Sine Qua Non in Andersonville
SINE QUA NON
5057 N. Clark St.; 773-649-0101, sinequanonsalon.com
The tester: A low-maintenance 22-year-old from Printers' Row whose curly hair falls flat without texture and layers. We sent her to Hough, a 29-year-old Rockford native who trained at the Aveda Institute in Chicago, with Bumble and Bumble in New York, and with Laura Boton, owner of Sine Qua Non, before landing at Boton's Andersonville salon.
The experience: Our tester paid $56 for what she calls "easily the best haircut I've ever had. Brad just cut tons and tons of layers, which allowed my hair to better maintain body and shine—two things I'd been missing for a while." Helpful hint: Book in advance. It took three calls to set up the appointment.
41 E. Oak St.; 312-640-0101, mariannestrokirk.com
The tester: A 30-year-old style writer in search of a polished cut suitable for high-profile events. We sent her to Hauss, 32, who works for the venerable downtown stylist Marianne Strokirk. Hauss trained under Strokirk herself for a year and a half, so she offers all the know-how of her mentor at a lower price ($88 versus up to $380).
The experience: The tester expected the Oak Street salon to be "uptight and unwelcoming," but Hauss made her feel comfortable. "Before she did anything, she made sure I was on board. I've had plenty of cuts in the past where the scissors start flying too soon. She gave me the exact cut that she described—that has never in my life happened before." Helpful hint: Ask for styling tips. Hauss taught our tester how to properly straighten her hair.
Charlie "Devyn" Benson
17W580 Butterfield Rd., Oakbrook Terrace; 630-916-8868, charlesifergan.com
The tester: A 29-year-old male accounting manager from Humboldt Park who wanted to upgrade his classic look without going too crazy. We sent him to Benson, a 26-year-old stylist at Charles Ifergan.
The experience: Our tester— a self-proclaimed Super Cuts guy—had never experienced texturizing shears, which Benson used to thin extra volume from his thick, wavy hair. The result: a modern twist on a traditional style that's clean on the sides, messy on top. "My hair looked amazing leaving the salon. It was also very easy to re-create the next morning. I received several compliments on how nice it looked." The 30-minute appointment cost $45. Helpful hint: Get directions or you may drive past the salon.
Long and Layered
715 N. State St.; 312-482-9800, josephmichaels.net
The tester: A 24-year-old Gold Coaster who chronically straightens her long, wavy hair with a flatiron. We sent her to Cook at Joseph Michael's in River North. A 30-something Detroit native who has been in the hair biz since 1988, Cook spent five years at the celebrity-catering Allen Edwards salon in Los Angeles.
The experience: The tester paid $80 for her cut and left the salon with sleek, "weightless" hair. "Stevie spent a lot of time talking to me about my hair, the texture, and how I style it. She definitely encourages me to wear my hair wavy—how it naturally is—but since I like it straight, she obliges me with the flatiron. She really listens to what you want." Helpful hint: New clients should book a few weeks in advance to get a slot.
LILLIAN DION SALON
1020 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-386-9311, lilliandion.com
The tester: A 40-year-old African American woman from Hyde Park whose weekly workout regimen requires a low-maintenance 'do. We sent her to Malone at Lillian Dion Salon, who has a particular knack for repairing damaged hair. He trained at the Chicago salons It's Only Hair and Chez Charles before going to Lillian Dion last year.
The experience: Malone decided that our tester didn't need a haircut, so he introduced her to new styling techniques to create the volume she wanted for her thick, heavy hair. "He offered great suggestions, including hair vitamins that would be good to take," she says. "He showed me how to put curls on the top of my head and used two or three different sizes of flatirons to give me bigger curls." The tester paid $65 for her styling session. Helpful hint: Our volunteer loved this salon's super chatty staff, but less talkative clients could feel overwhelmed.
952 W. Newport Ave.; 773-857-3525, clandestineindustries.com
The tester: A 38-year-old art director and musician looking for a creative cut to tame his unruly locks. We sent him to Mollin at Clandestine Industries, a new punk rock salon owned by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz. Mollin, 32, connected with Wentz after finding fame on Bravo's reality styling competition Shear Genius.
The experience: Our tester gave Mollin free rein and ended up with a short, tapered razor cut and asymmetric bangs to show off his curls. The cost: $100. "Ben was great—really down-to-earth, considering his recent fame. The vibe was very laid-back. It wasn't so overly cool and young that I felt out of place as a man in my 30s. Everyone at work commented on my 'cool' new hairstyle." Helpful hint: Mollin cuts at Clandestine only one day each month—and the salon sees only one client at a time—so expect a long wait list. The rest of Mollin's time is focused on Bang Bang, his salon boutique in Griffith, Indiana, slated to open in June (112 N. Broad St.; 219-513-8858).
MICHELE LYNN HAIRSTYLING
Michele Lynn Minale
1315 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-786-1200, michelelynnhairstyling.com
The tester: A 27-year-old from Logan Square whose straight, boring 'do didn't fit her rocker personality. We sent her to Minale, a vet of Mario Tricoci and London's Tony & Guy, who in February opened her own South Loop salon. Creativity is the 31-year-old stylist's strong suit, so our tester consulted the photo book of original styles and allowed Minale to craft "a vision" for her hair. A cut costs $69, but Minale offers a 20 percent discount to first-time clients.
The experience: "When Michele told me the plan for my cut—asymmetric in the back, and adding asymmetric bangs—I was concerned because she wanted to reverse my part. I have the world's strongest cowlick, and I told her I thought that would be difficult. But because of her skills, it didn't end up being a problem." Helpful hint: Weeknight parking is scarce. Take a cab or plan on circling.
835 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-751-2216, sassoon.com
The tester: A 34-year-old from the West Loop who's finally ready to chop her long hair. We sent her to Jernigan, 32, at Sassoon. A Sassoon lifer, he graduated from the Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica, California, and has spent the past seven years at the Chicago salon.
The experience: The tester brought Jernigan a photo of Kirsten Dunst's bob, and he zeroed in on what she liked about it. "He was very patient and really took time looking at my hair, my face, and my jawline," our tester says. She paid $88 for her blunt cut with graduated layers—a variation on the classic Sassoon bob. Helpful hint: The salon is located on the third floor in the back of Water Tower Place.
Photography: Kendall Karmanian