It’s been two months. You’re due for a haircut. You flip through the latest issue of Vogue, debating which model-esque hairstyle you want to emulate, and call to make an appointment with whatever upscale Newbury Street salon you typically go to. But have you ever thought about the person creating that desirable look you see in glossy magazine pages cutting your hair? Some Bostonians did, and went to the Fairmont Battery Wharf last weekend to see him.
His name is Jehr, and it’s no coincidence that his name rhymes with hair. Whether he is catering to celebrities, or the average working professional, Jehr guarantees the same thing for everyone: the perfect individualized haircut. Based in San Francisco, CA, Jehr travels to different cities all over the United States to accommodate his loyal followers, as well as gaining new ones. A departure from his typical itinerary, Jehr came to Boston for the first time after being approached by Bloomspot, an online deal site featuring discounts on restaurants, spas, salons, and hotels. Instead of the retail cut for $300, assertive Bostonians snatched their chance at the Jehr experience for almost half the price.
The experience started at the ground floor of the Fairmont’s “Gold” building. A bellboy escorted clients, one per hour, to Jehr’s hotel room on the fourth floor where they were first greeted by Jehr’s wife, Jeanette, and eight-year-old daughter Lulu. Then, they met Jehr. His head was shaven and he was wearing a black jumpsuit with cutting shears peaking out of his front pocket. A sheet was placed on the floor with the desk chair in the middle. There was no mirror. There was no green tea. And there were no styling tools other than scissors and a mist bottle that sprayed water. Like Jehr himself, a Jehrcut is anything but conventional. But there’s a method to his minimalism.
“The real selling point that I have versus everyone else is that my asset is to encourage what’s there. After I get done with it, it’s nothing but what it is,” he said. And what is that exactly? “The idea is to think of being on vacation, going in the ocean, coming back to your hotel room and showering, then not having to do any styling and go to dinner. When the website says chic, effortless hair, that’s what I want to offer,” Jehr said.
It sounded good, too good. One woman even cancelled her appointment because she couldn’t believe that the incredible reviews she read on Yelp were true. But at 11 o’clock, the elevator pinged, and believer Marina Reiser, a 50-year-old nurse, arrived for her appointment. Skeptical of the makeshift salon at first, Jehr sat her down and studied her face and her curly, brassy hair. “You have not made friends with your hair,” he said. Reiser immediately relaxed and said, “That’s why I need you!” Finally, a hair stylist who understood her.
“If you haven’t seen your hair in a favorable way for the past 50 years, you will in the next hour,” Jehr assured her. The transformation process takes place within the hour for all of his clients. “If you lined up all my clients they all have different textures, different lengths, but they’re all my cuts,” Jehr said.
Reiser typically pays upwards of $100 for a senior stylist, so the Bloomspot deal was especially appealing to her. “I thought it was about time to get the right haircut. I’ve never had a great cut with curly hair, and Jehr seems to be the only one who knows how to do it,” she said. While most hair salons bring you over to a sink where they lather your hair with shampoo and conditioner and then comb it straight before cutting it, Jehr cuts your hair in its natural state so that when you do your rinse, lather and repeat routine, you’ll know what it’s going to look like when it dries, and how it will fall around your face. Reiser added that if for $300 at retail meant saving time with blow-dryers and flatirons, and stepping out of the shower with ready-to-go hair, she would gladly come back to Jehr. And most people do.
“Most of our clients are on an 8 to 12 week thing,” Jehr said. “If somebody gets a blow-out, it’s $50 dollars, and if they go out in the rain that blow-out is jeopardized. If my haircut is $300 and lasts for two months regardless of the weather, I think that’s a deal.”
Only in town for two days, Jehr had eight appointments on Friday, and another full day on Saturday. “Twelve appointments is out of control, but we’ve done it before,” said Jeanette, who sat on the couch for the duration of the cut, taking part in the conversation and the process. “Bloomspot was a great way to have our name go out to a lot of people, but it’s important not to dilute the work that he does.”
When Jehr talked to Reiser about the halo of grey hair around her head, he poignantly told her the true dangers of coloring hair. “If the client goes to the OBGYN, and the doctor says, ‘I have news for you, you’re having a baby,’ the next question he asks is if you color your hair. If you say yes, he tells you to wait to color it again until after the baby is born. So if coloring hair is bad for the fetus, what is it doing to the woman?” he asked.
For the past 35 years, Jehr has been trying to figure out the answer. Although there is no concrete evidence to directly link hair-dye to health problems, Jehr danced around the issues of breast cancer, and other diseases women face. “The 20th century brought a really bad idea to beauty. The chemist wasn’t thinking about your skin tone, just how much revenue they would make from putting a toxic little bottle onto your head,” he said.
Besides hair coloring, a billion dollar industry, a new booming process called the Brazilian Keratin Treatment has been placated on salon websites and windows. One client came to Jehr after having done the treatment, and about an inch of her hair was burnt at the bottom. “If you put a chemical on anything, it’s going to break down the fabric. And if it makes the stylist’s nose bleed, don’t do it,” Jehr advised. “I know that I may have avant-garde ideas, but in 2014, color will be a passe idea,” he projected. The sheer genius may not be a clairvoyant, but he is the most insightful hairdresser around, and he’s not wrong about people’s lifestyles growing increasingly busy, making it more difficult to allow time to be a slave to time and money. Hence, the Jehrcut.
With blow-out bars, hair coloring, straightening treatments, and up-do services, it seems like many stylists don’t even know how to properly cut hair. “You cannot paint a house until you build it, and that’s why a lot of people have lost the art of cutting hair,” the expert said. Jehr is not a 20-something year-old stylist trying to make his signature cut work for every client. He develops a relationship with his clients, builds a foundation of trust and takes particular interest in their job, family life, and what would make them the most happy. Then, he mixes those abstractions with the features of your face, and creates a product far more safe and effective than anything you’d get in a typical salon.
After cutting Reiser’s ringlets with precision, transforming her lifeless look into one of vivaciousness and luster, he gave her a prescription he gives to all of his clients who now swear by it. His most secret tip to maintaining hair of envy is to only brush hair in the shower, and before bed. “After you shampoo the hair, which you should only do up to three times a week, rinse it to get all of the suds out, then you squeeze the water out and massage conditioner to the hair, and comb the conditioner in the hair. You don’t want to take a comb to your hair after the shower because once you comb it you lose your hair’s natural shape,” Jehr said.
Stopping by a few salons dotted along Newbury Street in the latter part of the afternoon, it was easy to see the difference between the average salon stylist, and Jehr. They are like gardeners, tilling the soil and planting the seeds. But the difference between them is that Jehr is the only one who constantly checks on his efforts to make sure his seeds are developping properly. It is a thorough process, one that is only complete after that seed has transformed into a delightfully beautiful flower, which continues to blossom even after sprouting from the ground.
Reiser beamed at the outcome of her Jehrcut, her 50 years of bad haircuts corrected in one hour, by a guy with water and a pair of scissors. “This thing ultimately means accepting you as who are,” Jehr said. “And that’s what beauty is. That’s how you have a sustainable beauty.”
To find out when he’ll be in Boston next, contact Jehr at [email protected], or call 877SCHIAVO. You can also visit his website, where you can watch a video of his philosophy on the essence of beauty recited by his daughter Lulu at www.jehrschiavo.com