Can You Get a Great $15 Haircut?

For some women, the idea of paying $15 for a haircut is even more horrifying than spending $100. The assumption is that a budget stylist will simply dump a bowl on your head and start cutting. But once you chip away all of the frills of a fancy salon – the head massage, the complimentary espresso, the European accents – what do you really get when you go for a cheap haircut?

Many value salons offer an a la carte menu, which allows patrons to order precisely what they want – from shampoo to cut to blow dry. First Choice Haircutters has over 400 salons across Canada and the United States, and marketing director Athena Kalkanis says that value salons are popping up everywhere. “A lot of it is how time-starved people are. With us, most of the time, within half-an-hour you can probably get your hair cut and styled.”

Kalkanis says that the average price for a cut in her salon is the same for men and women: $11.95. “It’s quick and easy, with no appointment necessary. And we feel that our stylists can do just as good a job as a more expensive haircut.”

Naz, who asked that her last name not be used, works in a Supercuts salon in Calgary. She says that she has plenty of clients who used to pay top dollar for a fancy salon cut, but who now prefer her $17 service. “We offer shampoo, cut and style – whatever you want. We do the same cuts they do, but the private salons take their time.”

Even Maurice Fiorio and Bill Rowley, two of Toronto’s most reputable stylists, recognize that budget salons have something to offer – even if it’s not the life-changing experience you can get at their salon. “If you just want a little trim, sure, pay $25,” says Fiorio. “But you’re not going to get someone who’s going to stimulate your mind and your inner beauty.”

So why do women pay more if they don’t have to? Kalkanis says that that’s a tough one. “I think a lot of it is marketing and advertising. People always feel that if they pay a bit more, it must be better – which is not necessarily correct.”

But not everyone is falling for it. Steve, who is training to be a stylist with a high-end international salon, says that some expensive haircuts are not worth the money – especially if they skyrocket into fabled $300 or $400 territory.

Steve says that a family friend was recently unconvinced by the frills when she came in and had her hair cut by his salon’s top stylist after years of cheap Chinatown haircuts. “She said he did a great job, but that $120 was just too rich for her blood.”