Red lips Rita

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We all know the places, the hair salons frequented almost exclusively by the curl and set brigade. I say almost, because I have been known to visit these places. In fact if you like retro hair, I’d recommend them. There are not many places where they’ll style your hair and give you endless cups of tea and change from a £10 note.

We see these places on bus routes around back streets of run down areas. They tend to have white strip lighting, a sweeping brush that’s older than your mum and of course, the hallowed dome driers. You will have seen their bizarre names, Streaks Ahead or Curl up & Dye and maybe smiled to yourself. You’d think they would have all closed down. I for one hope they never do.

I heard a story about one such salon from someone who used to work there, which tickled me so much that I had to share.

At this particular establishment, client records weren’t computerised. All clients had a card in an old fashioned filing system next to the telephone. Just like the modern system, it was there to make sure that if your usual stylist couldn’t do your hair, whoever did could check the card to make sure they got the colour and treatments right.

Except unlike the modern system, which records your full name and address, this one gave all their customers a nickname. The idea was that it would make clients easier to remember.

Two of my favourites* are Red Lips Rita (because she always has red lipstick on) and Margaret Eyebrows (because of her distinctive eyebrows. I can’t be the only one who wants to see a photograph of this lady).

I wonder if there’s a Fur Coat Pat or an Eileen Nails? Are the names ever less than flattering? Is there a Two time Joyce, a Brenda Misery or a Dull June?

I absolutely love the thought of this system and of the ladies who bear these names. I can imagine the owner of the salon looking through the sticky lacquer filled haze as they work out what the new customer’s name should be, before carefully writing it down with an satisfying flourish of a well used Bic pen. I wonder if the regulars know about the system and whether they feel pigeon holed and dread their weekly visits (surely nobody wants to be B.O. Betty), or whether they embrace it and make the effort to always live up to their nickname? I’m picturing Rita making herself late because she actually stopped wearing red lipstick some years ago and had to dash home to apply some for her trip to the salon. After all, I don’t think these names ever come up for renewal or discussion. It’s just not the done thing.

So what would your record card name be, if you went to this salon?

Mine would probably be Ballet Shoe Barbara.

*actual names have been changed although something tells me these ladies might not be regular blog readers.

Posted in: You had to be there



  1. Aimee Rumbold
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I loved this story, really made me smile to myself! We have one such salon near to where I live – Ida’s Cuts & Curls, would never have thought to pop in there for some pin curls but could be just the place! xxx

    • admin
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Ida’s Cuts and Curls! Wow! You should definitely give it a whirl and send me a picture! I think it costs about £6.50 in Nottingham for pin curls, they have to keep it affordable for all the regulars who go in once a week I suppose.

  2. Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I live near a Curl up n Dye! And the chippy round the corner is called Codrophenia – I kid you not :D

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