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by Jialin Luh on Sep 07, 2007
I have long looked forward to haircuts with childish glee and anticipation. However, it wasn’t until I converted to Mr. Pinkwhistle that I began to look forward to my cut and color appointments as a lavish, pampering visit in a luxurious, superbly designed space. Named after the storybook character Mr. Pink-whistle of English children’s writer Enid Blyton’s creation, this Nob Hill salon draws a varied clientele who have at least one thing in common: the desire to keep their style fresh and impeccable, and to enjoy the experience of getting there.
On a cursory walk by and glimpse into Mr. Pinkwhistle, it’s easy to mistake the lofty space for an art gallery, but it’s much more than that. It comes as no surprise that Simon Marc, the mastermind behind the salon, considers himself a hair designer, artist and collector. His career as a hairdresser began in Manchester, England in 1984. Amidst the cultural explosion that was Manchester during that era, 16-year old Marc started working for Vidal Sassoon.
This early venture introduced him to the world of fashion, design and culture. The 80s saw the birth of bands such as The Smiths and New Order out of Manchester as well as the rise of the infamous nightclub/music venue The Hacienda, co-founded by the late Tony Wilson, the Manchester broadcaster who released groundbreaking records by Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays. This setting provided much fodder for Marc to work with.
At 22, with a nomination as a finalist at the British hairdressing awards, Marc was transferred to Vidal Sassoon in San Francisco, where he acted as creative director. The late 90s saw him transplanted to LA to work for former North American Hairdressing Awards champion Doyle Wilson, “maintaining the locks” of the likes of Charlize Theron. As the 90s drew to a close Marc returned to the Bay Area, spending four years at diPietro Todd.
With an illustrious lexicon of experiences to draw from, Marc opened Mr. Pinkwhistle in 2003. The influences and rich learnings manifest themselves beautifully even in the design of the space itself. Marc began collecting furniture in the 90s, favoring the clean lines of Japanese cabinetry, the Bauhaus and other modernists. Dark wood floors and white walls are strikingly adorned with meticulously selected furniture and pieces of art: the minimalist white bench you sit upon while waiting for your stylist; the gracefully elegant mirrors crafted by local sculptor Grant Irish; the Astroturf coasters; antiqued teak cabinets housing scissors, brushes and hair product; the wire pod seats upstairs that sit underneath heaters looking like they could have been props designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier for The Fifth Element. The art and sculptures found throughout the salon include Marc’s own works -- don’t be shy to ask him which.
Well a beautifully decorated space is all fine and dandy, but you probably want to know about the services provided here. The ground floor is all about cuts, while the smaller second floor is devoted to artistic chemists otherwise known as colorists. With price ranges of $75 - $160 for haircuts and $80 - $240 for color, Mr. Pinkwhistle may be out of budget for some. But for those who can afford it and who favor pleasant, luxurious salon experiences with detailed personal attention, the price is really little to pay. Unlike some no-frills places that just want to get you in and out, the stylists at Mr. Pinkwhistle are all about working with you to craft your own distinctive look. Classic or edgy, none of the looks crafted here are boring.
Glen has been cutting my hair for some time and every time my haircut appointment approaches I know I’m in for a treat. We discuss how my mane is growing out and behaving or misbehaving and brainstorm new ideas. We’ve developed a level of trust, so I generally listen to his plan and let him have his way with one or two caveats and he goes to town. Even if doing just a trim, he peruses his work from every angle, wet and dry, scissors and comb in hand to catch that one maverick hair marring a perfect line. He takes his work very seriously and always works diligently to craft something that pleases the client. I always leave feeling like a million bucks.
For color, I head upstairs to rendezvous with my colorist, Jenn. The reward of letting her do whatever she wants with my hair has yielded magical results: over the last three years I have had silver with burgundy, green with purple, peach with violet, peacock (teal, blue and purple), purple with magenta, and more. Other inspired clients have brought in textiles as inspiration and Jenn always has a masterful and creative solution at the ready. As such, she has developed an enthusiastic roster of clients including a gentleman from Santa Rosa who makes the drive every other week to get his color touched up. In other words, if you want to get an appointment with Jenn, be prepared to call way in advance.
The salon’s web site has a great breakdown of cost for services, and if you are really open-minded, stylists are often in need of hair models for perfecting their cut and color techniques. In addition to top-notch technical and artistic skills employed by all the stylists here, the product lines used and sold are of very high quality (Kerastase, Rene Furterer, Bumble and Bumble and Lenor Greyl), adding to the lux pampering experience.
Sitting at the mercy of scissors-and chemical-wielding stylists can be terrifying or elating. Step into Mr. Pinkwhistle and check your fears at the door -- you’re in skilled hands.
by Jialin Luh on Sep 07, 2007
images courtesy of Mr. Pinkwhistle