the big tippers

I’ve been a hair model since 1999. My current hair status: blond with a purple panel, parted to the right.

With all this modeling and salon experience, you’d think I’d know when to tip and when not to—but it still confuses me. The first time I offered a tip to the student cutting my hair, she pushed it away and refused. Being young, vulnerable and inexperienced, I assumed that meant you shouldn’t tip when students are doing your hair.

But after I worked as a receptionist in the salon, I learned that many hair students live on their tips, so those few dollars do matter. And they remember the big tippers very well. The models that don’t tip don’t get called back as often…

Back when I started modeling, I was in college and didn’t have a job—the “free student haircut” flyers called out to me like they were on a marquee.  The two dollars that I had to spend on food for the week went toward the $20+ parking fees.


2010-12-31_21-53-06_554ahairpic2a most recent hair pics…


Now I continue to model for creative events, with cut and color touch ups in between. The salon offers student cuts but the stylists and colorists are more advanced—getting around $80 and up for a typical haircut. Even though I’ve never had an overflow of cash, I want to let the colorists and stylists know that I appreciate their work. I make every effort to clear my schedule and be available when they need a model desperately. The process can take four to eight hours so flexibility is a necessity. Plus, I don’t want to be labeled a cheapskate or the model who never tips. I want them to call me back.

Some of you might say, “it’s a free haircut so cough up the cash.” But where does it end? Do I tip the stylist? The colorist? The two or more assistants that washed and dried my hair? The receptionist that got me seated and brought me a water? When I can afford a bigger tip, will they expect it every time? If I had the money, I don’t think it would even be a question. But when the budget is tight, when is too much when it comes to tipping in the salon? When is it not enough?

With my years of salon experience, I feel ashamed that I don’t know the answers to these questions. But every time I sit in the chair for my cut and color, I spend about an hour deciding who I should tip and what amount…For now I do the best that I can with what I can give…One of these days I’ll figure it out!

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