Forty-Plus Years with Philip by
(149 Stories)

Prompted By Haircuts

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My hair is very fine but wavy, a challenging combination for a stylist. That said, I’ve had relatively few truly memorable haircuts. I was lucky that my mother, an artist, had a talent for hair cutting and cut my hair through my teens, generally very well. The worst cut I can remember was when I was in my 20s and went to a trendy salon in Palo Alto, which I could barely afford. I sensed trouble when three people began combing, drying, and styling my hair after the cut, but I looked fabulous when I left. Problem was, once I shampooed, the cut turned into an assembly of random locks going every which way and of uneven length, and it was impossible to style with two hands when it took six in the salon. Lesson learned; from then on, I insisted on a wash-and-wear cut.

Over the years, we've chatted about spouses, and more recently, aging parents. Philip knows me well ...

I’d like to spend the rest of this story on my intrepid and delightful stylist Philip, whom I’ve visited for more than 40 years. I can’t remember the exact year when my mother and I met for a day in San Francisco. She wanted a haircut at Vidal Sassoon salon and treated me. I was assigned, at random, to Philip. We got along instantly. Just a few years older than I, he had come from the UK to a Vidal Sassoon salon in Toronto, then to the US. His hair styling approach was “classic,” unlike the angular cuts that were in style at the time. Even though I gradually moved farther from San Francisco, about once every three or four months I’d make a day of it and go for a haircut with Philip in the salon’s large room, enjoying having my hair shampooed and reading fashion magazines–the only time I did that!

Over the years, we’ve chatted about spouses, kids (his), our various travels, and more recently aging parents. One of my favorite memories was telling Philip about my first and only camping trip to the Big Sur area (I saw the ground where the guys were pitching the tent and commented, “There’s dirt everywhere!”). Philip knows me well and rightly thought I’d be the last person he’d guess would go camping. He was laughing so hard he had to hold onto the chair.

About 2-1/2 years ago, the salon closed, no longer trendy and a victim of the building owner’s desire to sell. Philip moved to a salon down the block, smaller and more basic, and I followed him there. When the pandemic hit, and San Francisco shut down, the small salon had to close; no room for social distancing.

This September, I got a call from Philip, letting me know that new plans were afoot. Because of the pandemic, the landlord of the original Vidal Sassoon location couldn’t sell the building. An associate of Philip’s had negotiated a great lease, and Philip could rent a chair back in the “old” salon, which was ideal for COVID restrictions–a huge, ventilated room. He’d work part-time, just Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. So in the beginning of November, during the brief time when it was allowed, I went to the salon on a Tuesday morning, masked, with no one there but the receptionist, Philip, and me. Now that restrictions are easing again, I plan to go back again in the spring.

One of these years Philip will retire, and I will look for a haircutter closer to home, but in these disruptive times, I truly value the continuity I’ve had with Philip these 40-plus years.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    How wonderful that you have this long relationship with Philip, Marian. That is worth SO much. I totally get it. To have someone who gets your hair and gets YOU, well, just fabulous! I understand your concern that some day he will retire and you’ll have to find someone new. That will be wrenching. Meanwhile, I hope Philip finds a way to keep going for a lot longer, for both of you!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Wow, Marian, 40 years with the same stylist. Philip must be a total gem. Lucky you!

  3. You are SO fortunate to have this wonderful relationship, Mare! Trusting someone with your hair is a big deal for some of us, and once we find someone we like and trust, we tend to stay with them. Whenever I lose a stylist for whatever reason, I agonize over finding another one. My hair is a lot to deal with — it’s thick, wavy, and long. I once had a stylist tell me if she had to do hair like mine every day she’d quit the business! (Needless to say, I didn’t go back to her or her salon.) My most recent stylist stopped working due to pregnancy and I was so nervous going to someone new just this week, but happily it turned out great…and she’s willing to do it again.

    I’m thrilled for you and Philip…certain businesses are going to come back with a vengeance!

    • Marian says:

      Right you are, Barb, and I hope all the salons do well, although I think many people have a new perspective on their appearance and what they want to do. I’ve abandoned color for good, I think, but I’ll never say never. Very glad your new stylist was a success!

  4. Risa Nye says:

    The relationship with a hairdresser is so fraught! Lucky you for being such a satisfied and loyal client all these years. My guy (you can see him if you read my post) has really struggled during the last year. I’ve been holding out, but now I think I’ll give him a call. Thanks for this story!

    • Marian says:

      I do feel fortunate, Risa, and it’s so sad how people have to struggle right now. Because Philip has been so good to me, I made a special effort to go to him and I’m glad. Look forward to reading your story.

  5. Suzy says:

    As others have said, you are so lucky to have found Philip, and to have maintained the relationship over so many years. When I first saw “Vidal Sassoon salon” in your story, I immediately thought of those angular cuts, and couldn’t imagine you wanting one, but luckily you were assigned to someone who didn’t talk you into that. He sounds like such a treasure, hope he keeps working for a long time!

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Suzy, that’s why I trust him. My hair won’t go into one of those angular cuts. It would be a disaster, so Philip works with my hair, not forcing it into something it shouldn’t do.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    This was a lovely description of a relationship, and you are lucky to have found a compatible hairdresser. If we ever get to travel again, and I can visit friends in the Bay Area, I’d love to have Phillip cut my hair too.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    Sweet story of a very human relationship.

  8. wow, multiple decades of loyalty to a hair stylist; driving hours to see him. That’s quite a bond, and it was fun to read about it. Has he retained his charming UK accent all these years?

  9. John Shutkin says:

    I’ve long understood, from the women in my life, how important the hair stylist/customer relationship could be. And often complicated or worse, as other stories on this prompt have made clear. So, with this background in mind, I was delighted to read your story of your forty years with Philip and that the relationship was still going strong, even through the pandemic. Phew! He sounds like a terrific hairdresser and, as importantly, a lovely person and dear friend. I hope you tell him that you have now made him famous on Retro!

  10. Amazing story, Marian. There’s a special intimacy between stylists/hairdressers/barbers and clients. Your is very special.

  11. Khati Hendry says:

    Marian, thanks for the offer. Not sure how to contact you—maybe someone on the Retrospect team can advise.

  12. Of course .Marilyn. I understand your allegiance to Philip! We all have a favorite..

    Years ago when I broke my ankle my wonderful
    Maya bent her own shop-only rule, and came to my apartment.

  13. Oops Marian, preemptive writing!

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