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Master stylists are the innovators and pacesetters in the salon industry. They demand top pay and often have affluent and even celebrity clientele. More than a mere hair stylist, the master stylist is an artist, educator and entrepreneur. Master stylists develop trends, set salon standards and act as a spokesperson for the business. Many earn six-figure salaries. Some stylists, such as Frédéric Fekkai and Vidal Sassoon, become celebrities themselves.
Master stylist are trained and educated beyond state and local cosmetology requirements. Some earn advanced degrees in business or fashion design. Because they interact with the media as well as clients, master stylists often take additional classes in public speaking and marketing. Above all else, they are highly skilled at their craft. Many began their careers working under other master stylists. Competition for apprenticeships under a master stylist is fierce. Hopefuls are asked to audition. A select few are chosen.
Master stylists earn a reputation as trendsetters. They perform precision haircuts and are experts at color formulation. A tell-tale sign of a true master stylist is the use of only shears and razors when cutting hair. True master stylists rarely use electric clippers. They develop a "signature look." Clients flock to them because of their work. They often have waiting lists. Master stylists charge hundreds of dollars for haircuts because they have distinguished themselves as artists.
Master stylists usually work in major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. They frequent beauty industry shows to promote their products to others in the trade. They may lead a team of platform artists to showcase a new styling technique. They also make guest appearances on television programs to promote their work to the public. After they have achieved notoriety, some develop their own line of hair products. They must be engaging and entertaining to pitch their products and services to clients, retailers and salon owners.
Because master stylists distinguish themselves as innovators, other stylists want to train under them. Master stylists hold seminars at beauty industry events, conduct in-house workshops and webinars. They teach cutting or coloring techniques, business, marketing and management skills. Some master stylists write books or produce videos to demonstrate their techniques. They may decide to take on a few stylists as apprentices. Working under a master stylist for several years is considered the best path to becoming a master stylist.
ML Corbett covers interior design, real estate and small business, among other topics. A former day spa owner and marketing manager for an international fragrance company, Corbett knows the ins and outs of the beauty industry. Her work has appeared in "Essence," "Black Enterprise" and on HGTVGardens.com.