Hairdressing & Hairstyling

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Hairdressing & Hairstyling: the art of arranging the hair or otherwise modifying its natural state. Closely related to headgear, hairdressing has been an important part of the dress of both men and women since antiquity and, like dress, serves a number of functions.

Hairdressers offer various hair services but it ain´t all cutting, styling, perming or colouring these days.  No – salons, or individual stylists, now specialise in various ends of male or female hairdressing sectors, or in niche services such as specialist colouring, Afro-Caribbean or ethnic hairstyles.  These trends require further knowledge and experience for the barber and hairdresser, all of which you’ve got to learn or catch up on or maybe re-learn! Hairdressers normally work from a salon, though home-based hairdressing services are now more common.  Also, of course, some salons provide services to nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, clubs and individual customers’ homes on request, particularly for special occasions such as weddings. Many salons offer additional beauty services including manicures, ear piercing or sunbeds, and sell hair care products such as shampoos, conditioners, gels, etc.  Your success and prices as a hairdresser vary greatly depending on the type of salon, the quality of the service provided and the status of the hairdresser.

History of Hairdressing & Hairstyling

Think about it – man has always fiddled with his hair, both to keep it out of his eyes and to indulge in a little personal adornment.  The adornment has varied from the ornately curled, blond wigs of Roman matrons to the sleek shingled heads of dancers in the 1920’s. One important function of hair styling, especially in traditional societies, was to indicate status. Noble rank among the ancient Gauls was indicated by long hair, which Caesar made them cut off as a sign of submission when he conquered them.

We’ve always been slaves to hair fashion. In the 17th century, for example, courtiers followed the lead of the balding Louis XIV, who wore a wig. In austere republican Rome, men and women generally followed simple Greek styles, but under the empire, the upper classes used curling irons and the men dusted their hair with colored powder or gold dust. Women dyed their hair bond with yellow soap or wore ebony wigs or wigs made from the blond hair of captive barbarians.

With World War I, women everywhere cut or “bobbed” their hair as a symbol of their political and social emancipation. In the 1950s, the invention of rollers for waving made possible the very short, layered Italian cut as more active and informal women discarded hats and smooth cuts became more important. Visiting the hairdresser has become increasingly popular, with greater numbers of people making more frequent visits. Customers naturally expect hairstyles to express their personality, while still being easy to manage. Hairdressing is a fashion industry and it is therefore essential for stylists to keep abreast of the latest styles and fashion in general.  Still, be warned, a fancy haircut is a luxury and the frequency of visits fall in times of recession.

The Importance of Grooming

First-rate and up to date skills, a good presentation of your salon and top level of customer care are of great importance if you want to give that ‘feelgood factor’ to clients. Even telephone manners in the salon must be impeccable as the first point of contact is often over the phone.

The Hairdressers Training Board estimates that around 230,000 people work in the hairdressing industry in the UK and Ireland. Many salons are owner-occupied, although some prime chains and franchises do exist. These include Saks, Vidal Sassoon, Toni and Guy, Peter Marks etc. Hotels, department stores, health clubs, and airports also employ hairdressers, while call-out or mobile hairdressers usually concentrate on housing estates.

Trade magazines like Hairdressers Journal International give details of all exhibitions, seminars, and competitions.  More adventurous folks may wish to visit the famous annual exhibitions, such as the Mondial in Paris or the Cosmoprof in Bologna.

Hairdressing & Hairstyling Career Path

There’s no legal requirement to formally train to become in hairdressing & hairstyling, but it’s strongly recommended if you’re going to be cutting someone’s prized locks! National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) in hairdressing are awarded jointly by City and Guilds and the Hairdressing Training Board in Ireland, England and Wales, and by the Hairdressing Training Board in Scotland.  These are available at levels 1, 2 and 3; with level 1 aimed at assistants and reception staff, level 2 helping to prepare for a career in hairdressing, and level 3 for experienced hairdressers covering career progression and supervisory skills. A European Certificate is currently under negotiation, and will be built upon the foundation of the NVQ standards. Trainers usually operate a combination of practical day release and study. Private training organisations – such as the Robert Chambers Company in Dublin – are also available – they run short intensive courses lasting six to nine months. The Hairdressers Training Board and City and Guilds also provide an NVQ level 4 as a management qualification and the City and Guilds Salon Management 3060 qualification also suffices here.  Don’t forget, manufacturers of hair colour products often teach colour courses at special education centers and these educational roadshows are very common and popular.

In the 21st century, hairdressing is becoming a more and more sophisticated art and practitioners have to reach for all professional requirements and qualifications to do a decent trade. In the United States, it’s even becoming ‘de rigeur’ to attend a cosmetology school for over a year to receive a state license to practice. In Europe, it’s becoming the norm to serve an apprenticeship of from one to five years before registering to practice.  You should aim to be the best scissors hands on the salon floor.

Professional Options

The big names in Irish hairdressing have all been trained in the UK or US.  Hairdressing instruction has not been a big priority in Ireland until more recently and many Irish hairdressers instead took courses with the well respected London City and Guilds.  Solas has become involved in the industry, providing courses at ETBs in Waterford, Shannon, Dublin Tralee, Sligo and Limerick. There are also courses available, part-time.  A good idea is to consult your local Solas office if you wish to go this route.  An excellent first step in all eventualities is to consult the search engine at

By Mark Godfrey

Cormac O' Meara

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  1. Daniel Profir 02/04/2021 at 20:58

    Hi . How can I take an online hairstylist course?

  2. Cerasela 22/09/2021 at 17:49

    Hello how can’t find curses hair dressing

  3. Dianna fealy 27/03/2022 at 12:51

    Hey I’m a qualified hair stylist but I was never taught upstyls so if like to do an upskiling course on upstyls if there was one

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