Earlier this summer, I sat down with the owner of two busy Toronto-based salons to chat about the meaning of hair and how it relates to our identity. As an empowerment magazine for women, we thought this would be a great opportunity to dive into the topic and perhaps find out: “what your current hairstyle says about you?”
I discovered Sylvie Prud’homme and The Loft Urban Salon Toronto last fall while scrolling through my Instagram page. At the time I was searching for a new stylist who could give me a fresh cut. Sylvie’s feed was filled with gorgeous, sassy and youthful styles — exactly what I wanted as I approach the big 4-0. It was obvious to me that she had a unique method to cutting hair. And based on her Instagram following (https://www.instagram.com/thelofttoronto), she’s definitely doing something right. I knew I had to meet this woman to find out if she could give me what I was looking for. Needless to say, I booked an appointment ASAP.
Now, less than a year later, I couldn’t be happier. In fact, I told Sylvie she was the best thing that happened in 2017! Although half of me was joking, there was a lot of truth behind that statement. You simply can’t underestimate the power of an amazing hair stylist. Like a life partner, once you find the right one, you hold on tight.
Our attachment to hair
I had the privilege of chatting with Sylvie on a Monday morning at a cute neighbourhood coffee shop. I wanted to learn more about her views on hair and the role it plays in shaping who we are.
This topic is especially timely for me as I recently broke up with my hair extensions. Did they shape my identity? Absolutely! I always wanted to have long hair. There is something really sexy and feminine about it — or so I thought.
Although my strands are quite thick and full, I’ve never been able to grow them past my shoulders. So I chose to wear hair extensions to add length, while also helping to tame my hair’s naturally curly and somewhat unruly texture. If I didn’t feel like styling my extensions, I could simply pull them back into a ponytail or braid — it was that easy.
I wore them on and off for six years, until I eventually grew tired of the maintenance and expense. Last fall, I decided it was time to let go of the long hair. Although extensions are fun and there are a lot of benefits, a big part of me was ready to embrace my own head of hair.
“Hair is one of our most important accessories because it’s permanent. And society puts a lot of pressure on long, natural hair; especially men,” says Sylvie. Furthermore, she believes our attachment to hair often stems from the fact that it is a part of us.
I think we can all relate to a “bad hair day”. No amount of makeup or outfit can fix how we feel about ourselves when we have the wrong cut or colour, right?
Sylvie pointed out something very interesting. The majority of the compliments we receive about our hair typically come from other women. In her opinion, this means more to us because it’s usually genuine when it comes from a female.
I thought about this a lot. It seems like most women have a mutual obsession and/or fascination with their hair. So it’s almost like a sisterhood. When you see a woman with good hair, you want her to know how amazing it is. But you also secretly want to know where she gets it done!
The power behind a good hair cut
For Sylvie, the most rewarding aspect of her job is the fact that she is able to change someone’s perception of them self. “There’s such a powerful, emotional attachment to hair and it is often an extension of who you are.”
During our conversation, she recalled a time when she helped a teen that was going through cancer treatment. She’ll never forget the expression on her face when she finished cutting her hair. What could have been a negative experience turned into something incredible. The young woman was ecstatic with her new look and fully embraced it. In fact, she never looked back on her long hair again.
Not everyone is comfortable with change
When it comes to cutting off our tresses, Sylvie says women who don’t like change tend to keep their length the same (for the most part). In this case, she makes minor tweaks to their style so they are able to experience something fresh without making any major commitments.
However, when a new client sits in her chair, she typically asks them a series of questions to figure out what they want to achieve. For her, the most important question is: “What do you love or don’t love about your current hairstyle?” Depending on the answer, Sylvie is able to determine what she needs to do to create the right style.
She says it’s important to find out what their lifestyle is like. For example, do they want “wash and go” or do they have the time to style and maintain? No matter what the client may have in mind when they sit in the chair, there are many factors she must take into consideration, such as: natural hair texture, face shape and skin tone. If she doesn’t think what they want is suitable or even possible, she’ll politely let them know. At the end of the day, she wants her clients to leave feeling happy and more confident about themselves than before they sat down.
A great hairstylist isn’t attached to the latest trends
When I asked Sylvie how she became so successful in the hair industry, she said: “I tried not to be influenced by other stylists’ work. I built my reputation based on who I am. As a result, the clients have grown with me.”
Although she loves being inspired by trends, she says you have to be careful. “You can’t just grab a look and plop it on a client. You have to figure out how to make it right for them. It’s ok to push boundaries, but it’s important to grab the client’s hand and bring them along with you,” she says.
She admits she loves to change things up (like many other stylists). However, she also believes in respecting each client by finding a style and colour that closely reflects who they are. “Marrying what you want with what they want is often the most challenging aspect when it comes to getting it right.”
“Empowerment is about feeling confident in your own skin”
Sylvie believes that hair is one of the simplest and fastest ways to empower ourselves.
“It gives us an opportunity to express who we are. Take down your pony tail and have some fun! You have to do stuff for you and not for how others are going to receive you.”
Furthermore, she says confidence is the most attractive thing about a woman. And “good hair” can do that for us.
When it comes to short hair, Sylvie believes everyone has a short haircut in them. It’s simply a matter of finding the right cut for your individual face shape.
But I’ve always wondered: what does it mean if you choose long vs. short hair?
With that said, she also believes choosing short hair vs. long hair is based on personal preference.
“It used to mean that short hair was considered fun and sassy and long hair was sexy. But I think this is changing. Having one style versus the other doesn’t necessarily mean you are hanging on to anything or that it defines who you are,” she says.
What I respect most about Sylvie is the fact that she isn’t afraid to embrace different colours and lengths when styling her own hair. And she doesn’t seem to get attached or fixated on one particular look. For example, when I saw her for my last hair appointment she had short blonde locks. And during our interview a few weeks later, she was rocking a beautiful lilac shade.
She says “boredom” is the main reason why she changes her hair up often. Although she admits she has made her share of mistakes in the process, she has figured out which colours and styles compliment her features best.
Changing things up is a big part of her personality and who she is. “I’ve always been doing this. If you look in my closet, there is not one particular style of clothing.”
Although you may see her with long hair from time to time, she believes she’s a “short hair” girl at heart. In fact, when she was going through a tough time in her life, she wore hair extensions. But she says she didn’t feel like herself at all.
“I think if you are happy with your hair, it can change your perception of yourself. When you look good on the outside it gives you the confidence to look within.”
My final thoughts
So, did I discover if there is any meaning behind our hair? When I summed up my conversation with Sylvie and reflected on my own view, I realized that “hair” is a very powerful tool when it comes to how we perceive ourselves. It’s also a quick and easy way to embrace our individuality. When we look good, we feel good — it’s that simple. And this is often reflected in what we are able to accomplish in our daily lives. In a nutshell, yes, there is definitely some meaning behind hair.
What’s important here is the fact that “we” as women have the power to interpret what that is for ourselves. As a society, we’ve come a long way. Finally, we can be who we are without judgment — even if that means cutting off our hair and rocking a cute pixie cut! This in itself is so liberating.
Like Sylvie, I believe I’m also a “shorter” hair kind of girl. With that said, I will “never say never” when it comes to wearing hair extensions again. For the time being, however, I’m fully embracing this new sassy, bob. And I’m more than ready for the next decade. Bring on 40!