairs and 60s vinyl furniture pop against intense purple walls, barbershop checked floors, and gaudy (but good-gaudy) ornate gold trim. There isn't really a "reception area" to speak of, aside from an unattended children's school desk, and I momentarily didn't know where to start. My visit, you should know, wasn't entirely work - I was here for a hair overhaul.
I'm cheating on my stylist (sorry, Lynzee). But for the purposes of this post (and for the sake of my sad excuse for a hair style) I wanted to get the full experience. Plus, I knew that a stylist-client relationship would yield much juicier details. Today, I wasn't a reporter but just another head of hair to absorb salon gossip.
Although I had an awkward millisecond upon entering, salon co-owner (and my hair saviour for the next two hours) Kat Marcus, greeted me with a bubbly "hello" and invited me to take a seat. I was on time, and she was ready for me. This part is always nerve-wracking. I cut my own hair for 10 years, and coloured it with $6 boxed dye, convinced that nobody could possibly get it right but me. I warmed to the idea of putting my locks in the hands of a professional only 3 years ago. Aside from the odd self-administered emergency bang-trim, I haven't gone back.
This was a new stylist, however. I came armed with a Photoshop collage of inspiration. "Oh, I love inspiration!" Marcus exclaimed. I was still on the fence between a Michelle Williams crop with long bangs and a much lighter colour, or a cleaned-up version of my own dark-brown shoulder-length do. We opted to keep it long, and correct the mess I had made with drugstore colouring. Marcus' suggested that I not put too much stress on my hair by going too light. I was in good hands.
Marcus, business partner Daina Schreiber and I chatted for two hours in an otherwise empty salon. Clients came and went, but with only two stylists in a small open space, it's pretty intimate. The duo has been in business in the Ossington and Harbord spot for three years now (although I had never spotted it on frequent bike rides past the location). A steady stream of loyal customers keep them busy and I was lucky to score an appointment so close to the holidays. You're outta luck for a New Year's do, though - they're booked through until the fourth.
Marcus is a peppy blonde ("It's not my natural colour") with a clear passion for hair. I loved that she cared about delivering results I could grow with. We mulled over next-time possibilities (which may or may not include a drastic chop), and laughed about our similar histories of hair-based rebellion. While my colour developed, my almost-namesake Daina and I bonded over an insane love of dogs and hip-hop karaoke while sipping Americanos bought by the upstairs contractor.
There's something so fragile/sacred about my relationship with my hair that the professional resume of a stylist almost takes a back seat to personality. Why is it important for someone wielding scissors over my head to "get" me? Is it a girl thing? While Marcus is an award-winning and media-acclaimed stylist, I was much more impressed with her vibe, enthusiasm and gift of gab. We clicked. I'll be back, and not because I was really happy with my hair (which I was) but because The Saloon is somewhere I want to spend time. Plus, a girl on a budget can't turn down a free bang-trim.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak.