Let scene tell you, most Yalies prefer to get their hair cut from the same person at HOME who’s been doing it forever, that magic man or woman who knows exactly how to work your layers or how to not make your ears stick out. But sometimes you need a cut FORTHWITH. Maybe you’re ready for a new look, but aren’t sure if you can trust the unfamiliar options in New Haven. scene took the guessing out of the equation and investigated EIGHT different salons, barbershops and beauty parlors around the ’Have. Here’s what we found:
PHIL’S HAIR STYLES
I make it a point to get my hair cut in the most bizarre places possible (think barber’s booths in airports or a 5¢ trim in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem) but have somehow managed to never subject my head to a New Haven coiffure. But the time has come to add our city to my exotic clippings collection; fervently repeating to myself, “Anything for scene,” I took the plunge.
The choice salon: Phil’s Hair Styles.
Acting out of habit — my barber’s shop at home requires several day’s planning — I called in advance. A man (presumably Phil) answered, and I got straight to the point:
“Hi — I’d like to get my hair cut today.”
“Phil” responded, with an ambiguous accent reminiscent of the Arab Bazaar barber, “Sure, you come down any time today, no problem, no problem.”
“So I don’t need to make an appointment?”
“No, no. We have couple guys here, cutting hairs — you come today, any time.”
“Perfect. I’ll see you this afternoon.”
This is going to be great.
Phil’s Hair Styles is a relic of another era, beginning with the candy-striped barber’s pole out front. The décor is vintage — a wooden sign advertises hair cuts for 25¢ and customers sit in old-style leather chairs. I was immediately ushered to a chair by Silvio (who, it turns out, is the mysterious “Phil” I spoke with). I brazenly decided to trust him, and when he asked what I wanted, I said “You’re the professional.”
With over 45 years of experience, it seems that Silvio has developed an approach where he talks for five minutes, cuts once and repeats. But somehow, amid wild gesticulations at members of the constant, random flow of people through the shop, he managed to cut my hair in a reasonable amount of time. Despite being a first-time customer with a distinct lack of direction, Silvio identified a perfect coiffure (not without commenting on my “huge cowlick — right above the face. It is hard to work with.”) and sent me next door to Blue State ready to impress.
(Although you can judge for yourself) I like the result. I’ll be going back to Phil’s.
PHIL’S BARBER SHOP
After a failed attempt to cut my hair during a three-hour stay in NYC, I succumbed. I was getting a haircut in New Haven.
I chose the first, the original “Phil’s Hair Styles” — not to be confused with “Phil’s Barber Shop” on Wall Street, or “Phil’s Hair Styles II” on Orange Street.
Located right above “Gourmet Heaven” on Broadway, the barbershop was founded in 1926 and to this day counts Yale affiliates as most of its clients.
Twenty steps up the main door I was greeted by the peach-yogurt walls of the interior and Akon’s “Sexy Bitch,” which played on repeat for the entirety of my visit.
But despite the house beat in the background, I could hear the song talking to me. “Girl,” it said, “damn, you’re a sexy bitch.” Something good was about to happen.
Inside, it looked like whatever pops into my head when I hear “hair salon in the rural Spain of Franco:” decadent. And I never hear that. Three black leather barber chairs that clash with the golden mirrors and counters are the focal point of the space — a drunken person would have done a better job arranging a faux barbershop display at IKEA.
I didn’t need an appointment, as expected. There were no other clients that Wednesday afternoon, and Julia, the only hairdresser around, became my stylist by default. A middle-aged Asian woman, she was busy reading the latest issue of People (“Inside Sandra’s Heartbreak: Jesse’s Betrayal, New Details”).
But happy to finally see someone in her doorway, she quickly put the magazine aside.
“You want cut?” she said.
The language barrier did scare me a little. But Julia, I feel you — I’m no native speaker myself.
Charged with expat sympathy, I proceeded to explain what I wanted.
“Short on the sides, short on the back, long on the top,” I said, raking through my hair with my hands. I wanted the shortness to meet the longness smoothly, I told Julia in that awkward way of talking at barbershops — via mirror.
That didn’t work, so I showed her a picture. I couldn’t find anything that fit exactly what I wanted my hair to look like, so I settled with David Beckham circa 2007.
That didn’t work either.
“I think too short!” Julia kept saying, as I tried to find the words to describe this haircut without being disrespectful.
We eventually reached a consensus: Julia was going to shave the sides and back, gently fading as she approached the top of my head with the razor. She would then fix the tips and get rid of some volume to make the overall look sharper.
“Let me know if you want me to stop,” Julia said, “I don’t cut too much, so you tell me if you want shorter.”
From then on, it was bliss. I sat back and relaxed in what was very close to the ideal haircut experience.
She maneuvered her way through my hair with expertise and delicacy. With quick movements she faded the edges, and handled over the thinning and tempered shears like the baddest thing around town.
It was ideal in that it felt like a massage — no pulling, but almost caressing my scalp.
Julia finished off by clearing up the hair on my neck and shoulders with a brush previously dipped in baby powder. I was not a fan of the smell, but as she said “powder gets hair off easy.”
She never sprayed water on my hair — and I do look forward to that part every time — but I like to think she just didn’t have to. Julia was just too good.
The interior design, which I now will refer to as ‘eclectic,’ and the idiomatic misunderstanding became irrelevant when I understood Julia only wanted to give me the haircut I had in mind — definitely worth the $17 plus tip.
Across the street from The Study, in an unassuming room with cantaloupe-colored walls, a man with rings on his fingers cuts hair.
His name is Gaetano “Dickie” Ferriuolo, and he calls his establishment “The Workshop.” He tells me he doesn’t have a reputation in this town yet — but he isn’t here for the money or the fame. He’s left all that behind.
Dickie has a glittering past — nights at Studio 54, world travel, trysts with beautiful women straight off the runways — but his hairdressing salon in New Haven is modest and unassuming. It’s warm, immediately intimate, and welcoming — like Dickie himself. There are watercolors on the walls and glossy magazines that beckon. “Pick a haircut from our pages! Of course it will look just the same on you, we promise,” they lie through their perfume-sample-scented pages.
In the mirror, I take in Dickie’s black long-sleeve shirt, his salt-and-pepper mustache and beard, his considerable amount of gold jewelry. Dickie tells me he is pals with Kate Moss, he cut Joe Lieberman’s hair, he grew up among the mafia on the mean streets of New York City. I have great legs, he says (“I’m entering your drumsticks in my hall of fame”), and he wants to set me up with this Argentinian model he met during Fashion Week (“I did his hair for the Ralph Lauren show.”) Dickie pauses to breathe, cut a few locks, and twirl my curls around his fingers. He assures me he’s straight, then tells me about his current girlfriend and the first time they made love. (“Praise God for Viagra. I’ve tried to overdose more than once, let me tell you.”)
I look around me to see an inch and a half of hair on the hard wood floors. I open my mouth to say something to Dickie, and —
“You’re done, babe. 50 dollars.”
I pay up and walk back into the world totally content with my new cut. I just wish I’d gotten the number of the Argentinian model.
CHAMELEON & CO.
At boarding school, I yearly risked butchery at the local Hair Cuttery, the only salon around campus. Despite the fact the stylist was rude and spoke no English, I, unlike my less fortunate classmates, received excellent haircuts. I even started a trend for bobs.
When I visited Chameleon & Co. at 199 Crown Street to get a haircut, I expected the exceptional. In the past, I paid $15 per cut. At Chameleon, the price per cut starts at $48. Sure they provide you with a complimentary drink, a complimentary hand massage, a complimentary make-over, but for an economically minded Yalie like me, it’s all about the HAIRCUT. My haircut at Chameleon was underwhelming. After I left the salon and met friends for dinner, they did not even make a comment.
“You got a haircut?” One asked when I told him.
“Yes. Can’t you see?” I rebutted.
“I guess it made your face look rounder.” Hopefully that was not a joke.
Although I asked my stylist to make my overgrown hippie hair more exciting (I purposefully tried to test her aesthetic judgment by not giving her a print out photo), not one person I encountered afterward even noticed that I had received a haircut. No compliments. No acknowledgments. Instead of the revolutionary hairdo that I envisioned, I received a trim that turned me from 60’s Joan Baez to slightly-more-professional 70’s Joan Baez.
Despite the lackluster result, service at Chameleon & Co. is excellent. My stylist, who had five years of experience cutting and coloring hair, was very knowledgeable and considerate. She can cut women’s hair with a razor. She can even make my head look like an oval.
Y Haircutting is the quintessential male barbershop — straightforward cuts and lots of ESPN. Yale paraphernalia lines the wall and checkerboard linoleum flooring provides a traditional small-town feel. The wait is rarely long, and you definitely don’t need an appointment. The small TV in the corner is always tuned to ESPN though it doesn’t really matter since the barbers are quick to strike up a conversation. We discuss everything from how the Yale academic schedule impacts their business (not much, since grad students don’t leave) to Tiger Woods’ sexploits (14? Really?!). At $16 and at a convenient location across from the British Art Center, what more could you ask for?
If your hair is anything like mine, you understand my nervousness about getting a haircut … people just don’t seem to know how to deal with the texture correctly. But after a few friends recommended Karma, I decided to test drive the salon on College Street and made an appointment with the owner, Cheryl.
Walking into the salon, I was immediately given a professional, yet warm, greeting from the receptionist. This non-fussy, relaxed attention from the staff was nicely reflected by the simple, clean décor.
I thought to myself, “Ok, so far so good.” Anxiety? Diminished a third.
After changing into the crêpe wrap, I was introduced to Cheryl. As we talked about the two styles that I had in mind, she listened attentively and it definitely felt like we were working together to come up with the best plan of action. More than just simply letting customers know what she thinks, Cheryl gives insights into how their hair might be affected by each potential option.
A scalp massage and hair wash later, we started with the haircut.
Easy chatter filled the spaces between clips. Snip, snip, brush, brush, we were finished within 15 minutes. She styled my hair with a few products. Finish.
Satisfaction? Check, yes.
I loved the way she relayered my hair to give it more volume around the crown. But I must say that at times it felt like I was getting more of a professional blowout than a professional haircut. And although I loved the way it looked, it looked exactly the same as my previous haircut.
Disappointed? Nope. Karma has a 7-day policy that allows to you go back for a restyle. Perhaps I will go back next week for a more adventurous look. Perhaps I won’t.
“kar-ma n. [Skt. karman, deed < karoti, he does.] 1. The cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded according to his deeds”
Pass it on.
Karma is located at 263 College Street.
JOBELLA SALON & SPA
JoBella Salon and Spa
Where: Chapel and Temple Street (next to the Omni)
Ask for: Joe
What it’ll cost you: $45 for women, $35 for men
I’ve religiously gotten my hair cut by the same woman since I was 13 (hey, Anna O!). This year, I was unable to make my usual spring break pilgrimage to her salon, leaving my hair just a little too long and with too many split ends for my liking. A haircut was essential, but I was skeptical to trust anyone but Anna with my locks. JoBella Salon and Spa — located on Temple Street in the Omni Hotel complex — seemed like the most obvious choice. It’s in the Omni so it must be legit, I reasoned.
JoBella is not named after Joe, the man with perfect highlights who cut my hair. Nor was it named after Joe’s “baby,” a white-and-cream dog named Chica Bella whose photograph sits proudly at his station right at the front of the salon. But while Joe is neither owner nor namesake of JoBella, he clearly knows what he’s doing when it comes to cutting hair.
I walked into the salon determined to do away with my Rapunzelian mane. In second grade, before I had apparently formed my own opinions about personal appearance, I sported a chin-length bob with blunt bangs that stopped a half an inch above my eyebrows. It was cute in a tomboy, “let’s chase the boys around the playground” kind of way, but arguably not my best look. By fifth grade, my hair had grown to a much better length, stopping its cascade about five inches below my shoulders. I haven’t gotten a significant haircut since.
I gave Joe a quick approximation of what I had in mind (“I want to cut it off. But not all of it. Maybe like Gwyneth Paltrow’s? Maybe a little longer? I just want something different, you know?”), and he took the reins from there. After thinking for a minute, he gave me a reassuring look and said, “You’re gonna love it, sweetie. You’re gonna be so hot.”
And away we went. I sat in the chair sipping a cup of vanilla hazelnut coffee — compliments of the receptionist — while Joe gossiped with his assistant Dominique and the “regulars” who had stopped by to say hi. He didn’t gather my hair into a ponytail and cut it off in one foul swoop as I had expected (apparently they don’t actually do that in the haircutting world), but took a razor/comb thing to the ends of my hair. I closed my eyes to avoid watching the cascade of trimmings fall to the ground, but felt surprisingly at ease in Joe’s comfortable salon chair.
Twenty minutes, seven inches of hair, and one trashy magazine later, Joe spun my salon chair around with a flourish to show me my new look.
At first it reminded me of Drew Barymore’s voluminous hairstyle at the Golden Globes circa 2009, which was cute for a red carpet affair but impractical for wandering the streets of New Haven. But a quick pat down in the bathroom mirror made the hairstyle a little less showgirl and a little more me: at bit below shoulder length, framing the face, a little choppy at the bottom. Just the right amount of change for $45.
EGIDIO’S HAIR SALON
I hate getting haircuts. Every time the barber asks what I’m looking for, an overpowering sense of doubt and insecurity washes over me. Look at me, man. How hard is it to visualize the short clean-cut look I’ve been rocking for as long as I can remember?
“Uh, just trim a little all around, I guess,” I sheepishly reply.
This is not how I felt upon taking a seat at Egidio’s Hair Salon, just a short walk away from Timothy Dwight College on Orange Street.
With this unisex hair salon near campus, it’s a wonder anyone ever goes to Phil’s anymore. Having been there twice myself, once to its traditional location on Wall Street, and once to its outgrowth on Broadway, I often crave returning home come vacation time just to have a little taken off the top.
Egidio’s Hair Salon, owned by Egidio Severini, and now enthusiastically supported by this Egidio, has been in business since 2000. Severini, who has owned various hair salons around New Haven for more than 40 years, immigrated to the United States after World War II.
A proud native of a town full of Roman ruins, he is what I have been looking for in a neighborhood barber. This is the luxury I thought Phil’s would provide when I came to campus — an avuncular Italian guy providing me with precious insights, and someone I trust not to cut off a piece of my ear when trimming these sideburns.
But we Egidios, though few and far between, are all kindred spirits, like the only two Catholics at a Bar Mitzvah. After showing him my Yale ID when I arrived, he looked it over with skepticism roughly the equivalent of the bouncer from the last time I went to Toad’s. When his mind finally processed that the world was not in fact coming to an end, he stood up and shook my hand in joyous recognition of a fellow member of the club.
He sat me down in his chair, took just a little off the top. I didn’t have to say a word.