The Circle Salon
Best for women’s short cuts
Jamie Bushman at The Circle Salon: “It all comes down to lines,” says Bushman, who focuses on the geometry of the face to shape her up-to-date angled bobs and on-trend pixies (think longer in the front and tighter on the sides). Not an atypical approach for a student of the Aveda Institute—but, as a trained makeup artist, she also pays attention to how light and shadow interplay with a client’s best features in building a style. “They all go hand in hand,” says Bushman, who’s not afraid to take bold steps such as undercutting, in which she shaves stealth sections of hair on the underside of a bob to smooth or balance the overall effect (from $80).
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Red 7 Salon co-owner David Kafer can take any hair texture from long to short (first-time clients $145; subsequent cuts $115). Laura Kelley of Genacelli Salon specializes in “angle-forward,” above-the-shoulders precision cuts (from $45). Mandy Schoenbein of Karen Marie Salon says a current trend is to keep short cuts (from $70) tighter near the nape and sides to emphasize movement and length near the crown.
Best for women’s long cuts
Charles Lord at Taylor Reese Salon: In Lord’s mind, a great long cut isn’t a technical feat; it’s an art. He might ask you to stand while he buzzes around your head, carefully snipping strands, or to shake your mane vigorously so that he can observe movement. Those who can accept a little eccentricity from their coiffeur are rewarded: Lord, who has styled hair for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, delivers a beautiful, modern cut, and he has the patience to coach clients through the dreaded growing-out phase (first visit $250; subsequent cuts $150).
ALSO RECOMMENDED: No scissor-happy type, Tina Salerno, the co-owner of James Anthony Salon & Day Spa in River Forest, lusts after long hair ($75)—and the salon’s crepuscular Lather Lounge soothes haircut anxiety. Christina Crosthwaite at Fringe in Wicker Park gives bold clients an edge with her asymmetrical do (from $43). At Maxine, Becca Panos excels at the subtle art of interior layering (from $90).
Best stylist for African American hair
Michelle Dixon at Maxine: Though Dixon is a pro at applying chemical straighteners ($95), clients who opt to stay relaxer-free say she’s also the woman to see for face-flattering cuts and a serious blowout ($95). Dixon’s Vidal Sassoon training and 12 years of experience with multicultural hair have taught her tricks to working with curly textures—she even developed a popular technique using pin curls to create waves that she calls “temptress curls.”
ALSO RECOMMENDED: From relaxers to cuts and color, Evvy Kirkpatrick, Danielle Robinson, and Venita Hobson at Van Cleef Hair Studio do it all. Need a blowout before breakfast? The salon opens as early as 4 a.m. some days (cuts from $73; color from $83). Yehia & Co. Hair Designs has locations in Hyde Park, the South Loop, Oak Park, and Country Club Hills. Insiders say to make an appointment with Yehia himself (wash, style, curl, and cut, $75)—he’s been styling for more than 40 years and rotates among salons.
Best stylist for Asian hair
Robert Lam at Styling Studio Image Factory: Lam doesn’t believe Asian hair is all that different. Yes, it’s coarse and heavy, and it doesn’t always show off layers and shape well. But it can be tamed, says the salon owner, who trained at Pivot Point in his native Hong Kong. Lam explains that because the ends of Asian hair have a tendency to split and frizz, he uses regular shears, instead of texturizing or a razor, to cut cleanly, straight across the shaft ($75 for women; $41 for men). He relies, too, on a straightening blow-dry to assess how the hair will accept or resist control.
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Originally from Tokyo, Suzuki at Sho Studio in River North cuts hair of all textures (from $100). At Bex Hair in Lisle, Hong Kong native Keena Ngai offers impeccable styles that don’t break the bank ($38 for women; $28 for men). At Urban Roots Salon in Chinatown, Andy Zhu gives precision cuts (price based on hair length, averaging $34).
Photograph: Courtesy of the Circle Salon
Best for men’s traditional cuts
Katie Devries at Strand: You’re doing something right when you change salons and almost all of your clients follow. That’s what happened when DeVries left State Street Barbers last year. “Men are very loyal,” she says, estimating that she retained more than 80 percent of her regulars. Specializing in razor cuts (from $30), the Aveda-trained stylist began her career as a women’s hair colorist in Atlanta. But she switched almost exclusively to men’s cuts when she moved to Chicago five years ago. “Men put trust in you quickly.”
ALSO RECOMMENDED: The man responsible for Sean Penn’s quiff in the 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown, Ricardo Santiago at Paul Rehder, creates a more textured look ($70). Bathsheba Nemerovski at Sparrow offers a low-maintenance cut ($56) favored by the likes of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.
Best for men’s color
Robert Bennett at Maxine: A colorist with 25 years of experience, Bennett has seen a recent uptick in the number of male clients. “It’s been gangbusters,” he says. For men with gray hair, Bennett reaches for L’Oréal’s Homme Cover 5'—an ammonia-free color that won’t slip into that dreaded orangy-goldish fade from the sun ($50). But Bennett’s real specialty is longer hair (anything more than three inches), which he’ll microweave with foil and accent with some subtle salt-and-pepper lowlights ($135). “When you walk out of this salon, no one is going to know you colored it this morning,” he says.
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Ric Ramirez at Chicago Male Salon offers “Camo,” a quick gray blending ($40) or a light blonding ($50). Tim Weber at Restoration Salon is a go-to guy for full highlights or simple touchups (from $50).
Best for men’s creative cuts
Kara Wabbel at Barbara & Barbara: This Logan Square storefront salon only recently celebrated its first anniversary, but Wabbel, its owner, has been cutting hair for years out of the backrooms of art galleries she owned. She still displays local artwork in her salon, along with mismatched 1960s-style furniture. Fitting, since lately Wabbel gets walk-ins asking for the Don Draper look from Mad Men. Most of her cuts, however, are less conventional—the salon offers two gender-blind price categories: short ($20) and long ($30).
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Dee Boozer at Floyd’s 99 in Wicker Park excels with ethnic hair and experimental color ($15–$21). Jamie Hartwig at Twisted Scissors serves up pompadours, mohawks (from $25), and free beer.
Photograph: Megan Lovejoy
Best for updos
Tina Rosado at Studio 110: A favorite on Chicago’s black-tie circuit, Rosado will custom-order all-natural, reusable hair extensions (from $290) to give a stealth boost to the length, volume, or lift of her modern yet classic special-event styles (from $75). “I want all of my clients to look unique,” says Rosado, who takes particular pride in coaxing uncooperative fine hair into otherwise unachievable textures, heights, and thicknesses.
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Erin Nelson at Rocstar Hair uses tricked-out elastic bands to pull clients’ locks into softly textured chignons and other “organic, undone” upstyles (from $75). In beauty school, Angelica Rivera of Tigerlilie Salon fell for vintage American pin curls, curl sets, finger waves, and other old-school styles (from $65). Andreas Zafiriadis, owner of Salon Buzz, has styled hair for Glamour and Allure. He brings that same fashion mag aesthetic to special-event looks (from $150).
Best on-call beauty service
Rachel Reiman: Reiman’s client list includes the boutique Ikram, and she and her team of pro stylists bring the same camera-ready glamour to on-site prep for special events (from $175 per hour, plus $75 per trial). Her stylists—who built their resumés at Sassoon, Roque Beauty Lounge, and Trio Salon—approach wedding consultations like interviews so that each look (which could include an event-day cut, color, or blowout) reflects a bride’s unique taste. Says Reiman, who has been in the on-call beauty business for 15 years, “Everyone has her own twist.”
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Holly Kasprisin of Chicago Bridal Hair and Makeup softens classic bridal chignons (from $275, including a trial session) with natural-looking waves and gently combed curls. Brides rely on Samara Toby, head stylist at Bridal Beauty Chicago, for pulled-high ballerina buns, ultraloose side-swept curls, and other looks inspired by the red carpet (from $175). Crizen Hasegawa is experienced in makeup consultations and polished, intricate updos (from $225, including trial) for Asian and African American clients.
Photograph: Alexis Coram
Best colorist for brunettes
Alise Buchmeier at Twisted Scissors “I really like pushing my clients’ hairstyles as far as they’ll let me,” says Buchmeier, a stylist with 14 years of experience. To many brunettes, that’s good news. Clients trust the rockabilly stylist’s technique when it comes to livening up natural brunettes’ locks, whether they just want sun-kissed streaks (partial highlights from $75) or crave something bolder, such as peekaboo pink pieces (special effects from $100). By studying her client’s hair, she finds just the right placement for foils of Framesi dye. “I like color to move,” she says. “Not like those traditional train-track kind of highlights that sit just on top.”
ALSO RECOMMENDED: At Natural Elements Salon in Lincoln Park, Katie Engel works wonders with colors from deep mahogany to soft amber (single process from $60) and naturally blended highlights (partial from $110; full from $130). For rich hues and perfect precision cuts, seek out Darren Anderson at Paul Rehder (cut from $100; single process from $95; full highlights from $200).
Best colorist for blonds
Emma Middlekauff at Swerve Salon: Stylists who excel in cut-and-color are a dying breed, but Middlekauff tints just as well as she trims. Her golden-haired clients say she has a great eye for every level of blond, from honey-hued highlights to white-hot variations of platinum (single process from $71; partial highlights from $96). The Redken-trained stylist gets natural-looking results by customizing color based on her client’s cut, using Redken dye and foil patterns that vary in thickness to create movement.
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Those blonds who are not-so-natural say they seek out Nicole Rotto at J. Andrews Salon in the Gold Coast (partial highlights from $80; full from $100). Southwest suburbanites rave about Joe Paciorek at Planet Color in Mokena (partial highlights from $65; full from $75).
Best colorist for reds
Kerri Spiteri at Streets of London: “I geek out on reds,” says Spiteri, a Toni & Guy–trained stylist. Spiteri says color has been trending toward natural tones—so while fuchsia and fire-engine red can be fun, she favors ginger hues with warming hints of copper and gold that she weaves in without using bleaching agents (from $70). “With red hair, you don’t want to overprocess it, and lightener can cause damage,” she says. Nervous to take the scarlet plunge? “If someone thinks they can’t pull off red hair, it’s just a matter of finding the right red,” says Spiteri, who relies on L’Oréal dye.
ALSO RECOMMENDED: For long-lasting dyes that are meticulously applied, visit Jeff Roy or Rachel Glenn at Prink Salon in River West (single process from $75). Marilyn Spachman at Art + Science in Lincoln Park offers blonds and brunettes a natural transition to red (from $75).
Photograph: Courtesy of Twisted Scissors
Sine Qua Non
Best for curls
David Noll at Sine Qua Non: "Every curly-haired girl has had a salon horror story," Noll says. Since not all curls are creatd equal, he starts each appointment (from $64) by examining the curl pattern, density, and length of hair. By cutting soft, long layers, he removes weight, allowing curls to spring up naturally. He swears by Bumble and Bumble's Curl Conscious Defining Creme and uses a twisting technique while drying hair with a diffuser to style perfect ringlets. "With the right cocktail of products and a proper cut, curly hair can be the most stunning of all textures," Noll says.
ALSO RECOMMENDED: Jeffery Ching flies in from New York every few months to cut curls at Sandi Hawk Studio (from $200). Steven Graziano from Dennis Bartolomei is a master stylist with 18 years of experience (from $90). Karina Spence at Toujours is trained in the Deva cut, a dry-cutting technique used on tight curls (from $75).
Photograph: Scott Shigley