(NB - I wrote this some time ago, but it still holds true now as it did then. I'm a big believer in getting my hair cut by students, because it grows out faster than weeds, and may as well benefit some hair student's education! I have since, however, tried out a real chain salon for the first time, and will be posting a review on that shortly...)
As a lowly student when I did this, I was, of course, typically perenially short of cash. So what do you do when there's not enough dosh in your purse, but too much hair on your head?
There are several branches of the academy, all dedicated to different services - cuts or colour etc. So I wanted both a cut AND highlights, so I decided to go for the branch in St Christopher's Place, Central London. Well, I tried calling them first, using the number was on the advert, but I couldn't get through as the "number was unavailable". So I decided to trudge down there myself. The location is relatively easy to get to, if not cunningly hidden - cross the road from Bond Street Station (on the Piccadilly Line), walk in the direction AWAY from Selfridges, and you'll normally see a large sign advertising something in St Christopher's Place, pointing down a narrow alleyway (called "Gees Court") off Oxford Street. I swear I would have completely walked past it had the sign not been there - it's quite easy to miss! Walk down this alleyway and it leads to St Christopher's Place; the Toni&Guy building is on the left, past the fountain.
Anyway, I got there, and told the receptionist I wanted a colour and a cut. She promptly swiped something behind my ears with a cotton bud as a colour test - I'd have to ring back the following monday with news of the results, and then she'd book an appointment. Now, being the idiot that I am, I had to go back to Uni (miles and miles from London!) the next Thursday (I'd left it so late because I just hadn't thought of this until then! Plus I was trying to save money by putting off any regrowth time). so I asked her if there'd be any colour appointments going before that - she said no. So much for that, then :(
So, I asked for a cutting appointment - she made one for me for the following Monday, at 3pm in Knightsbridge. This puzzled me somewhat, as no amount of googling came up with any Toni&Guy Academy in Knightsbridge... plus my voucher only mentioned the ones on Stamford Road and St Chrisophers Place. Being slightly paranoid (and REALLY not wanting to pay - cheapskate, I know, but if I can get it free...!) I rang the number I was given for the Knightsbridge branch... I was told that I had reached the salon; that they had a branch of the Academy downstairs in their basement(?), and no, they had nothing to do with them, so they wouldn't know. (I then rang St Chrisophers Place again - their phones now working - and they assured me that yes, my voucher was still valid). So that left me a couple of days to stew in worry about how my hair would look the following week...
Getting to the Knightsbridge branch was easy - hop on the Picadilly Line to Knightsbridge tube station, head to the high street (Brompton Road), turn left and walk; it's a little way down at number 241. The reviews I read advised getting there about 15 mins before the appointment, but this is NOT necessary - I was told to go away and come back at 3! (Which reminds me, *money saving tip*: there are 2 appointment times, all on weekdays; one will be early in the morning (think 9-10am or so), the other in the afternoon (2pm-3pm), depending on the branch. If you go for the later one, the tube fares will be cheaper as you won't have to travel at peak time).
At 3 I showed up again, and was taken to the back door. Down a flight of stairs (really not wheelchair-friendly, I'm afraid), there was a couple of chairs and some sheets of paper laid out. Two teachers were in the next room, briefing two students. The area was clean and had a pleasant atmosphere (dispelling any misgivings I had when I heard that it was situated in a 'basement'). I was told to sit down, read through their terms and conditions, and sign a form stating that yes, I was over 18, the cut would take a long time, and I might prefer the results in a salon, BUT that every effort would be made that both student and client go away happy with the result :) They don't tick off names, so theoretically anyone who just showed up could get their hair done. However, boooking is the only way you'll know for sure that the ratio of models to students won't be ridiculously low/high, and otherwise you won't know where to go, or at what time.
Including myself, there were only 3 hair models (so one lucky woman got hers done by the teacher!); they paid £5 each and I handed over my voucher. I was then asked by a teacher what I wanted. I pulled out a picture of a hairstyle (a true "here's one I found earlier!" moment) and showed it to her; she assigned me to her student and told me to repeat what I wanted to her. The student took my coat and scarf, helped me put on a robe, and listened as I described what I wanted. She filled out a consultation form detailing what my lifestyle was, the shape of my face, hair density etc - showing that they really do take into consideration the needs of the individual models. So all the rumours that you have no choice when modelling for students are false - she and her teacher made sure they understood exactly what I wanted before starting.
Then I had a towel draped around me and was led to the washbasins. The wash wasn't the most comfortable experience ever, as the basin dug into my neck a bit; however the wonderful smells of the "TIGI Bed Head" products they used proved an adequate distraction! That's one thing I regret - not asking exactly which products they used on me, so I'd know for future reference (namely if I won the lottery and could afford those TIGI hair products, I'd know which to buy!).
Then the cut. I asked for a layered, choppy cut with a soft fringe - and mine was the last to be finished. The student was very careful about how she cut it, measuring and re-measuring strands to make sure they were even... which, although it may have been time-consuming, was very reassuring as I knew she'd make sure the end result was perfect :) Turns out she'd not done a style exactly like mine before, but I have to say I think she did a wonderful job. She made sure to ask the teacher if she needed any help, and the teacher tidied up any incongruities, while telling her exactly what to do. It was really interesting to hear all the technical terms for the angle of the cuts and the techniques used, too... it really enforces the idea that hairdressing isn't just a necessity, it's an acquired art! So yeah, the cut was done, firstly to technical conventions, and was then "personalised" bu the student to soften the layers, making it less uniform. The student was really nice; although there was minimal chat (which mostly occured at the wash basin), at least then I felt she was concentrating on my hair!
I was asked how I'd like the hair finished, which took me aback a little (can you tell I've not been to a salon before, let alone an academy?) - so I just said, "flick it out... make it look like the picture". "Smooth?" "Yeah... I guess." Cue more lovely-smelling products, a radial brush and a hairdryer. Even at this stage the student took great time over it... although both the teacher and other student had finished with their models a while ago, she carefully flicked out my hair. As it was progressing, the other student and both teachers remarked on how good my hair was looking :) When it was finished, I swear my hair has never been so glossy, or had such a kick to the flicks! The student and teacher were really courteous as well, thanking me for my time almost as profusely as my thanking them for the cut!
I have only 2 issues with them: one, they didn't wipe my face after cutting, so I had lots of little hairs stuck to it... which I only realised when I looked in the mirror after I stopped to use the washrooms in Harrods! And secondly, they didn't offer to show me what the back of my hair looked like... but I forgive them for that as when I went home and checked it out, it looked fantastic. I couldn't have asked for more from a free haircut :D
So after I brushed off my face, I walked back with my head held high and my hair flicking and tossing like nobody's business. I got home and my mum had just cut her hair for £10... wash and blow dry not included... and mine still looked better! I think I'll pass my next voucher onto her... ;)
Well, I hope this was useful to anyone considering getting their hair cut by students, at a mere fraction of the price. In any case, I reckon it's worth a go... after all, hair grows out!