Buster Boyd is the owner and operator of Absinthe Hair & Grooming Parlour (1549 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-883-9940, AbsintheHairParlour.com). Adopting a philosophy that sees hairstyling as more than just a haircut, Boyd’s business helps people find their best look and has attracted some illustrious patrons, as well.
Why did you decide on a steampunk style?
We enjoy steampunk and wanted to incorporate it into what we do, because what I’ve seen as a small-business owner is that it doesn’t alienate the culture of Utah and is also a great way to inspire the younger crowd to embrace an element of ingenuity, poise and elegance. Steampunk is unique because it actually makes those values cool to younger kids. At least in Utah, as a business owner, you want to do things that leave the door open to the predominant culture in a way without pulling punches, and also in a way that makes everything that usually feels pretty dark feel a little more playful, and we definitely like playfully dark.
How does the business fit in with the Salt Lake community?
I love SLC. I’m an SLC patriot, and all my friends and I love our hometown. If nothing else, and not to be too arrogant perhaps in this, but SLC deserves a little more diversity and depth, and it deserves a little more controversy, so that’s why I didn’t mind bringing it to the table with Absinthe. The people of SLC are evolving and growing and expanding, and so should SLC’s character. SLC has character; we just want to add to that.
If you could cut anyone’s hair, who would you pick?
One would be David Duchovny. He is the quintessential Absinthe man: He’s stylish, mischievous, but he’s always got an element of class and elegance about him. The other answer would be I love cutting anyone’s hair who understands the bigger picture and the importance of a haircut as part of their style. If I can connect and be inspired with the haircut, that’s half the battle, but if we can both come to the table inspired, then great things can happen.
Do you have a favorite hairstyle to give?
My favorite haircut is one I’d describe as Ivy League hair. It’s the scholarly, Oxford athlete, kind of like a Leonardo DiCaprio style but a little longer, definitely well-kept, but with a longer-layered look so you can sweep it. It looks great with a sweater, great with a blazer, and it looks great playing traditional soccer, football, rugby or in the study hall.
You recently did a Q&A with X96’s Bill Allred live from your parlor. Is there a certain draw about getting to know someone from the position of a hairstylist?
A barbershop or salon is an amazing venue for honest discussion, and we wanted to try to invite people in to see what we see and hear what we hear. People tell their hairdresser things they wouldn’t tell their therapist or even their spouse. We have begun to collect fun and interesting moments with our guests that we can share through YouTube and blogs. Some of our guests have included Bill Allred of X96, Hugh McDonald of Bon Jovi, Carole Fontana (location manager of various films) and Margaret Hilliard (production manager of various Hollywood films). The point is not so much to get celebrities on camera, but mostly interesting contributors to our Salt Lake community. It just makes sense to start with personalities that people may know or identify with to build momentum. We are looking forward to highlighting many of our guests, from architects and snipers to local artists. I am constantly amazed at the vast variety of people we interact with.
What do you like most about cutting and styling hair?
What I like most is the bigger picture … which is it’s never just a haircut—it’s image design. We are laying the foundation for an image or a lifestyle. So what makes us different is we understand the concept of haircutting in context with wardrobe, with your profession, your social circles, and we enjoy knowing where that person is coming from and where they’re taking that haircut to. We want to know where that haircut is going to be, whether it’s a club, a workplace, a social setting, and I guarantee that knowing those things results in a better haircut because we can connect with the context.
How does this aesthetic relate to the haircuts you give?
It wouldn’t be that someone would end up with a steampunk haircut, but I always say that barbering should be inspired and haircuts should be inspired. What that means to me is that with any haircut, the customer deserves to be treated by a professional who inspires. Inspiration to me means connecting what we do physically with things we feel and understand within ourselves.
What’s better about going to a salon versus a barbershop?
Barbers are predictable, and it’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of haircuts you would only expect to get from a barber. For someone who wants something more current and perhaps more fresh and unexpected, that’s where hairstylists come in. I respect both, but don’t see why you can’t have both. Hairstylists are usually seen as being proficient with scissors and razors and using their hands, while barbers are usually associated with a high level of skill with clippers and ultra-short cuts, fades and tapers. There are a lot of things you wouldn’t ask a barber to do; the barber might be able to do it, but the reason you wouldn’t ask him to is because you know he’s not going to be able to connect with what you’re talking about.
What sets your parlor apart from others?
A lot of the people who come into our salon feel like they can really communicate with us, which is important because that helps them get exactly what they want. Whether it’s a friend or first-time customer, people can come in and feel comfortable enough to tell me exactly what they’re looking for and what I can do to get closer to the result they want. We don’t ever want to impose what we want over what you want, but we’re very willing time-wise to do exactly what it is you want and make sure it looks good.