No matter their background, where they live, or their expertise, every stylist starts out in one place: cosmetology school. For this edition, we wanted to get the inside scoop on the life of a stylist in training. Nicholas Dunton hails from Augusta, Maine, and attends the Empire Beauty School in Waterville, Maine. The budding stylist took some time out of his training to answer our questions about what it’s like to be a student in this field:
When did you know you wanted to be a stylist? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do or a love you discovered later on?
I knew I wanted to be a stylist at a very young age. Growing up around three girls always made me want to do hair. Although at the time it was just the thrill of doing hair. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized I could get paid for having fun. I have tried all sorts of different things, from photography to fashion design, and have found hair to be my true calling.
What was your process for deciding where to attend school? What attracted you to your program?
I saw commercials for Empire and thought to myself “I have to be them!” It looked fun and the people looked happy. More than that, they have testimonies of students that have graduated, so it was easy to make a decision from hearing what they had to say.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It depends, but on salon nights lately I have been getting a lot of color correction and blonde clients. I am booked pretty much all night because color takes a little longer and you want to make it just right, but on a typical night I can typically get in one hair color, two haircuts, and a couple waxing clients. This is in a four hour class period.
Has there been anything surprising about your school experience?
I think the biggest surprise about my school experience is that two haircuts or hair colors are never the same. Everyone has different hair or a different flare about them. So even if you are doing the same haircut twice it comes out different because you customize it for the client.
What has been your favorite part of training? The least favorite part?
My favorite part about training has been the color and cutting classes. I feel I can grow more from those two. I’d like to excel in those departments. They are so much fun! My least favorite part is going to sound cliche, but I hate going home for the weekends. I feel so alive at school and I feel I have made a family there.
Are there any stylists you look up to, whether those you’ve interacted with in person or big names in the industry?
There are! I have a couple at school I really look up to. Rebecca Goff has been my go-to girl for everything. She has taught me so much and is always there to help me. Jaymi Mullins is another student at school that has been there with me for the long haul. She was my very first practice updo, she taught me how to back comb, and is always a refreshing face to see. I really do have a great support system at school. For the industry big names I’d have to say all the way my two biggest influences are Tabatha Coffey and Brig Van Osten. And then I have my extended support system on Twitter, which includes my dear friends Renee Summa (@dyehardbeauty), Mel Ball (@dearmissmel) and Karmen Buttler (@primptapp)
As you learn knew skills and techniques, is there any area you find yourself wanting to specialize in once you finish school?
Most definitely! I want to specialize in color. It’s a real science and the more you know the more you grow with it. I get a lot of clients that are not the everyday color, I need to correct something first then add color. I think because I get a lot of clients that have different needs it would be an asset to have color under my belt.
What’s your biggest fear about starting your career?
I would have to say jumping into everything all at once is what scares me. I’m actually just nervous about going out on my own and knowing you are solely on your own now.
The hair industry faces some challenges like product diversion. Do these issues get discussed in your training? How do you think you’ll address them in your future career?
Yes, these issues get brought up in the sense that what you are using on your client you should be telling them what you are using. This way they know the name of the product and where to find it, and also what the product does/ is used for. You don’t want your client going out and buying generic product on a $200 service either, so I guess I’m still working on how to have a client switch their product without sounding like a bad guy. Professional brands make a huge difference from generic brands. I start explaining the differences between products to my clients that way they understand it better.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself either on the west coast or down south in Florida. I’d love to work fashion week in Miami, I live for photo shoots and fashion shows.
What are your ultimate career goals?
My ultimate career goal would be working with celebrities, photo shoots, fashion shows, basically I’d like to be the “Go-To” guy for the stars. I love the thrill of intense jobs and get a huge adrenalin rush from it.
Stylists are always investigating the latest trends. Is there one you particularly like for summer?
I am a huge fan of tousled hair. I don’t know why but I think it looks modern. My favorite for day time would be a tousled fishtail braid off to the side, deep side part with the side bang (making sure whole head is a tousled look). But for nighttime looks, I have to say my favorite is a tousled and teased high bun with a fun bang.