"Come Into My Parlor"
. . . says men's hair stylist valerie lane, "and let me run my fingers and some scissors through your hair."
"Just a trim, please. A little off the top, and leave the sides full." "OK," says the barber as he turns on his clippers -- and proceeds to give you white sidewalls. It's happened to almost all men at one time or another -- not so often, perhaps, since the transformation of barbershops into "men's hair-styling" salons, but the prospect of hair spray and Hot Combs can still make a man a mite uneasy when he climbs into that revolving chair. It's not that way, fortunately, at Mr. Ron's in Newport Beach, California, where Valerie Lane is ready and able to reassure all her nervous customers. "When I first started my job, I couldn't believe how uptight most guys were when they walked in. Usually, they were carrying some wadded-up picture showing a great-looking guy with this tremendous head of hair, and they'd say, 'I want my hair to look like this.' Well, that's fine, except they might have four hairs on their head, and they expect me to make them look like the guy in the picture. But I can identify with their apprehension. I was always scared to death to get my hair done for fear of what some beauty operator would do to it." Keeping in mind that the customer is always right, Valerie handles these situations delicately. "I try to explain to guys that all faces aren't structured the same way and suggest ways to style their hair so it'll look good for them. I mean, if someone with a really round face comes in, chances are he'll ask for a hair style that's flat on the sides and full on top, thinking that'll make his face look longer. Actually, that would just make his face look fatter. I have to tell him that the sides should be full, so his face will be better proportioned." Valerie has been styling men's hair since she was graduated from high school in Long Beach. "I didn't want to go to college," she explains, "and I wanted to make some money right away. At first I thought about going to beauty school, but a guy I was dating at the time kind of jokingly suggested that I become a men's hair stylist instead. 'Hey,' I said, 'that's not a bad idea.' It sounded kind of fun, and there weren't many women doing it, so the unique aspect of the work appealed to me. I took a styling course and started. Mr. Ron's is the only place I've worked." But that's not where she plans to stay. 'Eventually, I'd like to open my own shop," says Valerie. "In fact, I'd like to open a couple of them, and I sometimes fantasize that if they were successful enough, I'd have other people run and staff them. That way I'd have to work in the shop only a few days a week. That would be ideal." Perhaps for her, but it's certainly not the way a whole lot of customers would prefer it.
Photography by Bill Figge, Mel Figge