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[Wellbeing]: Hair Salons That Don't Blow

When 20 kuai cuts won't cut it—here's a list of five solid salons to get your hair lookin' fine. Dye-jobs, braids, cuts, and even weaves...
2014-10-30 16:27:04
Here it is—in no particular order—some salons around town that do consistently good work. I know a lot of people are going to grumble on about the pricing at these places, but keep in mind that some people are just willing to pay more for cuts and coloring that require more work and expertise.

Anyway, we'll have an upcoming feature on bargain barbers and salons in the coming weeks, so if you're not looking to drop a ton of dough on your 'do, then uh, that's the one for you.

Here it goes...

IL Colpo

1/F, 999 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu. Phone: 5465 0233. Map & Taxi Printout

IL Colpo—unapologetically fancy, with the prices to match. But some people want fancy, you know? Some people like that their salon looks like the backstage of a fashion show. VIP rooms and lockers, washing stations with mood lighting, colorists attractive enough to be in K-pop bands—such things are important to some people.

Anyway, yeah, that’s IL Colpo. It’s part of a huge chain of “luxury salons” originating from Hong Kong. A lot of the staffers at this shop in IAPM mall are from Hong Kong, plus the Swiss stylist who previously worked at I.D. Hair, Terry Grau, is currently heading up this location as its European Director. Grau’s racked up a lot of loyal repeat clients in his eight years in Shanghai, and when Taboo, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant rolled through town, they got their hair did with him.

IL Colpo mostly uses Kerastase for hair care and styling, plus Schwarzkopf, Wella and L’oreal for dyes. The guys here can do just about any style and color, though when I asked, they said they’re especially good with “contemporary”—and that Grau specializes in short cuts, blonde coloring and barbering (beards, mustaches, fades, plus patterns and geometrical shaping done with a straight razor).

Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 280-880rmb*
Color: 580-1500rmb*
Hair Straightening: 1200-4400rmb*
Permanent Waving: 900-3000rmb*

Contesta Rock Hair

733-4 Julu Lu, near Fumin Lu. Phone: 5403 3511. Map & Taxi Printout

This is a popular one among Shanghai’s tatted-up crowd. And Italians. Always so many Italians here. The first Contesta salon opened in Rome, so that’s probably why. It’s since branched off into New York, Miami and Shanghai, and the one here does a solid job of giving its customers precisely what they ask for. They’ll do all that hip and alternative stuff that their brand is known for—the whole gamut of candy and sorbet-colored hues, asymmetrical cuts, artfully messy waves and what have you—but even if you ask for something totally straightforward and square, they’ll do it, and just do it spot-on. This is one of the few places I’ve been to that actually listened to me when I asked them not to thin out my hair, which shows a lot of restraint, because every hairdresser who's ever come at me with a pair of shears has wanted to get this full bush up top, down.

So yeah, they've got the music blaring here, and their head stylist Emanuele is usually singing along, bobbing his head to the beat, perfecting a half-shaved pompadour on some dude in a Hawaiian shirt. You know. Anyway, I've also heard good things from people who went to these guys to correct botched dye jobs done by other salons, and they said the staff here were really patient and professional about it. I’ve also heard good things about their consulting skills, too, for those who are unsure about what they want except that they want something "different".

Contesta also puts up small-scale exhibits of work by local artists up on its walls, so look out for that if you're there, too.

Women’s Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 240-480rmb *
Men’s Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 190-380rmb*
Color: 400-1400rmb*
Hair Straightening: 1000-1400rmb*
Permanent Waving: 800-1400+rmb*

Urban Roots

4/F, 55 Shuicheng Nan Lu, near Yan'an Xi Lu. Phone: 3372 9337. Map & Taxi Printout

Urban Roots was recommended to me as “the place that all the ABCs go to”, though I’m not sure how true that is. During the times I visited, most of the customers and staffers there were speaking Japanese. That’s because owner and head stylist Kiyomi Kiso, who previously worked at a popular Tokyo salon called Mod’s Hair, more or less built a trendy Japanese hair salon for the trendy Japanese crowd in Gubei. That means they’re crazy immaculate, have a tech-fancy waiting area lined with iPads and stacks of ViVi, Pinky and Sweet to give women inspiration on how to look like human cupcakes.

Jokes aside, the Japanese and Japan-trained stylists at Urban Roots really know their shit. They’ll execute whatever you want to perfection, especially if you’re looking for something really clean and classy. I’d recommend this place for people who like more traditional or classic hairstyles and are especially fussy about quality, service and ambiance. As for products—most of them are from Japan, as to be expected. They’ve got a lot of Shiseido hair care, plus some Japanese cult favorites like Lucci Chiffon Milk, that they use in copious amounts and sell, too.

If you're visiting Urban Roots for the first time, you can claim a 20% discount on your cut—make sure to ask for that when booking.

Women’s Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 180-500rmb *
Color: 550-1200rmb*
Hair Straightening: 700-900rmb*
Permanent Waving: 600-1400rmb*

God Hands

2/F, 235 Hengshan Lu, near Yongjia Lu. Phone: 3372 9337. Map & Taxi Printout

God Hands! Great name. This one was introduced to me by a friend as a "steampunk-themed salon". The interiors are, in fact, steampunk-themed. The people are not. God Hands definitely has an alternative vibe about it—this seems to be one of the places that the local cool kids go to, and the shop is staffed with similarly hip Chinese girls and guys wearing Doc Martens and streaky rainbow hair.

They've got a big sample book filled with images of distinctive cuts and coloring that God Hands stylists have done themselves—check this page for an idea of what that looks like. The general aesthetic is this kind of cutely punk-ish baby doll type with bouncy curls dyed in greys and pastels, though we're told that the hairdressers here were trained in all kinds of styles and techniques, and that many a happy, non-punky customer has come and gone and come back for more. The seven stylists at God Hands have either trained in Japan, or trained here in the Mainland by well-known Japanese shifu, and apparently work regularly with magazines and local fashion brands on styling for shoots.

Women’s Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 188-488rmb*
Color: 580-1580rmb*
Hair Straightening: 1380-1880rmb*
Permanent Waving: 580-1380rmb*


2/F, 170 Jiashan Lu, near Yongjia Lu. Phone: 6467 9930. Map & Taxi Printout

DAZ opened in Shanghai three years ago under Darrin Usher, an Australian stylist who's racked up 22 years of street cred in Asia's boutique salon business. He spent most of that time in Hong Kong opening and running a couple of really well-known, legit salons, and now he's got a team of stylists and colorists in Shanghai that he's personally trained himself. Each of them has his/her own "thing"—Boris, from France, is all about contemporary edge; Cynthia, from Hong Kong, studied at Vidal Sasson London and has a penchant for geometric street fashion styles. You get the idea.

Darrin's thing is color. He's got an encyclopedic knowledge of it: coloring techniques, good vs. bad ingredients, the right products from different brands to blend together, etc. He also introduced me to the term "freehand coloring". Huh. Anyway, they've got a lot of brands here—Wella, Fudge, Sebastian, Kevin Murphy, modern organic products (MOP) and so on—and the staff says they'll work with clients to procure products that they're looking for but can't find in Shanghai.

That's the kind of thing that I hear about this place—that they make your salon visit an individual experience and try to work with you on exactly what you want, and how to get there. DAZ is also one of the few places in town that has does formaldehyde-free Keratin strengthening and straightening, and also has an in-store vintage shop of collectibles and jewelry so you can blow all your dough in one day.

Women’s Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 280-480rmb; 780rmb-980rmb* (Director)
Men’s Cut, Shampoo & Finishing: 180rmb-380rmb; 480rmb* (Director)
Color: 400-2000rmb*
Hair Straightening: 1000-3000rmb*
Permanent Waving: 600-1800rmb*

Aaaand, don't forget—if you're looking to get cornrows, braids, weaves and fades, then Shanghai's first salon for people of color, Studio Ebony, might be worth checking out.


*Note that prices may vary depending on length, texture and volume of your hair, so the best cost estimate would be to go in and get a personal assessment.