One of the most exciting – and scariest! – parts of moving to a new city is figuring out all your “people.” By “people,” I mean services like a tailor, a dry cleaner, a mechanic, a nail salon and, most crucially for girls, a hair stylist. Word of mouth can definitely be good, although with things like tailors and hair salons I find personal preference can vary widely (plus I still hardly know anyone in my immediate neighborhood, so word of mouth went out the window).
Usually I rely on a combination of extensive research on Yelp, walking around to see for myself how nice/sketchy a place looks, and recommendations from websites like Daily Candy. Of course there are bound to be some duds – maybe a particular stylist left, or prices got jacked up, or new management took over – but generally this formula has worked for me.
Unfortunately, there’s no Yelp and no Daily Candy here. I’m a pretty exhaustive researcher, and the best I could come up with was this Vogue Australia forum, which stretches back four years over 17 pages. Naturally I read all 17 pages, and came away with a few leads on local places, though of course half these salons don’t even have websites, and those that do offer little more than a phone number and street address. Thanks guys, that’s really helpful! Don’t worry about telling me prices, or what your salon looks like, or your stylists’ background, I’ll figure that out on my own. Ugh.
After combing the forum (ha! no pun intended) I settled upon Element Hair Salon in Woollahra. But then I went to their website and was so annoyed by its lack of useful information that, combined with the fact that it’s about a 25 minute walk away (still not too keen on driving), I uncharacteristically decided that I’d just go somewhere up the street instead. Both my parents and my husband are probably laughing at that, because I rarely settle for a hair stylist who’s affordable and convenient. Of course, we live on the edge of Darlinghurst, which is considered one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Sydney and is also the heart of its gay community, so it’s not like there’s a dearth of hair places here, I just had very little information on any of them.
Every day when I walk up Victoria Street to go to the gym, I pass by this one little salon, Mu, that’s wedged in between two of the street’s many cafes. Seriously, they only have like half a doorway! I find this kind of cute and intriguing, and although the place is small, it’s chic in a minimalist sort of way, and nearly every time I walk by I seem to notice fashionable-looking people with great hair. So, in spite of their lackluster website, I called them up on a whim, got a price quote for a haircut, and made an appointment for the following day. When I informed the hubs, all he cared about was that it would cost half of what I paid in New York. (What can I say? Brandon at Frederic Fekkai is totally worth it. Funnily enough at my last haircut with him it transpired that he also cuts the hair of my husband’s co-worker who went to their firm’s Melbourne office when we came to Sydney. Of all the thousands of stylists in New York, it’s pretty crazy we went to the same one, no?)
So anyway, I arrived for my haircut with Amanda, who seeemed to be very Australian hipster with bleached blonde hair, sparkly black leggings, a cute vest, and cool accessories. That’s kind of the Victoria Street uniform. She was finishing up on another customer, but the salon’s owner (I think his full name is Maurice but Amanda called him Mu, hence the salon name) put down his sandwich and greeted me in a bubbly manner. During my appointment he discussed his excitement for an upcoming Liza Minelli concert (and what he would wear to said concert), and came over to offer his thoughts on Lady Gaga (“She’s just out there, doesn’t care what anyone thinks. But where are her pants?!”) when her picture appeared in a magazine I was reading. I LOVE that hair stylists are apparently the earth’s great constant, no matter where you are. I take great comfort in that, for some reason.
Amanda was a bit quieter but also super-friendly, chatting with me about local stuff and asking lots of questions about New York. Apparently she used to cut Hugh Jackman’s hair (and that of his wife) until they moved to NYC (apparently they love it there and she never wants to come back). This seemed like a very cool, unexpected tidbit, though I wonder if everyone just tosses out Aussie celebrity names to Americans figuring that’s all it takes to impress us. Is that too cyncial of me? (Not to say that I wasn’t impressed…)
Either way, Amanda did a great job. I’m happy with my haircut and the salon experience was very pleasant. They even brought me free coffee from the ever-popular Bar Coluzzi next door. They brought another woman a sandwich! I will confidently return to Mu next time I need my hair done, though if anyone out there has other recs for great “people,” please be sure to leave them in the comments. My next – and far more daunting- search is for a great waxer. I’ve got this list from Gridskipper Sydney as a starting point, but I’m yet to fnd anyone the world over who holds a candle to Carrie Maxwell at Habit in San Francisco. The quest continues…