Bicoastal Beauty: Meet the Celebrity Hairstylists

New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Major designers aren’t the only ones adding our foggy city to their repertoire of high-priority locations (Rebecca Minkoff, Rag & Bone and the Kooples, among other luxury retailers, recently opened doors here).

Increasingly, in-demand hairstylists boasting some of the country’s best-tressed clients are choosing San Francisco as one of their outposts, and it’s not because of the agreeable climate or quaint architecture. These stylists are now commanding top dollar in the Bay Area, making it worthwhile to jet from New York Fashion Week and Los Angeles red carpets to see S.F.’s style set — from society ladies getting glam for galas to tech execs looking to go out on a limb.

It’s a growing trend that began with celebrity stylists like Michael Canale (Jennifer Aniston, Heidi Klum), John-Francis Maseda (January Jones, Rebecca Romijn) and Jerome Molles, who took up residency in San Francisco a few years ago, catering to social darlings like Vanessa Getty and others willing to pay a premium for star-worthy locks.

In many ways, these bicoastal beauty experts reflect the changing demographics of the city, as more people relocate here for work, or live a similarly bicoastal lifestyle. “What’s cool now is that so many people split their time, so I have a lot of the same clients” in New York and San Francisco, says Michelle Snyder, who moved back to her native Bay Area from New York to open Barrow salon two years ago, and jets back to New York for appointments throughout the year. According to Snyder, there used to be a greater difference in styles between the two cities, before tech jobs drew residents from around the country.

Los Angeles-based Kazumi Morton, who works out of San Francisco’s Alex Chases Salon, says that before she started coming to the Bay Area, clients who had relocated to Silicon Valley from L.A. would fly down to her. “When they had a hair disaster, they said it was worth the time and money,” Morton says. She now comes to the city every few weeks, and for good reason.

The costs of high-end services in the Bay Area are now comparable to what clients pay in New York or Los Angeles, says StyleSeat founder Melody McCloskey. (For example: $450 haircuts from New York’s Jon Reyman.) The 4-year-old online website lets users vet and book hair services online. According to market research firm the NPD Group, the Bay Area is third in prestige beauty retail sales (including skin care, makeup and fragrances), after New York and Los Angeles — an indicator that the luxury beauty category as a whole has become firmly rooted in the Bay Area.

But, while clients may be willing to shell out triple digits for beauty services, San Franciscans don’t necessarily want to look as if they spent a lot of money, McCloskey observes: “They want to look polished, but not ostentatious.” Perhaps it’s no surprise, given the city’s reputation for low-maintenance looks.

“You can’t survive in San Francisco without being financially successful,” says Reyman, who recently opened a salon here. “But there’s this sense of, ‘I have money, but I don’t want anyone to know it.’” Reyman says he encounters a different attitude in other cities. “In New York, you pay whatever you pay, and it doesn’t matter — you just don’t talk about it. In L.A., you want to look like you spent a lot of money. San Francisco is a cross between the two. It’s in a transition.”

We looked at four top stylists in S.F. who are splitting their time between cities, and broke down why they’re so in demand from coast to coast.

Michelle Fiona Snyder, Barrow

256 Sutter St., No. 4, (415) 732-0356,

After working for years out of New York’s Whittemore House Salon, the Bay Area native now works out of her own S.F. salon, Barrow. When high-profile clients in New York or Los Angeles call her, she’ll go to their house, hotel or studio, or fit in appointments with New York beauty editors at Little Axe Salon.

Price of a cut: Stylists begin at $90; Snyder is $155.

WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HER: Magazines like Nylon, Elle, Allure and Paper. Celebrity clients include Zooey Deschanel, Amanda Peet, David Letterman and members of the Citizens Band, including model Karen Elson.

Why she’s bicoastal: “My home and my heart is in S.F., so when it came time in my personal life to move west, I wanted to bring that flavor of New York to San Francisco with Barrow. But my passion for hair leads me back to New York.”

On Bay Area clientele: “It’s not stagnant. San Francisco got a bad rap fashion-wise for a long time, but now I feel like there’s good fashion happening, with more people from all over the world coming to S.F. One huge difference is that in New York, you cut for seasons. On the West Coast, you don’t have to.”

On S.F trends: “A lot of people are going shorter — the girl with the long, Victoria’s Secret layers is chopping to her collarbone. There’s a lot of risk-taking, and stepping away from the long, pretty hair and putting more of an edge to their look. It’s a strong time for women, and when that happens, people usually change their hair.”

Go-to products: R+Co Rockaway Salt Spray, R+Co Aircraft Pomade Mousse — “If you like a soft, disheveled look, it’s amazing.”


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