The San Francisco haircut that’s taking over Instagram
I first noticed the fringe on my friend Audrey. Where her bare forehead once was, there were thick, wispy chunks of face-framing bangs. Her hair, previously stick-straight and flat, looked nothing short of Farrah Fawcett.
"The shag is taking over America," she proclaimed when I asked about her new hairdo.
I was not convinced.
And then I saw the cut again, on another friend's Instagram feed. Jackie's long, black curls were puffed into a bang-y bob reminiscent of Jennifer Beals in "Flashdance," but classier.
I noticed it on Nuala, too. Her waist-length blonde tresses had morphed into piece-y locks that outlined her wide-set eyes and strong cheekbones. I had never perceived those cheekbones as I was perceiving them now.
After years of seeing the same flat bobs and lobs and ombres, I wasn't sure what was happening on the heads of my female friends. When did they mutually toss their flat irons and embrace a more carefree look? When did the blowout give way to the wake-up-and-go 'do?
In a two-minute Instagram search, I uncovered the thread linking Audrey, Jackie and Nuala's hairdos: Edo Salon and Gallery, an eco-friendly salon that set up shop in a former Baptist church off Haight Street more than two decades ago.
Edo's cuts are what many women described as "an investment." They range in price from $90, for barbering, to $300 to work with a pro like Matthews. That's not including tip or coloring.
Their Instagram is full of the sorts of transformations I observed on my friends' feeds: side-by-side composite photos showing clients before-and-after their cuts.
I found myself scrolling the page for 20 minutes, the experience generating a sense of satisfaction akin to watching a transformation scene in a movie. If "Miss Congeniality," "She's All That" and "The Princess Diaries" taught me anything, it's that everybody loves a makeover (and most makeovers involve removing one's glasses and brushing one's hair).
Edo began posting the before-and-after photos about two years ago, according to hair guru Jayne Matthews, who co-owns the salon with Chri Longstreet. In that time, the salon's Instagram "blew up." It now has close to 35,000 followers.
Instagram has become an increasingly popular medium for creatives looking to sell their wares, be it vintage clothing or tattoos or pottery. But many hair salons are behind-the-times, Matthews told me recently.
"At one point, I was looking through salons' Instagrams, and it was like, why are we showing the backs of everyone's heads? That's not what anyone looks at," she said. A quick social media search of popular San Francisco salons confirms Matthews' observation.
So she bought a ring light and started taking cell phone photos of her clients before she cut their hair and after. Her followers devoured the "transformations." Now the mini-photoshoots — Matthews says they take about 30 seconds — are standard practice for all Edo stylists, many of whom have Instagram followers in the tens of thousands.
Matthews estimates about 80 percent of new clients find the salon from the social media site, and 99 percent of her individual clients discover her services from her personal Instagram account.
The medium is well-suited to Edo's clientele, whom Matthews describes as "maker types." Many Edo-ites have sizable social media followings themselves. Their feeds feature objects, furniture and art one would also find decorating Edo (or any coffee shop in San Francisco): lots of viney plants, clean textiles and exposed wood.
A few years ago, Matthews said she noticed that this group of creatives were on-trend when it came to their clothing — natural linens, flowing pants and blouses, woven textiles, and so on — but their hair "did not match."
The stylist recalled a visit to West Coast Craft Fair, a massive annual gathering of makers held at Fort Mason in November, about five years ago. Most of the women selling wares wore outfits reminiscent of the chic SoCal hippies of the 60s and 70s — a clothing trend popular among twentysomething Californians. Their hair, however, seemed stuck in the early-2000s: lots of blow-outs and shoulder-grazing mops and stringy, over-straightened locks.
Matthews offered to do artists' trades with some of the craftswomen, hoping to upgrade their ironed tresses to "something more organic, loose and free" that better matched their contemporary aesthetics. Many of these women are now Edo's regular clients. Some of their artwork hangs on the walls of the salon's in-house gallery.
Matthews describes her salon's signature shag as a "hippie, French New Wave slash beachy, seventies kind of thing." Think Brigitte Bardot meets Topanga Canyon. The rugged, natural cut seems to have caught on in San Francisco, where style to take a backseat to comfort and convenience (see: our obsession with puffy jackets, clogs and boyfriend jeans). It makes sense that this ethos would eventually make its way to our heads.
My friend Audrey thinks the cut is a reflection of the social moment.
"The cultural shift we are experiencing in 2018 is very reminiscent of the countercultural revolution of the late 60s and 70s when the shag was first introduced," she told me recently. "The way I see it, the resurgence of the shag is a sign of the times, and it makes sense that a salon in the Haight would be so influential to its rebirth."
Of course, the hairstyle doesn't work the same for all textures. A quick scroll through Edo's Instagram feed shows nearly all their clients are white. Several had curly hair, but there were just a couple women of color featured, even fewer with coarse hair texture and tighter curls.
What drew the six women I interviewed to Edo was the promise of a low-maintenance, flattering cut. Something you could sleep on, tousle and then wear to work.
Each of these women described a similar experience at the salon. The hourlong appointment begins with a consultation, in which the stylist assesses the client's face shape and hair texture. After the hair is wetted, it's cut using what Matthews calls a "carving" method, almost like "forming individual petals around the face." This is generally done with a razor, rather than scissors. Then comes a quick blow-dry and a light application of organic product. Photos are snapped against the designated backdrop, and you're off.
The price of a cut is certainly on the higher end of the spectrum for hair services in the city — the average cost of a woman's haircut in San Francisco is about $71, according to a 2014 survey from Square Inc. — but relatively standard for high-end salons in the region.
Jackie, the friend with the "Flashdance" look, paid $120 for her recent haircut, "more than double" anything she'd paid previously. Before Edo, she hadn't set foot in a salon for three years. Her previous haircut involved some shears, a trash can, and her roommate's fairly steady hand.
She plans to return to Edo for her next cut.
"It's a huge thing for self esteem to present yourself to the world exactly how you feel that you are," she said. "I will pay for it."
Edo currently has one location, 601 Haight St., San Francisco. The owners plan to open an additional outpost in Oakland over the next year.
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