I tried it: Student hair styling

Dori Manela

When I first heard about free haircuts and styling at New York City’s Bumble and bumble University, I was wary. A student? Touching my hair?

My only reference to student stylists was from the Beverly Clearly book “Ramona and Her Mother.” You might remember this book from your own childhood or maybe from your children or grandchildren. Ramona and her sister Beezus get student haircuts, and while Ramona is left with an adorable pixie cut, Beezus walks out with an unflattering, stiffly teased hair style. And that scene, which I read as a child, stuck with me all these years.

I did not want to end up like Beezus.

But as I learned more about the Bb. U Model Project, I found out that all of the students in the “university”are actually experienced professional, licensed stylists at Bumble and bumble network salons throughout the United States. To even be eligible to participate in the university, they must have a minimum of two-years salon experience. They attend  Bb. U for advanced training in the most current cutting, styling and coloring techniques. In other words, this is not your average stylist training program.

I familiarized myself by reading the Bb.U Model Project website:

Bb.U Model Project provides free, Bb.-designed haircuts, styles and color in a professional, educational setting to anyone with appropriate hair for the classes we offer, and with the willingness to explore new looks.

Essential to the Bb.U student experience is working with Model Clients (not plastic dummy heads) and the opportunity to perfect techniques by customizing cuts, styles and color for individual features and hair textures. This unique collaboration is devoted to suitability for each client (here at Bb.U and in their own salons) and putting an end to a cookie-cutter approach to hairdressing.

The description sounded great, so I met with the model coordinators at Bb.U to learn more. It turns out that the Bb.U Model Project was created in 2004 to satisfy the growing need to have live models. While they used to tackle New York City streets with clipboards in hand looking for models, the program now consists of a five-person department with a database of about 10,000 model clients.

When I checked in as a model for the “Round Brush blow dry” class, the model coordinator gave me a “Hairmiles” booklet. A clever name for an incentive program, the more hairmiles a model accrues, the more rewards she gets. The rewards are actually credits toward Bumble and bumble products. And those products happen to be phenomenal.

The scene itself at Bb.U is pretty cool. The salon is in a gorgeous loft space in New York City’s Meatpacking district, overlooking the Hudson River and the High Line park. Natural light floods the high-ceiling space as the models sit at two rows of salon chairs and mirrors. For each nine students styling the hair, there is one teacher walking around offering guidance and answering any questions.

When I was seated and ready to go, I met my student stylist. When the teacher came over, they discussed my hair in really great detail. The teacher was clearly extremely knowledgeable and noticed the nuances of my hair right away. I’ve had bad experiences at salons where they couldn’t figure out that my hair is naturally very curly, even after I specifically tell them. But at Bumble and bumble University, the teacher not only recognized my real hair (despite it being flat ironed) but discussed specific methods for handling it with the student.

I’m no stranger to blowouts , but the “Round Brush blow dry” technique at Bb. U was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My stylist would dry each section (at times asking for advice from the teacher on whether to split one section into two or where exactly to part the section), and then loop each section and pin it to my head.

Once my hair was all looped and pinned to my head, my student stylist released the pins and revealed a glamorous look. While I was basking in my post-great-blowout happiness (I’ve had so many terrible blowouts at salons that specialize in just that, so this was a huge deal), my student stylists handed me a prescription pad with product suggestions that she thought would help me manage my hair and make it look great, and she went over the products with me to explain how to use them.

What I liked most about my experience was how open and eager the student stylist was to learn. When she wasn’t sure of something, she would call a teacher over to make sure she was doing my hair correctly. I felt safe the entire time, never once worrying I’d have to run home after to fix my hair. Which I have done more times than I’d like to admit.

Because the Bb.U Model Project incentivizes models to return, I’m sure I’ll be back. And for those interested in modeling, they hold Model Calls on certain Monday evenings, where a potential model is assessed and placed in an appropriate class. Visit bbumodelproject.com for more information on how to join the Bb.U Model Project.

Now that I had such a positive experience – I even learned things about my hair I never knew before by listening to my student and teacher stylists discussing me; when will you ever get THAT kind of attention at a regular appointment? – I’m dying to try one of their haircut classes! Long layers, anyone? And with the experienced student plus the teacher, a free haircut has never sounded better.

Have you ever attended a student hair styling class? Would you ever try the Bb.U Model Project?

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By: Dori Manela

Dori Manela manages Fit-A-Licious. Welcome! After years of not understanding why exercise was important, Dori learned firsthand how much her life changed for the better once she embraced health and fitness – and now she hopes to show women all over just how attainable living a healthy lifestyle can be. Dori is the social media manager at Hydroxatone. In her free time, she writes Dori’s Shiny Blog, where she shares her experience in fitness and the randomness of life. Her writing has appeared on NBC New York: GO Healthy NY and Blisstree. Dori’s devotion to sharing her love of exercise was the subject of a Bing: Friends Matter webisode. Her greatest fitness accomplishment was finishing the Richmond Marathon in November, 2011.