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I’ve Been Professionally Covering Up Men’s Gray Hair for More Than a Decade

Kristina Reed has been cutting and coloring men’s hair at Fritz’s, one of the original hair salons for men in Louisville, Kentucky for more than 13 years. Her clients include men in their 30s to men in their late 70s, all of whom are trying to cover up their gray hairs for one reason or another.

A lot of hair schools in Kentucky don’t have male teachers. Mine did. He taught me a lot about different textures in men’s hair, how to use clippers and about fading. For that reason, I always felt comfortable cutting and coloring men’s hair.

My first job out of school was at Fritz’s. It’s an alternative for men’s grooming in Louisville — a place for men who demand more than a corner barbershop or quick service salon can provide, but don’t want the female-oriented experience most professional salons offer.

At Fritz’s, we offer two different services for men who want to color their hair. The first is a permanent or custom color, meaning we color the hair all black or all brown. I don’t have many clients that request the permanent color service, however. Because when the hair grows back, you get what hairstylists call “the line of demarcation” — a distinct line where the gray starts and the color ends.

Far more popular is our semi-permanent gray blend. It covers anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the gray hair and takes about 30 minutes on average — 20 minutes to apply the color and 10 minutes to shampoo and style. The gray blend looks much more natural, though it does fade out in four to six weeks.

For most of my clients, once they start doing the gray blend, they keep doing it. It takes them back to how they envision their hair should look, but it’s a subtle difference. The change is just enough for them to notice, but not enough for, say, a coworker to notice. I’ve actually had a few clients tell me that it wasn’t enough and thought I could’ve added more color.

I’m very cognizant of the insecurities some men feel when they come in to get their hair colored, which means that sometimes I’ll consult with them a little longer. If I sense that they’re sheepish toward the idea I’ll tell them to wait, or I’ll advise them to try the blend, since it’ll fade over time.

The ideal head of hair is already 50 to 60 percent gray. Then it’s similar to a woman coloring their hair in that if you keep doing it, no one really notices. Alternatively, if a guy has a full head of white hair, a lot of coloring will naturally bring out a red or strawberry blonde in their hair color. So if they’re used to a muted brown, the end result may not come out looking the way they thought it would.

The majority of my clients start coloring their hair because they want to feel and look better, not because their significant other wants them to color their hair. In fact, it’s sad, but I’ve had a handful of men come in because a headhunter had instructed them to do so: They’re told that it would improve their chances of finding a job if they grow out their hair and get it colored. I consulted with one guy who pretty much told me that he had been out of work for several months and was at the end of his rope. He was full of white hair, and I didn’t want to do it because it was far from the ideal situation. In the end, we didn’t end up coloring his hair, but he did decide to grow it out and I helped him style it.

I’ve also had a few clients come in for damage control. They tell me they can’t go to work looking the way they do — it’s similar to teenage girls who see the color on the box and try to do it themselves. Sometimes their hair is so black or brown that we have to trim it in order to pull out as much color as we can.

Ironically, it’s just women who work at Fritz’s. It just happened that way — men simply don’t apply. We like to joke that all the estrogen from the women here balances out the testosterone from our clients. For example, if we’re gossiping, it’s either about the Kardashians or sports. Because let’s face it, a lot of us are interested in both worlds.

Nowadays in Louisville there are several other salons for men, but Fritz’s is still among the originals. Men deserve to have a place of their own — reminiscent of the old-time barber shop, but one that also provides the highest level of grooming available.

— As told to Andrew Fiouzi