UPDATE (August 2011): Find our newest—and most comprehensive—list of great hair salons in Chicagoland here.
PHOTOS: On the hunt for great haircuts, we stopped people on the street and asked them to dish. Some of the salons ended up on our recommendation list. Check out the folks and their stylish ‘dos by launching the gallery »
PLUS: Tell us in the comments below, which is your favorite salon?
At Michael & Michael, the ego-free owner Michael Jacobson whips up the priciest but sexiest long layers in town, with just the right energy and swing ($375 first cut and consult, $185 thereafter). Jacobson’s protégé, Mitch Kadlec, who has been dubbed his salon son, snips the same techniques for $80. The owner of Salon Buzz, Andreas Zafiriadis, hops between his two trendy but friendly Gold Coast and River North shops ($115 precision dry cuts). Upstairs off Oak Street, Melissa Conley and the staff at Free Nation of Beauty wrestle any tricky mane into a runway classic ($110). For a hip city vibe in the burbs, Taylor Reese Salon in Highland Park gets the nod. There, the former full-timer Emanuel Rodrigues ($110) swings in monthly from Vegas; book early. At Paul Rehder, the Bumble and Bumble–trained stylist David Elkayam ($85) and photo-shoot maven Jillian Seely ($150 first-timers, $100 thereafter) are well worth the buzz. The Siren Salon’s artistic team director, Donka Kuzmanovski ($63), gets what’s next. (We heart the cookies, too!) Fresh from Portland, Oregon, Aaron McClure has gals salon-hopping to Fringe in Wicker Park for hipster shags ($50). (Good for men, too!)
Jeffrey Cassens, a frequent list topper and 17-year veteran of Marianne Strokirk, now rocks his two-in-one “convertible coupe,” a short-underneath and long-on-top hairstyle that allows clients to wear their hair two ways, at the newly renovated Studio 110 ($150 first-timers, $110 thereafter). In the northern suburbs, Renee Ferraro at Pascal Pour Elle has city girls doing the reverse commute to Glencoe for her cuts ($100 first-timers, $90 thereafter). Red 7 Salon offers more than sparkly chande-liers, hand massages, wine, and free bang trims—Crystal Thomas is a precision scissors wizard ($70) and resident brow guru. The salon has an Evanston location, too, where David Kafer comes highly recommended. The South Loop hairstylist Michele Lynn Minale is always up for some- thing new, face flattering, and life changing ($72). Need out of your cut rut? Valerie Isotalo (formerly Baker) of Sine Qua Non Salon in Lake View is a go-to girl for pretty, edgy cuts ($64). Stylists at the rock-and-roll-pumped Twisted Scissors in Logan Square are tattooed, pierced, dyed, and well priced! Don a camo cape, snag free beer or wine, and let Anna Armes (formerly Gonzalez) start snipping ($30–$45).
Many complain about the no-appointment rule—only half-hour call-aheads and walk-ins are welcome—at Floyd’s 99, but trust us, it’s an affordable service ($21) that’s worth the wait. The Hinsdale salon Jeffrey Charles is the new home of Paula Wilkinson, an industry vet with a strong following of devoted male clients from the city and the western burbs. Those searching for a sophisticated, classic look (from $25) should seek the master stylist Daniel Dela Cerda at Robert Jeffrey Hair Studio in Lake View. Belmont Barbershop may have a traditional feel, but it offers clean, modern looks for less than $20. All cuts ($22) at the music-themed JMC Barber Shop in Elmhurst come with a hot-lather neck and sideburn shave from the Tricoci alum Jason Clarida; guests are also invited to play the in-house guitar and drums. Restoration Salon in Andersonville features Dawn Erika, a great conversationalist and remarkable stylist ($45).
UPDOS: No need to worry about how your hair will turn out for your long-awaited event. The traveling stylists at Beauty on Call hold trial-run appointments beforehand to ensure that you are completely satisfied ($175 for regional stylist, $275 for senior stylist). Vicki Tsafogiannis of Tsubo Chicago is a triple threat: She offers gorgeous updos (from $75), perfect cuts ($55)—and yoga. A longtime favorite of both city dwellers and suburbanites, Mario Tricoci has 18 locations to style for proms, weddings, galas, and everything in between (prices vary).
STRAIGHTENING: Though it’s pricey (from $700), Sho Studio applies the permanent Japanese treatment as well as Ioneat, a Japanese shampoo that reduces split ends and enhances shine. At Ayna Day Spa and Salon, the retexturizing service is a specialty (price varies upon consultation). After receiving the Brazilian Keratin treatment (from $350) from Free Nation of Beauty, hair—no matter the type—stays silky and flyaway-free for months.
EXTENSIONS: Studio 110 offers top-quality, natural-looking extensions that match any hair pigment (price varies upon consultation). For a more expensive yet longer-lasting product, Marianne Strokirk is the only salon in Illinois to offer Nordic Hair Contrast Extensions. The glue-free invention ($1,100) sandwiches strands of natural hair and can be used on a customer’s head more than once.
Forget chunky highlights or Bree Van de Kamp’s fiery red mane. Subtle is the trend in sophisticated hair color today. Scott De Jong, a popular colorist at Salon Buzz (Superior Street location), says he rarely performs full highlights, noting that softer, more natural looks dominate not only his salon but the fashion runways (from $100). For those who truly want to keep their color under wraps, John Lusk operates out of a private room in Studio Within. He specializes in blond highlights and natural ways to cover gray ($65 for single-process color, $80 and up for partial highlights, and $120 and up for full). Another great find is the colorist Christopher Bozarth, owner of the two-person salon 2109 in Wicker Park (from $115).
It’s no secret in the color community that red, which fades fast, is the most difficult shade to execute and maintain. Linda Saimes at Marianne Strokirk’s Near North location boasts happy redheaded clients as well as head-turning highlighted blonds—including some television news reporters (from $75). Steven Smiss at Michael & Michael is adept with eye-catching but natural-looking blond, brunette, and auburn manes. (Single-process color starts at $80, and partial highlights start at $135. New clients pay a one-time $20 fee.) Frugalistas will appreciate the recession-friendly prices of the colorist Jenna Knasel at Glenview’s Pascal Pour Elle. Knasel uses a wide-tooth comb to distribute single-process color to certain strands, which creates a more dimensional effect. She also performs a version of partial highlighting for single-process clients for $100. (Single- process color starts at $50, and partial highlights cost $85.)
When Charles Ifergan, of Oak Street fame, opened its Naperville outpost more than a year ago, the senior colorist Sarah Goebel was transferred from its Oak Brook location to set the bar. Goebel specializes in beachy California-blond highlights and rich brunette shades. (Single-process color starts at $55, and highlights begin at $85.)
AFRICAN AMERICAN HAIR
For 30 years, Van Cleef Hair Studio has catered to African American women and taught them how to care for their hair. The list of celebrity clients (including Michelle Obama) is long; there, the stylists Evvy Kirkpatrick, Danielle Robinson, and Venita Hobson come recommended. In the Loop, the salon owner and stylist Lana Harris Jefferson of Variations Hair Studio keeps the downtown girls happy with haircuts and relaxers at reasonable prices. (Wash and cut from $75, relaxers from $80.) In Bronzeville, Lisa L. Banks, owner of Red Karma Salon, works to help women transition to natural hair. (Her Moroccanoil restorative hair mask runs $30.) Gilbert Valdez at Aniko Salon and Spa offers a three-step relaxing system and air-form styling to leave hair smooth (relaxing from $110, air-forming from $45).