Everyone already knows all the “must-do” rituals in perhaps the most famous city in the world, right? When you go to Paris, you must see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Champs Elysees, Montmartre, and ad infinitum, are all important, even if you have been to Paris before. However, there is something else that should be on everyone’s to-do list that you would not expect.
Absolutely everyone, men and women alike, should take the short time to get a haircut in Paris. Like Parisian fast food, there isn’t a bad haircut in Paris. In fact, you will likely find it is one of the best haircuts you have ever had—from most any salon anywhere in the city. I personally favor the Biguine chain, particularly the one on Blvd. d’Opera. Anytime I show up without an appointment, they take my husband or me immediately, and anyone I randomly get does an incredible job.
In fact, I have been going to Paris almost once a year for decades. For about 10 years, I had the rare opportunity to “live” there for a few months a year. The first thing I would do when I arrived was rush in for a haircut and style, and it would also be the last thing I did before I left. When I went each year, I would try to make the haircut last until my next trip. We just came back from a month there, and I went through the same ritual. Different stylists, but the same wonderful results.
It is hard to explain; it is not that American stylists can’t do a good job cutting and styling hair, but it is just not the same. There is not that "je ne said quoi". Even if you don’t speak a word of French (however it does help to write down or learn some of the salon and haircut vernacular), you can just gesture if you want it layered, with volume, bangs, etc., and they “get it”. It is like you cannot go wrong. Ideally, bring a picture from a magazine of what you will like, and they will quickly and efficiently make it happen.
Somehow, I have never had it translate quite the same with American stylists, and I’ve had cuts and trims in salons in cities over much of this country. In Palm Beach, I had to buy a hat (which I never wear) to hide the butchery done by a high-end and incredibly expensive salon which went against every request I made.
The only time I have had a slightly less desirable experience in a Paris salon is when I was messaging on the phone and misunderstood the stylist’s question of whether I wanted it shorter that she already had it. Even that was not a disaster; I was surprised, but it looked chic and I ended up liking it shorter for a while.
The concepts and words you should understand (a lot of stylists in even the most touristy of areas don’t speak English) are: “coupè” means cut, shampooing means wash, “après shampooing” means conditioner. “Avec volume” means with volume, “fringe” is bangs, “lisse” is smooth, “boucle” is curl, and there are several other essentials you can find in many guidebooks.
Even if you aren’t able to communicate with anything but gestures of how short you want it, where you part it, and a few other basics, you won’t be disappointed. The whole process is quick and efficient, and relatively inexpensive. It is considerably less expensive than I spend at my salon at home—and I am always thrilled!
So make room on your Paris to-do list for a little TLC and Parisian chic. It may be the best haircut you will ever have!