So yesterday I got a haircut. I got a haircut that cost $1,200.
Perhaps I should back up.
I do a video series here called “Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Thing,” where I’m a guinea pig subjected to various feats of luxury. On the list: Get the world’s most expensive haircut.
A quick word about my hair: I’ve worn it the same way for 20 years. It barely moves. Now, I like pampering as much as anyone, but unlike the three-figure haircuts that I know a lot of women get (albeit far less frequently than I do), I go cheap on the haircut. My regular barber, Yosif, charges $17. So, for $1,200, I can go to Ted Gibson once, or Yosif once a month for about six years.
What happens when you get a $1,200 haircut? Let’s start at the beginning:
The man you want is Ted Gibson, salon owner, celebrity stylist, and contributor to the reality show What Not to Wear. Gibson’s salon on lower Fifth Avenue has plenty of stylists on staff, and they start at a comparatively reasonable rate of $95. But if you want to get your hair done by the man who does Angelina Jolie’s hair, who styles Anne Hathaway, whose work shows up on the red carpet and the covers of Vogue and Marie Claire—that’ll cost you $1,200.
Ted Gibson Beauty is on the second floor of an office building, above a Duane Reade Express. The building’s lobby and elevator are decidedly mid-market—it had the look and feel of where you’d go to visit a small-time tax preparer. But when the elevator doors open, you step into an airy, sunlit salon. It’s nothing extraordinary, mind you, but it’s all very nice.
Check in at the front desk and you’ll be led to a changing room where you can put on a brown, heavyweight-satin robe. Someone will ask you if you’d like a beverage. I got a club soda.
After you’ve been brought to your chair, you meet Ted. He’s immensely charming, full of warmth and meaningful handshakes. You and Ted will begin to discuss your hair: what you like about it, what you don’t, etc. After Ted tells you what he’d like to do, he gives you a three- to five-minute shoulder massage. This is followed by a short walk over to the shampoo sink, where Ted (himself!) will give you a scalp massage and shampoo (twice) and condition your hair.
Back to the chair, where the haircutting begins. Ted and I just chatted for a while, talking about our childhoods, where we’ve lived, our mutual affection for Prince. (Ted lived in Minneapolis while working at Aveda’s HQ. He also worked on one of the videos for Prince’s Diamonds & Pearls album. He couldn’t remember which one, but I hope it was this one.)
After the haircut is over, it’s back to the sink for a rinse, as well as a hot towel for my face that reminded me of that shot of Robert De Niro in The Untouchables. This is followed by the application of some styling product. In my case, Ted used a combination of his Tame It Shine Lotion with his Fix It Gel. “The gel’s going to give you the control you want, while the lotion will give you the touchability that you like,” he explained.
If all this was the party, what happened next was the after-party, when one of Ted’s assistants wrapped my hands and forearms in hot towels and then gave them a massage with my choice of three scented lotions. I picked “Prosperity” over “Affirmation” and “Transformation.”
And then I was at the end. Ted approached with a mirror and, after intentionally looking away for the last hour and 15 minutes, I could drink my new haircut in. It was … really very nice. The gentle tapering at the back of my neck did, in fact, “give the illusion of lengthening it,” as Ted said it would. It was by no means a radical redo of my hair, but it was a very nice version of what I’ve been wearing for the past two decades.
Of course, the question hangs there: Is it worth it? Well, of course it isn’t. How could it be? I asked Ted about this. “It’s about an experience,” he said. He compared it to fashion. “You can shop at H&M, or you can shop at Louis Vuitton. They’re both great, but they are not at all the same.” In the end, what you’re paying for is Ted Gibson’s reputation and, as he put it, “the six degrees of separation” in which the man who styled your hair also styles Angelina Jolie’s, which surely some people get a tremendous kick out of.
I’m not even going to try to judge Gibson’s admittedly wackadoodle price for a haircut. I won’t, because the market already has: Even after raising his price to $1,200 from $950, he still has a two-month waiting list. When he’s not traveling to a magazine shoot or to one of his celebrity clients, he says he does somewhere between 12 and 15 $1,200 cuts a week.
Also, being the most expensive haircut in town has the benefit that, well, people like me are going to write about it, so it’s self-reinforcing. It doesn’t seem to put a dent in Ted Gibson’s excellent adventure. “I continue to raise my price,” he says. “My waiting list doesn’t get any shorter.”