While the national average price for a haircut is $45 according to the Professional Beauty Association, some beauty mavens are willing to shell out big bucks -- like hundreds of dollars -- for a snip of their strands. To find out why, we talked with top stylists, Nick Arrojo, TV personality and owner of Arrojo Studio in New York City and celebrity stylist and owner of his Fifth Avenue namesake salon, John Barrett, who both charge $500 for a cut.
"Hair is an absolute most important accessory," says Barrett. "It's a statement of who we are. If you look at different countries or regions of the world, you will see that people proudly wear their hair differently as a form of self-expression."
It's that self-expression that can lead people to seek out a stylist with a high level of experience, prestige or celebrity status -- in exchange for a hefty price tag.
"I am not going to pretend that we're curing cancer here -- we're not," Barrett continues. "But women come here, perhaps nervous about making a decision on a new direction (length, color, style) and they ask for guidance. Informing that guidance is a wealth of experience -- experience working with the best people in the business for many decades. We're not taking risks at your expense -- we've done it before, and we know if it will or won't work for you. We are also confident when we say, 'No, that's not going to work -- but perhaps this will,'" he says.
It's easy to assume that those paying a pretty penny for their locks are top-name celebrities, but according to Arrojo, that's not necessarily the case. "My clients vary from people who have had a bad haircut with less experienced stylists, to those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to successful high-earners who like to splurge on themselves."
So what exactly does $500 get you at the salon?
In Nick Arrojo's chair, each client gets a consultation about their likes and dislikes, past hair challenges and what they hope and expect from the cut. Beyond that, people are mainly paying for the experience of seeing a world-renowned stylist.
"I would expect anyone charging $500 to have a minimum of ten years at the top of their craft and be able to offer you lots of fresh new ideas, as well as a top-class cut," Arrojo told us. "If you pay $50, it doesn't mean you won't get a great-looking cut, but it does mean the stylist will be less experienced and may not have the same breadth of knowledge, prestige or the same quality of hairdressing technique."
Barrett says his clients get assurance and stability due to his years of experience too. "People don't want to take chances," he explains. "I can spot well-cut and well-colored hair on the street, absolutely -- just as I can spot hair that's not been paid enough attention to or cut in a 'one size fits all' manner," he says.
Barrett also recognizes that the idea of spending $500 on your hair may sound indulgent or excessive at first, but he counters that by looking at those who make major financial commitments for their appearance and well-being every day with shoes, handbags, sunglasses or gym memberships.
After all, people wouldn't pay that much if they didn't feel it was worth it.
"My appointment book is full so I do feel that I'm giving good value for money," says Arrojo, who also agrees that clients dishing out this much dough get what they pay for.
"What's the most you've ever paid for a nice new outfit and how many times have you worn it?" asks Arrojo. "You wear your hair every day so it is worth the investment."
"Look at it like a budget," he says, "If you go to a great hairdresser, you may only need to go twice a year as the cut will grow out beautifully; if you go to lesser stylists, you may end up never happy, bouncing around from stylist to stylist, spending just as much money and a lot more time, without ever getting what you truly want."
And while the economy may have curtailed business for many salons, big spenders are still forking over big bucks for their haircuts -- perhaps just not as often. "Clients who used to visit six times a year may come in three times a year now," says Barrett. "They may be cutting back on quantity, but they still want quality."
Luxury, lavish personal attention, exceptional service and the possibility of getting your hair cut next to a celebrity appeals to a certain clientele. Just ask other top-dollar stylists around the country: Beverly Hills professional, Jose Eber charges $500 for a cut; Frederic Fekkai charges $750 a pop and a cut with Sally Hershberger or Orlando Pita will run you $800.
"From my point of view," Arrojo says, "with the right haircut, you can totally change someone's perspective on their life, how they look and feel. To make the client look and feel terrific is my goal with every appointment."
Tell us what you think! Would you spend $500 or more on a haircut?
If you think that's a lot to dish out, take a look at this woman who spends $47,000 a year on her hair!kk