Have you ever walked out a hair salon feeling like you got exactly what you wanted? Have you ever gotten a haircut so good you began to suspect every other stylist and barber who ever touched your hair of--I don't know, padding their resumes, fabricating their certificates, having terrible taste? Neither had I until I went to Emerson. I'm a guy with medium-length (comes more than halfway down my face), very thick, very coarse hair. When my hair was short, I was content to go to Rudy's, but as I grew it out I found it was too much for the barbers there: they gave me competent but consistently unsatisfying cuts. I tried some of the nicer spots in town - Capelli's, Gene Juarez; each hit a different sour note (barbers/stylists didn't listen, didn't know how to handle my hair, atmosphere made me instinctively cross my legs).
Things to like about this place. First, there's no contrived atmosphere. Most salons put me off with their salonness, that sort of delicate, deliberate polish meant to complement the unbearable dance music they pipe in at happy-hour volume. None of that here. Also none of the theatrical, mahogany-heavy touches the higher-end barbershops (places that cater specifically to men) affect; no stacks of Boat Magazine Monthly, no big screen TV screaming sports and man and man, no caricatured sense of masculinity. Emerson's a nice-looking place in handsome building; that's all. Nothing about the place makes me feel uncomfortable.
Second, the haircut is some kind of voodoo (and you were all, 'What's that headline mean; what's this squirrelly business?' *That* is what this squirrel is about.) I've been to John several times now, and every time the haircut is punch-a-wall-for-joy good. He listens attentively to everything I say. He looks at my hair, messes with it a bit, gets a sense of what it can and can't do. It's hugely important for the person cutting your hair to be honest about the limitations of the cut; you have to work *with* the stylist to come up with a cut. Huh, that's a novel concept. Every time someone cut my hair in the past, when I told them what I wanted, they'd just go for it, even if what I wanted was totally unachievable with my hair. Once you've fully discussed how you want your hair to look and how to achieve that look, he goes about doing exactly what you wanted him to with such precision you're left wondering whether he's the only person in the world who ever went to school for this stuff. From techniques so basic it's dumbfounding no one else used them on you to incision-like snips, he was able to achieve the cut something like five stylist/barbers (some of them much more expensive [thank you sister's old gift card]) weren't.
He goes through the hair section by section, cutting each bit and comparing it to the overall cut. Did you know that Top, Sides and Back aren't the only sections to your hair? I didn't. I mean, I did in that I knew parts of my hair looked ridiculous (like the top of the back), but I was never able to get the person cutting my hair onboard with this idea: when I said, 'Cut the top of the back of my head,' they would cut all the hair on the back of my head. John understands the words that I say with requisite specificity. If what you want needs a tweak, John knows and gently suggests it. You wind up getting exactly what you want within the bounds of possibility.
$40 is more than I have historically paid for a haircut, but I think of it this way. Rudy's is $25 now; it's as though a genie said, 'Either you can torch 25 bucks for a disappointing haircut, or throw in an extra 15 and learn that you are in fact a decent-looking human being a woman could someday love. What's 15 bucks to look like a million?' That's cute, right? That's a cute tagline. Seriously, though, I've never written an online review for anything before, and this thing is a monster. Doesn't it piss you off to get a bad haircut? So stop getting them.