One chair, space for all

Local stylist Whitney VerMeer’s one-chair salon mixes artistic collaboration with haircutting.

Hairstylist Whitney Vermeer cuts Jesse Williams hair at New Aesthetic, her one-chair mens salon in Marcy Holmes on June 6. Vermeer has been nominated as one of five people for the North America 2016 Mens Hairstylist of the Year NAHA finalists, and will be heading to Las Vegas in July for the finals award ceremony.

Zach Bielinski

Hairstylist Whitney Vermeer cuts Jesse Williams’ hair at New Aesthetic, her one-chair men’s salon in Marcy Holmes on June 6. Vermeer has been nominated as one of five people for the North America 2016 Men’s Hairstylist of the Year NAHA finalists, and will be heading to Las Vegas in July for the finals award ceremony.

Eliana Schreiber

When Whitney VerMeer got an offer to style celebrity hair at Coachella, she quit her day job and booked a flight.

Two days after she got back, she opened her own one-chair salon in Marcy-Holmes.

Housed in the old RyKrisp factory, VerMeer customized her own salon, where she sees nearly 150 regular clients.

The idea behind her salon, The Aesthetic, is to collaborate with patrons — most of whom work in creative industries.

Some of VerMeer’s clients and friends helped to design aspects of her hairdressing space. For instance, local artist Keith Wyman contributed furniture to the studio, including a custom-made house for VerMeer’s Chihuahua, Toby.

Another client of hers, Robb Jones, head bartender at Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, designed three custom cocktails for VerMeer’s clients to order with their haircut. VerMeer’s girlfriend, Joanie Shafer, created colognes for the salon.

VerMeer said she enjoys learning about the architecture and science behind cutting hair.

“Anyone can go on YouTube and learn how to do a haircut,” she said. “But the difference between a good haircut and a great haircut is knowing how to put the proportions correctly on someone.”

She said cutting men’s hair is a lot more difficult than people think, adding that most hairstylists don’t enjoy the task.

VerMeer knew initially that she couldn’t relate to other hairstylists, and had hopes to open a studio that doubled as a salon and creative space.

“She doesn’t want to put boundaries on her space. … She is trying to make this an innovative, new space that has all these collaborative projects going on,” said client Jared Tuttle.

Tuttle, a local artist, cut his own hair for seven years before seeking out a professional. He found VerMeer on Instagram and they connected over shared interests in art and design.

The two collaborated on branding designs before VerMeer launched The Aesthetic, and she chose Tuttle to design the logo. “[VerMeer] is very helpful,” he said. “She likes connecting people.”

VerMeer, an Iowa native, first went to school for business and marketing in South Dakota. But after a year in school, she dropped out to pursue her passion for cutting hair. In 2012, she moved to Minneapolis to find new opportunities for her art.

“I’ve always loved Minneapolis. … I just love how liberal it is,” she said. “[In Sioux Falls] I was maybe one of 10 gay people that I knew.”

After working for nine months in St. Paul at a small salon in Highland Park, VerMeer applied to work at Men’s Department, a barbershop, where owner Kurt Kueffner — a role model of VerMeer’s who wrote the curriculum for Minneapolis’ Aveda Institute — hired and trained her to cut men’s hair properly.

Eventually, she joined Haus Salon as its Men’s Director, where she worked for almost two years cutting men’s hair exclusively.

At the same time, VerMeer also became an educator for Baxter of California — L’Oreal’s only men’s brand — where she trained stylists in salons across the country.

In April, she quit her job at Haus in order to take a job cutting hair at Coachella. When she came back from the festival, she started her own company. 

When she found out VerMeer was opening her own place, photographer Bethany Schrock helped promote The Aesthetic with her photography.

Schrock met VerMeer through her husband, one of VerMeer’s clients.

“My husband would get his hair cut, I would then shoot him, and … we got into this collaborative kind of thing,” Schrock said.

VerMeer is a collaborative person and always wants to help her clients in any way she can, Schrock said, adding she really cares about clients and wants to get to know them.

Getting a haircut with VerMeer is a completely different experience, she said.

“When she switched to being a one-chair salon, there wasn’t any nervousness,” Schrock said. “She just knew that people who cared about a good haircut and [wanted] to hang out with her would go.”

She committed to the space for The Aesthetic last summer, but it will be completely furnished by the end of this week.

“When she was making the studio, she wanted to include as many artists as possible. The fact that artists were so eager to jump in and create something brand new for her says something about her.”