The Case For Expertise In The Digital Age

Christine Thompson (second from left) and Jon Reyman (center), co-owners of Spoke SLO and longtime educators.

Christine Thompson (second from left) and Jon Reyman (center), co-owners of Spoke SLO and longtime educators.

By Christine Thompson

They’re booking more and more appointments lately: people whose hair needs fixing after a hairdresser has botched a complex, modern technique. I’ve been called in on failed attempts at balayage, ombre and color melting, and it’s not pretty. These are expensive, complicated fixes. I recently watched one client spend $600 and several hours to recoup her damages.

Why is this happening? I have a theory: YouTube. The vast landscape of online video tutorials is too tempting a resource for some hairdressers to ignore.

Before I sound like a hypocrite, let me clarify that I’m not against using video as a medium for education. In fact, brands that are close to my heart like Aveda and Jon Reyman Pro do a lot of educational filming. But those films are one small part of a comprehensive professional development platform that includes in-person training and hands-on trials on both mannequin heads and live models. They are a support tool, not the end-all, be-all. They have to be utilized correctly.

Am I anti-internet empowerment? Absolutely not. I love to see people learning new skills, being resourceful and ambitious. YouTube, Facebook, Vine, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and many other companies have democratized much of the way we communicate and learn.

But, with so much access, there’s also a lot more at stake. I watch some fledgling internet stars and marvel at their brazen confidence. If they do actually know their stuff, whether through legitimate training or self-study, they aren’t always experienced teachers. Teaching is an art unto itself and, just like any other skill, must be learned through years of practice.

So hairdressers, please don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t substitute YouTube or blogs for real education and definitely do not test any new tricks on a paying guest. Zero in on deeper, broader learning with a reputable institution, wherein video tutorials are the cherry on top, not the whole banana split. Get behind the chair with mannequins and live models long before you attempt a cutting-edge method.

Most importantly, remember that authority comes from years upon years of experience, striving to improve and learning everything you can to build a solid reputation. I’m all for resourcefulness – it’s how I got where I am! – but I still believe in the power of educated professionals, masters of their craft who rock each job with sensitivity, openness, and precious, hard-won skill. Walk through the fires of failure. Risk everything. Sweat for your right to be called an expert.


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