As a hair stylist lucky enough to have enjoyed a long run on a makeover show on national television, I am often approached by people with a burning question: "What's the big secret of beauty?"
Surprisingly, there is no magic trick for transforming you into Bridgette Bardot, circa 1962. The big secret of beauty is that hairdressing is the best career in the world.
As the owner of cosmetology schools in New York City I know that this it is not what most people think. Parents prefer their children to go to college and enter a profession, and they are not afraid to tell me so. Hairdressing, they say, is a low end job.
These days, however, a college degree is so common it is more like a high school diploma. In New York, I know college graduates who can't get work as receptionists. To get ahead academically, and as such set yourself up for a traditional white collar career path, requires, at the minimum, a masters degree. So we're talking of five or more years of college expenses -- conservatively, that's two hundred grand of debt -- for a chance to start your career in a decently paid position that allows you to pay back all that debt. With no time out for travel, good times, what not, a committed person may start this kind of career at 25.
There are graduates from my cosmetology schools who, by that age, are living large in Gotham. They are not fettered by debt, their clientele pay hundreds of dollars for an hour (and tip on top) of their time and skill, they've been round the world sharing beauty trends and hairdressing techniques with their peers, they've had their work featured in glamorous magazines, they are revered for their creativity and craftsmanship, they wear what they want, and they work a four day week.
What's been forgotten by those who decide hairdressing as a career is the diversity, the creativity, and the lucrative and secure nature of the work.
Just look at the variety of career options. From salon stylist to working in film or theater or TV to editorial or session styling to teaching cosmetology or advanced classes to product development, management, or business ownership, hairdressing is a career that lets you be who you want to be, do what you want to do.
Hairdressing is also recession-and-outsource-proof. Everybody needs a hair cut, everyone likes to look good. The Spending and Saving Tracker, conducted by American Express, indicates people spend more on beauty in a bad economy than a good one. Ever try to get a haircut from a call center or app? The personal service creates an environment where relationships flourish and long-term clientele is established.
Employment in hair care is on course to jump 31% from 2008 to 2018 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ); 53% of salon owners have job openings (Naccas); and five million visits are made to salons and spas in the United States annually, generating $40 billion in revenues (International SPA Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers).
These statistics don't lie; hairdressing is full of opportunity. Look at me: From England, I came to America with $1,500. Hard work in an artisanal craft means twenty years later, I'm the sole owner of a multimillion dollar brand with three salons and two schools in the greatest city in the world.
Career advisors routinely overlook hairdressing careers; often then, the most difficult part of becoming a hairdresser is knowing where to begin. I recommend an Open House I am hosting for prospective students of ARROJO Cosmetology School TriBeCa on December 5.
The Open House is chance to get acquainted with our culture of hairdressing, tour the campus, meet school students, educators and directors, and ask them questions. Even if it's not the right time or place to begin a journey towards a hairdressing career, it will be informative, lively and fun. I'm giving an autographed copy of my Great Hair book to everyone that joins us, and there's a prize raffle to win a hair cut appointment with me. I might even style some hair there and then!
Whatever the naysayers suppose, hairdressers get to touch people every day, helping them to look and feel happier, more confident and beautiful. If that's low end, I hope more people join me in the gutter.
By Nick Arrojo, Owner and Founder of ARROJO N.Y.C. and author of two books, Great Hair: Secrets to Looking Great and Feeling Fabulous Every Day, and Milady's Standard Razor Cutting by Nick Arrojo