I can say, honestly, that natural hair is the love that found me. I began by locking my own and my friends’ hair, experimenting with different products styles and techniques, but i didnt think about doing hair professionally until another friend, who had completed hair school, suggested I do so.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your salon and the services you offer?
My name is Shawn Lamar, and I am an independent hair artist from Jacksonville, Florida. I am currently working at AMG Uptown Salon, which is in the Downtown Jacksonville area. In the salon, i offer various options of styling for loose natural hair clients (not-locked), as well as custom coloring, precision cuts (all hair types), extensions, keratin treatments, loc care, cultivation, and styling for locs, loc extension/repair, as well as hair care for transitioning and relaxed-hair clients, and non-ethnic hair. In short, i am a multicultural stylist, who specializes in the versatility of natural hair, and the limitless options that the hair can offer.
Why, when and how did you get into natural hairstyling?
I can say, honestly, that natural hair is the love that found me. I began by locking my own and my friends’ hair, experimenting with different products styles and techniques, but i didnt think about doing hair professionally until another friend, who had completed hair school, suggested I do so. From there, i learned the techniques for classic hair-styling, and applied them to natural hair techniques, but not being familiar with any other naturalists, it forced me to make my own style of natural, instead of doing what is considered as traditional. Once i realized that I had a client base for my creativity, the rest was history!
What is so special or different about African hair?
My work is all about shapes and textures, as applied to the hair, and what better hair provides fullness and texture naturally? I love hair that is very high fashion: big, bold, dramatic, and strong…..OUR texture of hair provides the best support for those type of look.
What can a person expect when coming to your salon the first time?
A new client can expect a warm, friendly atmosphere. The first time people come in, they see the decor and the size of the salon and they think its going to be stuffy and too upscale. It’s quite the opposite!! Though we are upscale, and though we are in the heart of the city, the environment of the salon is created to feel like you are apart of a family. Most of our clients are laughing, as soon as they walk through the door, and we have excellent areas of relaxation for those clients who want to unwind after a long day.
Do you have and offer a signature style?
Not really. My styling is based on the individual. I have a very casual style of consultation, so I listen to what the needs and concerns of my clients are, what their lifestyle and sleeping habits are, workout routine, if they are going to an event, what they may be wearing, if they will be using extensions or their hair, etc….and then i design a style for their needs. Most of my clients have seen my work before they call for an appt, so either they have seen my work online or through my website–which means they usually want the style that attracted them–or they know someone who i service, and was referred by them. My clients are AWESOME; they refer alot, and im very thankful for them.
You know it seems that when women stop perming they stop visiting salons. The main reasons we get from the board are lack of support for transitioners, they can take care of their hair themselves because the majority of stylists are incompetent when it comes to natural hair. Why do you think women stop visiting salons and what do you say about the reasons?
Because i offer services, for natural, relaxed, and transitioning hair, this deeply bothers me when i see a new client who is experiencing hair TRAUMA from a bad transtion. The same is the case of a natural client who has come in, but her hair is badly damaged (yes, natural hair CAN be damaged). Most of the time, people think their hair won’t grow, but its usually because their ends are badly damaged and shedding from lack of regular trims, and proper under the dryer conditioning (as opposed to topically caking a lot of grease and butters in their hair to make it manageable)….and this is NOT a healthy practice.
Because i try to have a strong network with other stylists, I know several who may not be knowledgeable with natural hair, but they will REFER a client to me, or someone they trust. The key is communication with your hairstylist….Our job is to make sure that you find the best solution for your hair, even if its not US. I know people think that a hair STYLIST will automatically specialize in hair CARE, and unfortunately, this is not the case–they are two different entities of the same field.
If your stylist is not capable of doing natural hair, or cannot refer you to someone who is reputable in natural hair CARE, i still believe that it is necessary to find** and follow up** with a stylist on a regular basis for your hair CARE needs, even if you choose to style it yourself. If a person is transitioning, I am a firm believer in extensions and setting the hair (rod set, twist sets, etc) , until the transition process is complete. The hair can also be thermally treated, or tamed with use of keratin. Otherwise excess styling will causes a “chemical cut,” meaning that the relaxed hair will start to break off at the point where the new growth has grown in.
Our visitors keep asking us where the good natural hair salons are. We have an index but they don’t know how to select one. So can you please tell us this; how can we ordinary people distinguish the good salons from the bad ones?
I am a very visual person, and we are thankful that we live in a visual age. I rely heavily on referrals and other people who have been to the salon and KNOW someone, or I would check to see if they have a website or Facebook. If they dont, there is nothing wrong with meeting the stylist, or scheduling a consult, as most natural stylist will request a consult before pricing your hairstyle anyway. If a person is unsure, go to several salons, and find the right stylist for you, both skill-wise and their personality, because both will play a big part in the stylist/client relationship.
In your opinion, what question(s) does a customer need to ask a hairdresser before she allows the hairdresser to style her?
As i stated, hairstyling is often about developing a relationship with the client, through their hair needs. SKILL, AVAILABILITY, and PERSONALITY are a must. I strongly recommend doing a walkin consult on a Thursday, if possible….thats a busy enough day to see the service of the salon, but not too busy where the stylist may be unavailable. At that time you, want to WATCH and LISTEN carefully. You want to ask:
(1) about the products they use, what do the recommend for home use? do they retail products, or order for you?
(2) how often often do they recommend trims/treatments?
(3) what is THEIR style of natural hair….what services are offered? and does that fit with YOUR needs?
(4) ask for visual examples, referrals to a website, or any postcards or flyers with work, they may have.
(5) also ask them what services they do NOT offer, and see if this fits your FUTURE needs. ***this is very important.
What would you say to people who say that natural hair care salons are just too expensive?
I would say that some are, but i would also agree that you get what you pay for. It has been said to me by several professionals that we, as consumers, want our services to be good, fast, and cheap, but we can always get TWO, never the THIRD…..for example: we can have fast and cheap services, but they wont be good: more than likely, the products will be cheap or synthetic–petroleum or lanolin based–or do not have enough moisture at all. Or the customer service will be poor because there will be a revolving door system in place to service more clients.
we can also provide fast and good services, but those services will not be CHEAP: meaning that we can use quality natural ingredients, and professional products that will last and deliver results. The customer service can be impeccable, and your stylist can be concerned about your comfort. Your stylist CAN and WILL care if you choose to reschedule for the next visit, if you trust them enough to refer their services to your friends, and if your hair is showing progress. And while the price for these services should be reasonable and affordable, i believe that any professional result is worth paying a sufficient price.
Which hair care services would you say should people absolutely not cut back on, even in economic challenging times?
A deep reconstructive conditioner and trim NEED to be gone, no later than 6 to 8 weeks.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence of going to a salon because the person is embarrassed by the condition of their hair/scalp?
I would say that we go to the doctor for care of our bodies, we go to the dentist for great oral care, but we buy a lacefront wig to cover the ailments of our hair. This is unfortunate and WRONG. While i love extensions for their styling options and the resting period that it allows the hair, i do not believe in using them as a band-aid for other issues. Many people think balding edges and broken hair ends are something to be automatically associated with age, or chemicals, or having “good” or “bad” hair textures, when really, most cases, if caught early, can be cured with minimal to no permanent follicle damage.
Many salons offer private areas or extended hours for a client who has additional issues with their hair, but they key is being open and honest with the stylist about their individual comfort level. If the stylist truly values the client, they will make suggestions of appropriate times, when they may be slower, to accommodate that client. As for ailments of the scalp, we as stylist can only help with minor topical issues, but if the problems progress, do not hesitate to contact a medical professional or dermatologist.
In your opinion, what should a customer share about his/her hair when seeking hair care services?
They should be as informative as possible regarding any breakage or shedding issues that may have occurred, as well as any scalp issues that may affect the growth of the hair. I believe that they should allow the professional to inspect the hair and scalp, and they should be open about anything (product, excessive heat, hair color–even temporary color) that has been added to the hair, and when, especially during a chemical service or a major change in styling.
For example, color may fade somewhat on the outside of the strand, but if the color has a red or cool base, such as a black or red hair color, that color will often reappear and change the result of a color service, especially when the hair is decolorized (bleached). If a natural client is used to thermally straightening their hair but they want comb coils, two strand twists, or to lock their hair, they may have to consider that their hair may have a texturized, or even relaxed, appearance, which may alter or deter the desired result, because these styles are dependent on the natural coil of the hair to sustain the set which the stylist places in the hair, regardless of the product.
What can we clients do to prevent a gone-wrong hairdo?
COMMUNICATION. Be very clear about the style you seek to accomplish, even so much as to bring pictures, or ask for pictures of their work that may be similar. I like to draw, so i have often sketched out a desired style for a client, so we can both agree before i begin my work. I have also done this as a client, when going to another professional. In the end, the professional will appreciate the extra time, because we pride ourselves on making our clients happy and feel good.
I know it sounds cliche’, but an unhappy client will bruise a stylists’ ego for a WHILE, and also can cause a bad reputation, which we hate as stylists! Our reputation is how we eat, and we NEED our clients to be happy with our work.
The service industry is quite demanding and in all honesty, some of us customers do have behavioral problems. So can you give us a few behavior tips and describe your ideal customer?
An ideal customer understands these two simple things:
PLEASE be reasonable when it comes to your appointment time. Many times, what people dont understand is that one client can make a whole operation run behind. Often, if the client before you is is late, it makes the whole operation run late, which makes your stylist look bad. (not always, but this does often occur) Of course, if the wait is excessive (over 10-15 mins) such issues may need to be addressed, but if it is a short wait, please be courteous in doing so.
PLEASE be considerate of cancellations with a stylists. Again, most stylists do not work a salary–basically, if we do not work, we dont make any money. So if your stylist has a late or cancellation policy, please respect and adhere to that, within reason. Often times, a cancellation, especially of a lengthy or pricey service, is the equivalent of someone getting up, dressed for work, and arriving at the their office only to find a sign that says, “GO HOME. WERE CLOSED.” Not only has the stylists paycheck been affected, because they could have scheduled someone else in that position, but now they have been stood up as well, which can cause trust issues when making another appointment with that stylist. Now, imagine if that stylist were unable to make YOUR appointment…? What would the clients’ reaction be? Again, a stylist/client relationship is very important, and both needs have to be considered.
What is absolutely intolerable or your worst customer?
I do not allow negative energy in my chair. I know it sounds crazy, but if i cant look forward to servicing my client, it alters my work and i cannot assist them. I can and WILL refer to another stylist, if i am not the right stylist for a clients’ needs. its only fair to them, and myself as a stylist, because negative energy can also ruin another clients’ experience in my chair.
You have been in business for a few years now. Can you tell us what makes your salon or services so distinctively special? What are the reasons why clients keep returning?
I honestly and truly love and appreciate my clients….to me, they are like friends and family. Most of them, ive been doing their hair for years and seen their hair transform. And though they trust their hair to me, but i look at my job as a ministry, meaning i deal with family situations, economic situations, i refer my clients to jobs, I pray with them…whenever my spirit leads me to bless a client, I do, and thats why my clients refer. I am blessed to work in an industry where i have such close contact with people, daily, and I show that each time they’re in the chair. Even on the days when i’m tired, from other shows or projects, they know its because i’m doing my best to be the best stylist i can be, for them.
What is your goal as a person, hairstylist or salon owner?
My goal is to divide my time between my clients, freelancing, and being an educator. Though Jacksonville is my home base, it was never my objective to be bound to just working in the city. I have always travelled to attend seminars, workshops, and trade shows, and i planning on taking those things to the next level as an educator. Being that I combine techniques from both natural, relaxed, and European textures, i believe that I have something unique to offer the industry; therefore successfully letting people know that hair is truly LIMITLESS regardless of texture.
Natural hair seems quite hip right now. Locs are everywhere; it looks like the afro is back. Do you think it’s just a fashion phase? That this will pass just like the afro in the 60’s and as soon as the fashion is over we will all go back and straighten our hair again or do we really begin to embrace our natural hair?
I dont believe natural will fade away again; I believe that natural hair will reinvent itself in bold, new ways. I often ask people, “What is YOUR natural?” Meaning that “natural” only means that the bonds in the hair, that make it naturally textured, have not been chemically destroyed. Now, within those parameters, I believe there is SO much playing ground! Technology has allowed us so much freedom, that, whereas “natural” used to mean that we can only lock our hair, or wear afros, now we can wear our hair in every style imaginable, with or without the use of any chemicals. Naturals can be work stick straight, or in elegant updos. Locs can be worn in every size from Micro to Extra Large, they can be layered and styled, spiraled and crimped, and colored just like European hair textures, all under the umbrella of natural hair. If anything, i believe that many more people will convert to natural, because technology has made thermal tools, and amino-based straighteners (keratin) that are so good, the hair looks relaxed without the commitment. Whether the client chooses a formaldehyde based straightener, or the formalin-free is their choice, but they both leave the hair much more manageable and without the permanent commitment of a relaxer.
Do you offer children services? If yes can you please tell us more?
I do offer childrens’ services if the child will let me! Lol….most of my younger clients are teens or pre-teens, but i still will offer services.
And your motto is?
Our motto is “HAIR IS ART”
To see more natural hairstyles of Shawn visit our Hair Salon Directory. He is also a member of the our community. You can Visit Shawn’s Going Natural Profile Page