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Hair salons on Long Island offer discounted cuts to those brave enough to be 'models'

nuBest salon and spa charges $25 per cut if you're willing to allow beauty school students and graduates to lead your 'do.  Credit: Corey Sipkin

Lusting for a haircut, highlights or even a blowout at a high-end salon, but don’t want to lay out the big bucks? You can navigate your way around some seriously hefty price tags, but there’s a catch. You have to be daring enough to let a stylist or colorist who is still learning the ropes do your ‘do. If you are, you can walk out of any number of swanky salons on Long Island with a fresh coif for a fraction of what it normally costs.   

Typically, those people who are washing your hair or assisting veteran stylists are in training to move up as full-time stylists or colorists themselves. In classes at night, they’re continuing their education under the tutelage of skilled, experienced folks in those luxurious salons and they need models to work on (helloooo, that would be you).

“When they come out of beauty school, they’re licensed and have some foundation to start with, but they’re still honing their skills,” says Jamie Mazzei, the owner of nuBest salon and spa in Manhasset, where they offer a robust training program for licensed graduates of beauty school who work there. “But that level of inexperience is unfair to the operator and the client,” he says. In turn, those willing to make appointments as "models" can score a haircut that typically runs near $100 for just $25. 

On a recent school night at nuBest, Natalie Moreira, 26, an ER nurse from Hicksville, allowed stylist Rae Jaeger to lop off three inches off her hair, thin it out and frame her face with layers. “It looked like a whole head of hair on the floor when she was done,” said Moreira, who left happy. “I generally did love my haircut … It’s hard to trust strangers with your hair, but if the training is good, then you should get a good haircut. When I first started out people had to trust me too.” 

For would-be clients of the students, Mazzei says, “you have to be patient,” referring to the fact that these services often take longer than they normally would and include learning how to do a proper consultation with a client. At many places, wannabe stylists work solely on wig-topped mannequins. But Mazzei says, “Dealing with personalities, what people want, and what styles they may be able to handle at home is not something a mannequin is going to have an opinion on. And the process — how you treat a client, hold the hair, handle the tension you put on it — that’s all part of how a client is going to judge you.”

Still a little worried about allowing your precious locks to fall into the hands of an inexperienced haircutter or colorist? Mazzei is emphatic that oversight is a huge part of the process. “We work with the students every step of the way. You can feel confident that you’re going to leave with a great haircut or color.” In other words, you’re not going to walk out with a Mohawk or green hair (“unless you want that,” says Mazzei).

Here’s a look at several salons that offer cut-rate haircuts and color by trainees and how to book appointments:

nuBest 

Come for a new hairstyle, not just a trim. It takes about a year here for an assistant to “earn their own chair,” says Jamie Mazzei, the salon owner, and they want to give hands-on experience with styling. 

Costs: Haircuts normally run from $72 to $85, here $25; a single process normally is $80, here $25; highlights normally from $180-$220, here, from $55-$65. 

How to book an appointment: Mark your calendars for the first Tuesday of every month and call, starting at 6 p.m. to book an appointment. Classes are held on Tuesday nights. Only one service per visit. Men, women and children over 10 are welcome.

Info: 1482 Northern Blvd., Manhasset; 516-627-9444; nubestsalon.com

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Anthony DeFranco Salon

Dubbed the "apprentice program," salon owner Anthony DeFranco puts a lot of emphasis on the initial consultation. “We don’t want to just do a generic haircut, we want every haircut to be personalized to the individual, their bone structure, lifestyle, suitability and duplicability” (as in you can do it by yourself when you get home). “We’re not looking to do a mere trim, but a structured haircut. That said, it can just be an overgrown bob,” he says. DeFranco, oversees the work and may even start a cut for an apprentice. “In the color consultation, we go over what the client’s options are, or figure out what color would be best for her. I can virtually guarantee that no one leaves here unhappy.”

Costs: Haircuts normally run from $46 to $127, here $15; a single process is $62, here $15; highlights go from $175 to $275, here $25; blowouts go from $34 to $52, here $10. 

How to book an appointment: Call the salon and tell them that you’re interested in being a model for class. They’ll call you back to tell you where they can fit you in. Classes are held on Wednesday evenings. Only one service per visit. Men and women welcome.

Info: 333 East Jericho Tpke., Huntington Station; 631-423-1111; anthonydefranco.com. Not available at Plainview salon. 

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Salon Pop

“Come with a little patience for time,” says Simone Torborg, senior stylist and director of education at Salon Pop. “A haircut in the salon takes around 45-minutes to an hour but you might spend two hours being a model for a class.” She also recommends “that you come with ideas. Bring photos and inspiration of things you love or things you don’t love. It doesn’t have to be a total makeover, but it’s for people who are looking for change, even if it’s a small change. Even though it’s a learning experience, they’ll get a very professional result.”

Costs: Haircuts here run from $60 to $125, but the charge is $20 for a haircut per class. 

How to book an appointment: Call the salon and say you want to be a model. “You’ll get a call back generally within a couple of days for scheduling,” says Torborg. Classes are held every other Monday night. Men and women welcome.

Info: 160 Wheatley Plaza, Greenvale; 516-626-7444

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Salon Entourage

Salon owner David Babakhanov says that while a service here “might take much longer, everybody agrees on the style before it’s executed.” He says that the junior stylists, “need to practice on a real person, learn about hair growth, natural hairline, how to work with a client — a mannequin doesn’t complain. But you’re going to leave with a good haircut and if you’re on a budget it’s a great way to go about it.” 

Costs: There’s some fluidity about pricing here, regular haircuts go from $55 to $75, as a model they can range from free to $20; a single process starts at $65, here the charge is based on materials used starting at $14, highlights that regularly go to $220, here, $50 to $60, and blowouts range from $25 to 40, here $15. 

How to book and appointment: Call the salon and leave your name and number and what type of service you’d like to model for. Classes are held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. One service per visit. Men, women, boys and girls welcome.

Info: 567 Jericho Tpke., Syosset; 516-496-1700; entouragestudio.com

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