Jim Morrison of The Doors once said that, “some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts.” It’s a line that many can probably relate to. The way that your hair is arranged is something that is more important to people than they admit. This notion is embodied by Hart House’s esteemed Hair Place, a century-old establishment that has thrived on the timeless fact that people, in general, really care about their hair.
The Hair Place has a storied history. Pina Galloro and her partner Patsy Lochan have owned the Hair Place for about a year now, after they took over from the previous owner of 34 years. “The Hair Place used to be run by U of T, back when [Hart House] was a men’s club. It’s always had a barbershop.” It was when Ben Cataudello, the previous owner, started working there that the barbershop became a salon and started catering to women as well. To this day, the historical roots continue to impact the clientele, which is mostly male.
Despite the predominantly male-oriented clientele, the salon holds a variety of services that cater to every gender. Visit the Hair Place for a cut, wash, blow-dry, colour, perm, or beard trim. Relax in one of the old-fashioned barber chairs on the black-and-white tiled floor, and absorb the historic ambiance. While the shop maintains its ’70s integrity, the stylists at the Hair Place have not. Galloro and Lochan are prepared to give customers the latest in hair fashion. “Buzz cuts [for men] are very popular right now. They’re a lasting style,” notes Galloro, who was also a stylist at the salon before taking over ownership. “We see styles come and go…perms were more popular in the ’80s, and not as much anymore.”
While most clients are U of T students, the salon welcomes any customer. Clients range from anywhere between two and 80 years old. One of the highlights of the job for Galloro is interacting with clientele and conversing with students. “You get a sense of what they’re going through, what’s going on on-campus… Some of them you get to know right from the beginning, some of them don’t find us until they’re closer to the end of their studies, but it’s nice going through that period with them while they’re here, and then all of a sudden they’re graduating and moving on.” One of the best parts of working on campus, she notes, is the “busyness going on… the excitement in September of the new students coming in.”
The Hair Place is never empty either. At any time during the salon’s hours, a customer will always be getting a cut. “Some of them come in once a week, some clients once a month, and some even longer than that…but you really do get to know your clientele, when you’ve been [cutting their hair] for a long time… Out of all the places I’ve worked at, this is one of my favourites.”
When a shop has been around for nearly a century, it often develops a lasting place in the memories of its visitors. It’s something that remains constant despite its ever-changing surroundings. In a building that holds everything — a restaurant, theatre, library, and radio — the “hair place” is simply another aspect of Hart House worth checking out.