Anique Nicole Hair Studio is a small hair salon that stands between the cramped stores of Washington Street in Egleston Square. It is one rectangular room. The floors are made up of bright wooden tiles, while the pillars are made up of black and white intricately designed wallpaper. The walls near the front of the salon are painted white, while the back is painted a dark lavender. The right side of the salon consists of 5 head dryers, 3 sinks with leaned back chairs and brown woven baskets, and 2 cushioned seats. The backside of the salon has 3 more head dryers, a glass table, and a doorway that leads to one restroom and a supply closet. On the left side of the salon, there is 1 head dryer, 2 mirrors, a trash bin, and a shelf. There is another mirror in the center of the salon that can also be used as a shelf on its sides. There are 3 spinning chairs for the 3 hairstylists. Music is always playing.
Anique, the owner of the salon, founded the salon 2 years ago after working as a hairdresser a few years prior. She is about 5’4” with rich chocolate skin. A strip of her hair was often dyed (sometimes blond, other times fuchsia) and she had a dark brown fade on the sides with a shaved in design, similar to an inward curved “V” shape. Her sense of style matches her personality, since Anique is rather lighthearted. After working through the hair of her clients, she takes small breaks to sip tea or wine. One time, she poured what was left in a wine bottle into her paper cup and sipped it as she went to throw the empty bottle away. “A bit of wine is enough to keep me mellow,” she said. One of the hairdressers joined in with, “Anique has a very mature way of keeping herself stay comfortable.” Besides herself, Anique also works with two other hairstylists, Shay and Shanita. Shay is a tall, black, robust woman with prominent cheekbones who wears big, wavy sew-ins. Sometimes I see her with auburn or brown hair with ends dyed a blondish orange. She speaks frequently about the woman’s experience,
“Tug on it harder. You have to rough up the clients. They like it because it emits confidence in the hairdresser. They wanna feel like they spent money and that the experience was worth it….Well, you have to! You also have to have compassion. We’re women, we’re the strongest creatures. We’re the strongest of the gentle creatures.”
Shay is upfront. She says her opinions without a care for judgement. But it is Shanita who makes the salon a loud place to be. She is a black, slim, woman and usually has her hair in a braided topknot. She has dark brown eyes, bright white teeth, and cheekbones that brighten her smile.
The three hairstylists converse with each other and their clients throughout the whole day at the salon, jumping from one topic to another:
“In Miami, that nigga is a dealer.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’, the kids [nowadays]...”
“They are gonna have ulcers when they are twenty-eight.”
“...when everyone would get malaria and die.”
“...Everyone would have a computer lab, am I right, ladies?...”
“We should play in London!”
“They are expensive.”
“YESSSSS! They are very creative. London is a very creative place.”
“Is that on your bucket list?”
“I think it is!”
“...Are we Ubering there?”
“You could really go to a white person’s house and you’d see their chicken all cut up and shit.”
“They’d keep it in containers.”
“Whatever butcher they have would cut it in huge pieces.”
“They’re just wasting the meat.”
“I am so drained.”
“IT CATCHES FIRE!”
“They should not be sellin’ it.”
“Shay said she was on team Apple~”
“Who are you guys talking about?”
“You said you were on team Apple.”
“You can’t bring them [Samsung] on the plane.”
“You can bring them, but you can’t turn them on once you turn them off.”
“I didn’t know that….”
“They were blowin’ up on people’s faces – I remember that.”
“I used to work for Apple, sooo [I’m biased]!
Depending on how busy the salon is, up to two assistants help out from time to time. Their names are Quam and Carlee. Carlee worked in the salon for about a year, while Quam has been working there for around 6 months. Carlee is a quiet and softspoken black woman with a warm smile and round, brown eyes. Her hair is usually in cornrows or twists.
Quam is the youngest out of all of the workers. He says that he is learning everything he can from the four women, “It is hard work, but not too difficult...These women are a good team. I’ve never seen women work as great as they do. They are always consistent.” Quam is tall, skinny, and black with a bit of scruff. However, sometimes he applies foundation to show a smoother complexion. He also works at Sephora and his boss is sisters with Anique, so she introduced him to the salon. He wears round, thin rimmed glasses, and a crescent moon necklace. Similar to the hairdressers, he dresses in all black.
As busy as the salon is inside, Anique Nicole Hair Studio has a lot of visitors. Sometimes delivery companies visit to help restock shampoos and conditioners, or high schoolers who live nearby stop by to say hello. One time, a man came into the salon with a cart. He wanted to sell seafood pasta. There were no buyers, so he left with a smile and a “See you later!” A few minutes later, another guy was at the front door. Except, his back was turned to the door and he was talking to the seafood guy. Quam noticed him and said, “Oooh, it’s your neighbor!” to Shanita. “He’s got his back turned to the door, though.” They both laughed at him and got back to work. The man left only to return 20 minutes later to the front door of the salon. Because all of the clients were already in the salon for that day, the door was locked from the outside. The man knocked on the door and smiled, but Shanita ignored him and did not let him in.
Quam looked at him, “Oooh, Gucci Belt is here.” Shanita laughed and explained to me, “Yeah, we found out his real name is Carlos 2 weeks ago. He is one of the poppies. The old men who come to sit and talk, but that’s it. Shay and Anique named him Gucci Belt before I met them.” “It’s almost borderline harassment,” said Quam.
At the salon, anyone can do anything during their breaks. Sometimes hairstylists go out to grab a sandwich, relax and look through their phones, or chitchat with their clients while sipping tea. One time, Quam sits down on the cushiony couch by the front door and lays out some makeup. Because his shift is almost over, he is using his break to choose which products he wants wear for the rest of the day. Shanita, who is twisting, combing, and applying moisturizer into her client’s dreads, tells Quam about an encounter she had with a friend as he does this,
“...told me about a product without oil stains. She said, ‘I’ll let you know when I find it.’”
“But anything with oil stains…” Quam picks up a small tube.
“Do you know what shade you are in Nars concealer?”
“But this is yours, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but I don’t use it.” Quam walks over to her and tests it on her.
“This is your tone….”
“You can return it.”
“An empty tube?”
“No, but as long as there is product, then yes.”
“You have a year.”
Quam gets up and goes to the back of the room to rinse his face. Carlee is chatting softly with one of the clients under the head dryer. The client has her hair twisted with clips and small rollers for a coily finish. Carlee ends the conversation with a smile and then walks over towards a tan young woman, “Tiffany,” she continues smiling, “What are we gonna do today?” the consultation began. Anique tells me that whenever the hairdressers have a client, especially a first-time client, the hair appointment starts with a consultation. The hairdressers need to know their client’s hair history. They then ask clients to bring photographs for reference, “...I want it to be on the lighter side.” Shay joins the consultation from across the room,
“She wants a chocolate brown.”
“You know, like a chocolate brown.”
“I think lighter than that.”
“That’s what it [Tiffany’s hair] is now.”
Tiffany bursted out laughing, “Nooo, but I want it to be lighter, I showed you the picture like 5 times!”
“Show me again.” Both Tiffany and Shay laughed. Tiffany searches on her phone and shows the picture to Shay. Shanita hollers out, “Let me see!” Shay makes a face, “You did not show me this.” Tiffany walks around the salon to show Shanita.
“That is platinum blonde,” says Shanita.
“Is it?” Tiffany sits back down onto the cushion by the door. Soulful and jazzy music begins to play in the background. Shay and Shanita call out to each other as they work on their clients,
“We need someone to understand that we’re frustrated, I understand because I am a woman.”
“I need someone to get my hair right the first time or else.”
“We are the service providers, we need to make our customers happy and that’s it.”
Anique Nicole Hair Studio is a rather busy place for such a small space. 9 customers a day is considered hectic, while 3 is a breeze for the three hairstylists. The stylists see themselves as giving a service and with the atmosphere that was often commonplace in the salon, it seems the community agrees.