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I Got a Free Haircut from Someone I Met on the Street

By Alisa Hauser | October 20, 2015 11:07am | Updated on October 20, 2015 12:39pm
 Art and Science salon was abuzz with women getting free haircuts from apprentice stylists on Monday.
Free Haircut Day at Art and Science Salon in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — Free food is usually a big draw, but what about a free haircut? 

This Monday, I snuck away for a free haircut at Art and Science Salon, 1554 N. Milwaukee Ave. 

The salon, which has four locations, offers free haircuts every Monday only at its Wicker Park outpost, which is closed to paying customers as 15 apprentice stylists take over the floor.

I met Caitlin Chapman last fall on the street, near the CTA Damen Blue Line "L' stop.  Chapman complimented me on my curly hair and then asked if I wanted a free haircut.  She took my number and  texted me on occasion but I never took her up on the offer until this past Monday.

One of my friends has long black hair and swears by whatever Supercuts she is near but most women I know have a regular stylist, usually a relationship spanning several years.

Since 2011 I've been without a regular stylist. Before that, I'd spent 7 years following a hairstylist named Jitka to three salons and eventually to her kitchen table, where she did cuts for a handful of diehard clients on her day off from a team-truck driving job with her then-fiance. Four years ago, Jitka broke the news that she was moving back to the Czech Republic. 

According to Art and Science Salon's Color Director Susan Hurley, Chapman found me "the old-fashioned way."

"When I was in the apprentice program [16 years ago] there was no Internet. We tried to find models in bars, in coffee shops, on the street, word of mouth. Now with social media, the apprentices use Craigslist, Instagram, Salon Apprentice," Hurley said.

Though I'd never heard of Salon Apprentice, most of the other people getting free haircuts or colors told me they'd booked their appointments through the website.

Michelle Muniz, a Back of the Yards resident, was getting an all-over color treatment by Grace Fergus, who joined the apprentice program three months ago.

Muniz has been getting nearly free colors (the salon charges $10 for all-over color; $20 for highlights) for at least 10 years, enjoying cheap color jobs from apprentices at more than 20 salons.

"It's great; I love it," Muniz said.

Chapman, 22, is in the "creative phase" at the end of the apprenticeship program.

The youngest of five children, Chapman joked that by the time she came around her parents were tired, so she started doing her own hair at age 9 and soon was practicing on friends, with a preference for helping other curly-haired women like herself.

Caitlin Chapman, an apprentice stylist at Art & Science Salon in Wicker Park. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Chapman said my hair is flat on the top and puffed out at the sides (think Alice in the "Dilbert" comic strip if you need a visual) so she added three types of layers — square, convex and concave — to "even out" my hair.

The highlight of the appointment was learning that I am not going bald, when she twirled me around to show me the back of my head.

"Wow, you covered my bald spot!" I told her.

"That's not a bald spot, it's a cowlick," Chapman replied.

Rob Reyes, the salon's head stylist whom Chapman referred to as her "educator," periodically came by during the cut.  Like me, Reyes seemed pleased with Chapman's skills.

Though Chapman will likely soon get a full-time gig at one of Art & Science's locations (charging upwards of $55 for a cut), she has a few weeks left and apparently openings next Monday, according to Salon Apprentice.

If you book with her, tell her I sent you ...  maybe not quite "the old-fashioned way," but close enough? 

My hair, "Before" and "After" [Art & Science Salon/Caitlin Chapman]

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