The Style Guy was a monthly column that appeared in Birmingham Magazine for nearly ten years. It was written each month by Sanctuary owner and stylist Todd Cargo.
The other night I was sitting on the sofa, watching my one year old son do his best to pull all of the items he could off the shelves in our den. I wasn't focused on the things he was slinging to the floor, I long ago gave up trying to stop him from doing that when he started to crawl, what I was focused on was his hair. His hair looks as if it's been styled in some weird urban-chic spiky style. It sticks up here and sticks out there and generally looks either horribly disheveled or terribly hip depending upon your opinion. Looking at his hair I started wondering about what I'm gonna have to do to it over the coming years to make it behave. Owning my own salon is going to make things easier for me, if I weren't a hairdresser I'd probably not concern myself with what his hair looks like until he was much older. In fact, I've always told my clients with small children to just let them look like wild forest children until they start first grade. Who cares, right? But having a child of my own now has made me start re-evaluating what my beliefs are about when a child really needs the skills of a salon professional.
The way things usually work is that my clients will begin to introduce their children to the salon once they reach an age when their appearance becomes an important part of their identity. Up until a child is nine or ten it doesn't usually matter if they have the latest cut or the proper highlights. At that age hair can just be washed, brushed and sent on its way. For 6, 7, 8, and possibly 9 year old girls, hair is just the irritating thing you have to tie back out of your way while playing and for boy it's the thing you have to put a cap on to keep it from sticking up. As that child becomes a preteen, his or her hair takes on a brand new importance in life. Hair becomes an accessory--a fashion statement and a cultural marker of your personality type. If a child were to go to school in unkempt clothes that were worn and outdated, one could expect other children to ridicule them. It's not nice and it's not right, but it happens. The same thing goes on regarding hair. Use my son for example: Right now his disheveled hair sticking up and out is adorable, but at some point he will reach an age when it just looks slovenly. It's doubly my job as his parent--and a hairdresser--to know when to transition him into a more groomed, salon-sanctioned look.
Hair cuts are a given for kids. Even kids who never frequent salons are going to get haircuts from someone. But it's the style of the cut and the trendiness of the cut that will make it or break it in the eyes of their peers. Like adults, kids will keep up with celebrity looks and will want to emulate their favorites. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the trend doesn't go too far. A daughter who wants to look like Katie Perry is one thing, but a child who wants to have hair like one of Lady Ga Ga's wigs is another. When it comes to hair color, that is an argument best left between kids and the parents to fight out. Hair color will not damage hair if the products used are of a good quality and the hairdresser is there to guide the teen on proper care for the hair. The biggest risk in regards to hair color for a teen is the lack of professional guidance. Too often teenage friends get together and color each other's hair themselves and don't know what they're doing. It's all fun and games until someone turns out high yellow. Other times a teen will want to change hair color more often than is healthy for the hair. Over-processing will often damage hair so if a child is begging for color, make certain that they truly desire THAT color, and that it isn't just merely a momentary whim to which they will want to change again soon after.
Ultimately, the age at which a child's hair should be taken seriously is going to depend on the child. Some kids are into and aware of their appearance at 4 years old while others don't give it a thought until they're 16 and going to prom for the first time.