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Consider the power of hair: The hair-care industry is worth $50 billion a year. A 2000 Yale University study found that bad haircuts bring down self-esteem. Men especially, the study said, felt less smart, less competent, less sociable and more embarrassed on bad hair days.
Who knows how much time we collectively spend teasing, coloring, styling and blow-drying our hair into submission. We demand control over our hair -- sometimes at great lengths. Which partially explains why some people willingly wait hours on end for one Louise Trevino to cut theirs.
On a Saturday morning at the Supercuts on Kirby Drive at Richmond Avenue, Trevino's own graceful tresses hang over her back like a silk curtain as she clips a man's overgrown mop. In the lobby, four men and a woman sit, flipping through magazines. The wait this morning for Trevino runs 30 to 45 minutes -- a busy, but not yet hectic day. The thrifty Supercuts chain is known for its efficient service and a wait of usually no more than 20 minutes. But clients have reportedly waited up to two and a half hours for a Louise Trevino haircut. Why, Trevino doesn't know.
"I wouldn't wait two hours to get my hair cut," she says.
Supercuts operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, so the wait is short when clients put their name on the list and let fate hand them whichever stylist is available. It's only when a client specifically asks for Trevino that the wait grows. Many people ask for her.
Trevino started cutting hair as a teenager. She graduated from Klein High School with a cosmetology license in hand and promptly went to work for Supercuts. She thought she would stay only six months, but in that time she was promoted to shift manager. So she told herself to stay just one more year to learn about management. Instead, she became the store manager. That was eight years ago. Today at 29, Trevino has worked at the same location for ten years, snipping away at some 300 heads a month with a simple philosophy: "I do what the hair wants to do. I don't force it to go in a different direction."
She remembers most customers' haircuts, a devotion that takes up so much space in her head that it leaves little room to memorize anything else. "I don't have a good memory because in my brain's Rolodex, I'm remembering everyone's haircut," she says.
She can tell when you've cheated on her with another stylist and will tease you about it. She is efficient and reliable, a good conversationalist and a people person. But many good stylists possess those traits, she says. It doesn't explain why people wait.
One customer, Ba Nguyen, has his own theory. He has witnessed the waiting area full of people as Trevino busily cut hair and other stylists stood bored and empty-handed because everyone in the room was waiting for Trevino.
"It seems when I've been there and there's a line waiting, it's all men. Part of me thinks there's some kind of sexual subtext to it. I think they all have a crush on her," says Nguyen, who has had his lawyerly locks serviced at that location since 1994.
Does he have a crush on her too?
"No," he says swiftly.
Sure, Trevino is slender and attractive. And yes, she has been asked out many times while on the job by men who either didn't notice the wedding ring on her hand or didn't care she wore one. But that's just a hazard that most female stylists face, she says.
Besides, she is not the only one who requires a lengthy wait. The Heights and Humble Supercuts have famed stylists too, she says. And at her own store, Tracy Nguyen, who has worked there four years, has a strong following. As does William Fingleman, who was named in OutSmart Magazine's annual "Gayest and Greatest" issue. On this Saturday morning, though, Trevino seems to be winning the popularity contest.
"I told her she should open her own salon," Ba Nguyen says.
Nah, Trevino says. Starting her own business would turn into too much of a hassle. And she earns a decent salary, good benefits and vacation time at Supercuts. She doesn't think she would necessarily earn more at an upscale salon that charged $50 a haircut instead of Supercuts' $12.
"A lot of stylists have the-grass-is-greener syndrome. My philosophy is water your own grass, and it will be green," she says.
She puts the finishing touches on Earl Lambert's head and walks him to the register. Lambert has had his hair cut there as long as Trevino has worked there. The information-technology worker also has figured out how to avoid a wait: He calls ahead to put his name on the list, runs his errands, then shows up just in time.
The secret to Trevino's success is just as simple, he says. She gives a great, consistent haircut at an affordable price.
"If she's not here," he says, "I'm not going to get a haircut."