11 Aug 2009

The French Hairdresser


I always like my hair to be just so and that means the two ‘C’s and the permanent ‘B’ – colour, cut and blow-dry for any non hair aficianados. I just don’t feel good about me if my hair is not coiffed to my liking. I like my hair well cut on a regular basis, the colour fresh and I like it blow dried very smooth. Humidity and rain are my enemies; a day at the beach or a summer holiday requires deep soul searching and self analysis on my part to arrive at the zen state where my hair can be free. My handbag is never without an umbrella and my suitcases always hold a professional hair dryer and several world wide adapters. When I am in my home town I regularly schedule a blow drying appointment each week and would rather go without food than miss this. Others may consider this rendezvous a spoilt indulgence or an unnecessary luxury but it is my thing and for my overall well being it is money well spent.

Let me explain why I am serving a life sentence in the hair prison – I don’t have easy hair. It’s not really curly nor is it straight – it is slightly frizzy but not interestingly so. It is (or should I say it was) a dull mid brown and is that kind of hair that with a few painted strokes and 30 minutes under the steamer can be easily changed to copper, to plum, to various shades of chestnut or to blonde. On my more adventurous days it has been a combination of all of the above. Although I have tried on and lived with every colour, I am most happy as a blonde. Blonde is my comfort zone and where I have dallied for the longest time. Plum on the other hand was my least favourite and lasted little longer than an evening’s soiree. The men in my life, particularly my father, have never understood my quest for a head of hair that bares no resemblance to the hair that I was born with. I have stopped trying to explain my motives and they, wise men that they are, have stopped trying to persuade me otherwise.

I equate blond hair with France and the French with good hair – by good hair I mean the colour, cut and blow-dry menage a trois. This association goes way back for me and it goes a way to explaining my deep devotion to the hair dressing appointment.

Many years ago in a French hilltop village far away there was a woman (who would be me) with mousy brown hair. It was thick hair – wavy and mid length, the kind of hair that does nothing to offend but that does nothing to excite either. This woman had been a brave soul in her teens and in her twenties; she had experimented with every shade on offer, she had tried every kind of chemical staightening and she had followed many a fashionable style. After motherhood she settled back, quietened down and let the hair recover. She stopped flirting with colours, she grew the length, chopped the occasional layer and more often than not let it dry naturally.

A sojourn in France changed all that when she met the local hairdresser, Jean-Michel. He was young, he was gorgeous and he knew much about women. Jean-Michel wanted to shorten her boring tresses and emphasise her eyes with a new cut. He wanted to highlight her hair to look golden and sun kissed; she was meant to be a blonde he told her, it was only natural…. Mais oui, pourqoui pas she thought? To be in France is to do as the French do, n’est-ce pas?

He cut, he coloured and remarkably she looked and felt like a new woman, almost a French woman. She was a blonde and with that would come change and upkeep. Jean-Michel shrugged and puffed his way through her worries that this new ‘look’ would be high maintenance. High maintenance is only for machinery, he told her. Regular appointments are routine and essential for all women; he said this to her as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. She liked what she saw, she listened and she learned – from that day on a blonde was born.

Jean-Michel taught me the importance of hair grooming and he was so right – French women do have fabulous hair and they do spend time and money on it. I often think hair is a kind of security blanket for many women – we get attached to the familiar and are frightened to change for fear of loosing our confidence. Instead of our personalities determining our hair we often let our hair determine our personalities. It took an unknown person in an unfamiliar country to enlighten me, literally.

I have had many different hair cuts, a zillion blow-drys and a squillion blonde highlights since my days with Jean-Michel but nothing has ever come close to the thrill of that first French experience, xv.


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In This Post:



Angie Muresan

Oh Vicki stop! You're making me imagine myself as a blonde, but darn it, with my white translucent skin, I could never pull it off. I must thus remain a brunette.

Dustjacket Attic

I can totally relate to this post. I go to the salon every week without fail, along with nails and facials, it's just a necessity I feel … I'm not sure how Mr DJ feels, best not to ask :o


I too have the same type of hair, and have changed various shades, but always go back to blonde! I think we need to do what makes us happy and in my case, sometimes I wear it straight, but most often its curls… I guess we always want what we dont have. Gorgeous post as always!

count it all joy

Oh Vicki – I love this post. You described my hair in the first part of your story. Can you hook me up with Jean-Michael's Australian counterpart please? I love that photo of you in your book when you're walking up your staircase – your hair looks F-A-B. Totally worth the expense:) Meredith xo.


What a lovly tale…and I think we all have our thing, although I keep my hair long and natural (trimmed and styled only every 4-6 months), I do have to get my pedi in weekly, and I know many, many men now who have their own beauty routines they need to mantain self…

Although….this does make me want to experiment :)

Josephine Tale Peddler

Well you do look superb as a blonde. I can't visualise you any other colour although I'm sure you would suit brunette. You are more French than the French Vicki! This post made me smile so much. I think I need to go and live in France and update my style. I would love to meet your wise hairdresser! xx


Amazing, this comes on a day when I've been hacking away at mine. I always do this, either the next day or a fortnight later. I must admit, it looks better now than it did this morning!

Mon dieu! I wish I could find a Jean-Michel close to home!

Linda Carswell

I know exactly where you are coming from with the 'hair thing'….we lived on the Gold Coast for 2 years and I found any excuse possible to return to my own hairdresser back in Tasmania at cut and colour time!!
(for those who are unformiliar with Australia….a 3hr plane flight!!)
Linda x
p.s now living back in Tassy…my hairdresser still gets a laugh out of it!


Vicki~ You describe my hair to a T!!! Summer is it's enemy and it looks it's very best in the fall and winter when there isn't a bit of humidity. I own every drying and styling gimmick promising NO FRIZZIES! Huh… I have to use all kinds of product to just keep it 'at bay'. I'm now growing it out a little and just waiting for cooler, dryer days. I love your description of how the French take pains to be well coiffed. If you know of a potion to battle the frizzies…please, pass it on!!!

C'est moi

I've tried and I really want to but I can't read this post….can you change the font…my eyes are spinning….sorry at how this sounds it's just very small…thank you Vicki

Coastal Sisters

After my chemo was over and when my hair grew back in, I decided to keep it pixie short and now I just love not having to do much to it. I do still baby it with excellent products though. There is just something about a fresh haircut and style that makes me feel like a million dollars :)

Have a wonderful week!



ahh, I seriously need this kind of French experience!! With the dawnings of the dreaded Men-o my once lovely silky mane seems to have developed into a super curly (partially frizzy) mop that does nothing for me except garner comments from my children about my "nana" hairstyle.

Parisienne Farmgirl

My appointment is in two hours and you have got me so excited now!!! I am going for the Audrey Tautou on the Chanel No. 5 movie look.
Darn that girl, I love her hair!!!


Every woman deserves a Jean-Michel in her life. The day I broke down and agreed to let my stylist put in some highlights was the day that I practically danced out of the salon!


I agree with you wholeheartedly. My hair is my crowning glory – people always comment on its color, cut and thickness. All of which is thanks to my stylist, Lori. I miss dr's appointments, mammograms, the dentist – the list goes on and on. But my 6 week appointment with Lori is a number 1 priority. And she always delivers!


We have identical hair. Mine is mid brown and a natural frizzy without an interesting wave pattern. Humid midwestern summers turn it into seaweed. It's a constant battle. I, on the otherhand, look dead as a blonde. I would love to let Jean-Michel have a go at mine!

the paris apartment

Oh how I can relate! Everything from the texture of my hair being sort of in-between to trading a good coif over food! I agree that it's a security blanket and I hate to admit how much it can affect my day when it's misbehaving. Finding the right person to handle you is more than half the battle.I'm glad you're having a good hair day and don't think your obsession with it is indulgent at all, it's a necessity!


A girl's GOT to have great hair. Even when she's otherwise completely naked, she is still wearing her hairdo. Ergo, it had better be GREAT.


Interesting…I have been seduced on occasion to let the French much about with my hair in various parts of the country. The result bien sur is never the same, but always pleasing. Still I find the French attention to detail(each hair) drives me nuts! I am not a hair person – more of a let-it-be and drag-a-comb-through-it-when-leaving-the-house person. Still I do depend deeply on my French Moroccan hair cutter here, even if he spends too much time in my opinion on each hair.
C'est la vie.
Oh do show us your hair instead of that cartoon s.v.p.!!!


Yes, we are women and as such definitely deserve to pamper and take care of ourselves (which reminds me–I'm due for c.c.b. I must call Kevin, the miracle worker today.)
Have a great week.

Morning T

A beautiful post and perfect timing for me, on this chaotic Monday morning when I threw my frizzy, air dried hair into a low chignon for a day at the office. I thought I was bad for not taking the time to groom, but now I know I am. :-)
Have a wonderful day.


Wow! What a clever and wonderfully written post. It's so funny because I never really paid attention to my hair until about a year ago. Now I've gone through so many hair styles that I feel like I should have a hair diary :P It's been a really fun adventure though and I can totally see the excitement in my one would take the time and money to spend on hair. It really does make a difference. It put a lighter bounce in my step and motivated me to dress again after I had slipped into oblivion at work. I loved reading this post. To French hair :)

Karen Olivia


Good morning …. this was a delicious read! When my hair isn't as I think it should be, I can literally lose my 'identity.' Cheers to all the blondes … real and otherwise!

Linda Merrill

I feel your pain with the hair. When I'm not happy with my hair, I'm not happy with me! And I too have not too wavy, not too straight, not too frizzy hair. It doesn't handle humidity well and looks awful when dried naturally. But, when styled and managed properly – it can look great! My problem is that I don't have the patience on the daily basis.


Lucky to find the right person…I have finally found a superb Japanese stylist but still unwilling to be coiffed and prim and proper…I go wild type mostly but that is only laziness. I applaud you dear Vicki!


Celeste Maia

Great story, how the French hairdresser showed you a secret, a riddle of possibilities, and the new you that emerged.
I am a swimmer, I swim everyday, and you know what that does to hair. So I keep mine short with a fantastic cut. That's all.

Pamela Terry and Edward

Ooh …. the topic of "hair"! We could talk for hours!

For myself…I have long, blonde, very straight hair. Naturally, I have always longed for curly hair…once more proving the adage that the grass is greener. I think sometimes about cutting it all off, but I do love the versatility of long hair. I wear it up a lot in summer, which is like having an entire new style. I pull it back when I want to look serious, wear it down when I want to play. It'f usually fairly wild… I do like the wind.

Like you, I have a hairdresser to whom I am utterly devoted and I shudder to think what I would do if he disappeared. Perish the thought.

Funny, I have always thought of French women as brunettes. I suppose it's because of Coco!

My Carolina Kitchen

Vicki, I completely agree that my hair is very high on my list of priorities. Fortunately my hair is a natural blonde and I haven't turned grey yet, but I insist on the finest haircut I can find.

I wish I had known you when we stayed in St. Remy a couple of years ago and I needed a haircut. We were there for two months and I have to have a cut every four weeks no matter where in the world I happen to be. You could have recommended someone.

I asked our owners, two lawyers – she in Paris and he in London, but she gets hers cut in Paris and, quite frankly, why ask a man? I managed to find a great salon and (thankfully) the owner, who cut my hair, had lived in LA for two years and spoke beautiful English. Everyone else in the shop spoke only French so we went armed with our wishes for a rendezvous written in French, and everything turned out great.
A bientot.

My Castle in Spain

Brilliant blonde hair post Vicki ! i'm glad your path crossed Jean-Michel's

isn't it funny how many of us dread humidity for fear our hair would curl up? i'm like that and i also go to the hairdresser once a week to have it blowdried.
did you ever try JF Lazartigue products?

Miss Kris

Hi Vicki~

Your words so eloquently spoke to me. I sit here typing to you slightly glancing at the clock because it is Monday and every other week it is a, one C and B for me. It is a must! I just returned to the Blonde I was meant to be. Hehe…

~Miss Kris~

down and out chic

"high maintenance is only for machinery" haha. i don't color my hair as it's very, very dark but i am a strong believer in regular haircuts and good hair maintenance. it helps my overall attitude really and that is definitely money well spent.


I loved this post!

My son is a hairdresser and he is amazingly talented. I live in Florida and my son lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

I looked perfect every day for years. My son did live in Florida for a while but he missed New England and moved back in 1995.

Now, that I'm getting older…I need him creating the miracles that he does with my hair. Strange, we he does my C C & B…I walk out feeling 20 years younger. I don't have those feelings with other hairdressers here in Florida doing my hair and I'm also paying a mild fortune for the day at the salon as well.

I think I should move back to Boston!

Hugs, Rose


Very fun post!

I just ordered two of your dreamy book, My French Life, one for me and one as a thank you for a dear friend. Thank you for being so generous with your life.


Ahhh….your natural sounds like my natural. A kind of weak mid brown with flicks and waves that are neither curls nor seductive. After a harrowing experience with my mothers hairdresser when young, having my hair pandered to was a gift…and having kept it smooth for so long, I now twirl it into soft natural curls…and what a difference…and the blonde…naturally!
PS…I loved this post! :) An avid reader….

simply seleta

Loved this!!!!

I felt like this post was written about my hair (minus the blonde part). It validated my lifelong hair schitzophrenia. Sadly (for my hair) I live at the beach, facing my two enemies (salt air and humidity) on a daily basis. I've nearly considered moving because of the exhausting battle with the infamous frizz that follows me around like a shadow. I even go to Atlanta to have my hair cut, because no one down here can manage the partial frizzy, semi-wavy, somewhat straight black bird's nest I call my hair.

Wonderful post. So glad I'm not alone.


Great storytelling Vicki.
Got me thinking Warren Beatty in Shampoo.
Totally agree the importance of maintenance.
(p.s. I've dropped the Italian guy and I'm staying with the Australian girl for now) :)


My brown, mousy hair is EXACTLY the same – alas, I don't have the money or the nerve to make such a change, but I do so envy you for it. If only I could find a hairdresser such as yours who knows exactly what should be done with my tresses. As always, a fabulous post! Lee :)


Thanks for sharing your secrets…sounds like we have the same type hair but I've never been brave enough to go blonde! Have you tried the Keratin treatment?

Lylah Ledner

. . . and for such a post on a day I am frustrated with a new cut that is not working – so, I think I should see the kind gentlemen who made your beauty come alive with the blonde . . .
very fun post and thanks for saying hello on my simple home living blog.

xoxo lylah
la maison et le jardin

A Thousand Clapping Hands

This drawing is a riot! The two best haircuts I ever had in my life were by French men. During my dance career it was dark and always slicked back in a chignon. When I 'retired' I had it dyed platinum and cut like Marilyn Monroe's in the 50's – with the little set curls. I felt like a new person – sensational. And man do blondes get treated differently! It's brown again. I don't have as much fun. Ha!

Received the mail. Thought I said so, but okay – the dye may have gone to my head.

Catherine x

Callie Grayson

I completely agree, a new women you feel as you walk out that door!
I miss my colourist/hairdresser in California, he had the most amazing fingers! after he CC he would B and with his fingers make each of my curls look perfect!!! I didn't even want to wash my hair because I could never get my hair to curl the way Matthew made my hair curl!!


Good on you Vicki – keep on loving those hair apointments. If I could find a Jean-Michel here in downtown Brissie I would probably do the same. I am lucky, I'm a natural blondie, now needing a bit of help with a few foils but the regrowth is still blonde! I tie it back a lot but occasionally I have the full treatment… it does make one feel like a princess, I agree! A-M xx

Rebecca@Harmony and Home

Well, it seems you've hit on a touchy subject Ms. Vicki! I have the curliest hair you can imagine. I've even posted about how I would look like a mid-40's Shirley Temple look-alike. I, too, spend a fortune on cut, color and blow-dry. It makes me feel fresh and rejuvenated every 6-8 weeks and my husband wouldn't dare say a word about the price! lol…. I love my hairdresser, as she is a genius with color and cutting and I cannot imagine my life, either, without my hair fix! Very prominent post!

Ingrid Mida

Sometimes I feel like you are writing my thoughts! I can totally relate. Having one's hair done seems like a luxury but it is always money well spent as it makes me feel fabulous!


Oh I love this – Vicki – You are so right. Good hair is important and no one does this better than the French.
I too do not feel "myself" with out my hair "just so".
You have reminded me to make an appointment tomorrow for a coiffure – cut, colour and blow wave is definitely on the agenda! Suzi x

Bonjour Madame

I color my hair to match my original very dark brown color as I'm combatting grey hair. I don't think I will ever go grey so I've accepted the maintenance and roll with it. I love getting my hair done but don't like to fuss with it on my own.


i love "me" days at the salon..
though i dont think i'm getting there as often as some :)

having someone wash your hair is lux!


i agree that hair is very important and can define us to some extent. i am reminded of something maggie aldersen wrote about attending some kind of reunion. in relation to how good women looked as they aged, she said that hair was more important than weight. this has given me great hope! although i am a bit wash-and-wear, i am fussy about a good strong cut at the minimum (louise brooks bob is the aim) and colour at a stretch.


Women often complain about the cost of a great haircut…. but damned if I know of a therapist that can make you feel as good in one session. Seen like that the price of a good haircut seems a bargain ;-)


Women often complain about the cost of a great haircut…. but damned if I know of a therapist that can make you feel as good in one session. Seen like that the price of a good haircut seems a bargain ;-)

Laura [What I Like]

I totally agree, it's quite important. I am not as good with the upkeep as I really should be, but during those weeks when my hair is not at it's best I make sure, for the benefit of all who have to look at me, to put it in a clean chignon. And I could never ever part with my Super Solano hair dryer. That thing absolutely changed my life.


I have long, straight hair and have had it the same all of my life apart from in the 60's, when I had the Vidal Sassoon short at the back and long at the sides, look. I think that I have been lucky with my hair as long, straight hair never dates, although most hairdressers want to cut it off.BUT I do have highlights and I do have to have it cut regularly and I do look after it, and so one should.I think that,once we find our style, we are happy and you,Vicki, obviously have found yours, thanks to Jean Michael. XXXX


Oh my gosh, you are too funny…I hate to agree with you but I must!!We are fuss pots indeed,if ever I am having a good hair day you can be sure it will rain,snow or reach 110 degrees!! Great post, love you humor! Chrissy

The Pink Poodle

hi vicki…OMG…had to have a bit of a laugh at this post..!!

I have long hair…(and was a naturally LONG RED headed young lassie)!!
I think breast feeding two hungry boys kind of took a bit of the colour out!!

that is my excuse anyway!!

SO i do now get it topped up!!
BUT i actually wash my hair every night..& do 4 x plaits..so i just unravel it each morning…and VOILA!! a bit of a curl..shirley temple ringlet?? if I brush it all out..IT LOOKS like a BIG brushy BROOM!!
SOO i am a BIT all over the place re my hair…
IF I dont plait it..it is as straight as a dye..& people dont recognise me…

soo i am still reddish..a few blonde highlights..long..curly OR straight depending on my mood..
BUT ALWAYS full of knots!!! GGRRR..

ps…PLUS I actually got a BEE stuck in it the other day..flew straight into my front curly bits..!! after bouncing off my nose..UNREAL!! but true..

have a lovely week vicki..xx andrea

Francine Gardner

i started your regimen of color and blowdry as a young teen. I have the most rebellious hair (very unfrench……I even teased my poor grandma to have flirted with the local arabs…..for me to have been born with thick dark unruly hair! My mother always has the perfect soft straight blond hair. Even in the States people ask me if I am fromisrael? no….persian…no…just french with very difficult hair.
My hairdresser loves it though as i cannot be seen in public without her help.

le banc moussu

Thank you for Jean Michel…and all French hairdressers but may be did you like your new blond hair because he was gorgeous in a gorgeous hilltop French village…in a gorgeous part of France…Sorry I'm French and you know that French people are never objective when it's about France.
A bientôt,
When i'll see a blond american girl in Paris may be it'll be Vicky.

Blue Muse

Loved this post, Vicki! I love going to the salon. I look so forward to it – and… I never know how I'm going to come out. I see hair as an accessory and mine is never the same! Long, short, curly, straight – but mostly always some sort of blonde.

Here's to pampering and to good hairdressers! Cheers!
xo Isa

A Gift Wrapped Life

I have a thing about my hair as well, but only because it has decided to be totally uncooperative this last year. Mine fuzzes too with any humidity and I've lost a ton this year so not having so much fun in the hairdo department. My hairdresser was with me in Toronto the last few days(where they had torrential storms)and I think she now gets why I am always complaining. Before that she thought I was just a whiner lately. I'm a true blonde with highlights over the new gray…..jeez!


Sweetie you have such a lovely way of writing. You have such an ease and warmth. I'm pretty sure we can match our hair as mine is slightly frizzy, dark brown, thick and hates humidity. I spend loads of time making it straight, shiny and straight. Reds look the best on us…lovely post.


You have described my hair to a tee.I had mousy brown hair,and it too is neither straight nor curly.I did not find a Jean-Michael,but a bottle of Miss Clairol, medium blond, and a blow dryer, curling iron, and I am a new woman.
I just cut my hair to shoulder length to get ready for my holidays in Wales,I did this for fear of not being able to "plug" in…were can one find adapters?
Wonderful post.


I think I have the same natural hair as you… Medium brown, wavy, thick. It can have a mind of its own, and I curse unexpected rainy days when I've taken the time to straighten it!

I've been coloring it since high school- red, darker browns, and of course various highlights. The last few years I've been wanting to go competely blonde– I've only ever had blonde highlights– but my hairdresser told me no because it would be too much maintenance! Maybe I need to go to Jean-Michel!!

C'est moi

I'm red and will always stay red other colors just don't suit my skin tone. I do need that regular check in for my WC&B.; But I will be honest I haven't been since before the baby was born (6 months)and it"s really starting to show….maybe when my 5 year old goes back to school I'll manage the 1 hour trip I make for perfection…oh my the things we do…


Wow, I feel as if you wrote that about me. I also went through a stage where I had brown hair, it was the color I was born with, i have highlighted it and it has turned out all those same colors! I am now, and proud to say returning to the blonde color that I had in my early twenties and I couldnt be happier with it. why not, you only live once. :)

The Red Velvet Shoe

I, too, have to submit to "summer/vacation" hair~~it usually takes me a few days out on our boat with no electricity to just give in and "not care", but then it makes me lazy and I don't feel like doing the work when we get back! Reading this post has me reaching for my rolodex right now to make an appointment!



I really like your blog and i really appreciate the excellent quality content you are posting here for free for your online readers. thanks peace sandro


Rather late on this: but most French are brunettes, not blonde at all. But they do love a good hairdresser.


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