My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer


My name is Michael Levine, and I have been a hairstylist in Vancouver, BC since 1993. I am also a multi-salon owner, educator, academy owner, photographer, website designer, father, husband, and hopefully a mentor.

Before I get too deep into me, it’s important that I mention that all of my articles on success hinge on exceeding client expectations. So if I am writing about raising prices or making more money, it must always be rooted in becoming a better, more professional,  and attentive hairstylist.

I became a stylist because of the lifestyle. I used to hang around a salon and it seemed my stylist was always getting visited by pretty girls who would often invite him to dinner or to fabulous parties. Naturally I decided to become a hairstylist.

I quickly figured out the reality, and discovered how hard the job was. To make a long story short, I put in my time, developed a real passion for hair and fashion and was eventually recruited by Aveda to lead their cutting and colouring education in Western Canada. This fast-tracked my career and allowed me to train under some of today’s most influential stylists. I have had the luxury of learning from some of the best, including Ted Gibson, Nick Arrojo, Harry Josh, Tim Hartley, David Adams, Antoinete Beenders and many others.

Eventually, ego got the best of me and I decided to open my first salon in 1998. It was in a crap neighborhood in a decrepit building. I thought it was New York-cool so my now-wife and I went with it. We physically built the salon with a lot of help from friends and got some great press and became a sensation. Within 2 years we outgrew that space and moved to a better location in that crap neighborhood.

Two years later, we decided to make our move again, doubling our size and changing hoods entirely. We came to South Granville with a staff of 4 and within a week grew to 8. All of our growth has happened organically, training and developing our staff as apprentices, and never hiring a stylist with a book from another local salon. Well, we did once. Disaster. Perhaps I will one day post about him.

20 years after our modest first location, we have 30 staff, 2 salons ( Caramel and Space), 2 locations of the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy, a product line we develop and more drama than I’d like. We have won 6 Contessas (Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Awards and are 6 time finalists for North American Hairdresser of the Year Awards.

No real complaints here, but once in a while I may vent. I hope that’s OK. I encourage all comments and sharing.

14 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi Michael I publish a trade magazine called hair biz in Australia. I would live to republish this article with credit to you. Is that ok?

  2. hi linda,

    how can i get your magazine ? i was honored to be featured in CULTURE magazine when i worked at the sydney expo years back and helped judge the AHIA’s and ever since it has been my favorite hair magazine ever! i also worked with brad ngata when i lived in sydney 5 years ago and even though i have my own salon in san diego now i still keep up with what’s going on down under and think OZ has the best hair images in the industry. i would LOVE to see your magazine and have it in our salon !

    ( sorry michael for jumping in on this conversation ! LOL )


    melissa jaqua

  3. (:

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  5. Do you pay your employees commison? If so, what is the commission range you pay?

  6. Good day Michael,
    I am a hairdresser living in Syracuse New York and just finished reading your posy about you client “Brenda”. I have been in the beauty industry for many years, working at many different levels of expertise. I found you through a client that does layout and design for me. I am writing a book that hopefully will get women around the globe feeling better about themselves and realize what wonderful human beings choose the beauty industry as a career, and the role we play in enriching their lives, as in many cases do the same for us.
    I just wanted you to know I read a lot into the words you spoke and find you to be a wonderful human being.
    Warm regards
    Drake Gaetano

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  8. MIchael…..I felt compelled to write you……like you, I am a national platform artist, educator, and writer / blooger with a series I do called PULSEOn The Beauty Biz……I am also nationally published……… Like you, I have often been accused of being the brash big mouth, yet there are those who follow me because, simply speaking, they want to hear the truth….as opposed to having things candy coated about the realities of our business. I have read a plethura of things on your
    website / blog including the archives……..and can honestly say that I agree with probably 99.9 % of
    what you say……….for me, it is actually a vindication in the sense that sometimes when you are as honest as I (and you) are, you sometimes cast doubt on yourself because some of the nay sayers can wield powerful opinions that make you second guess yourself……..
    I make it a point, when I teach, whether it be at a national trade show, or, an in salon seminar to try to artiulate and incorporate as much TRUTHFUL salon business and cultural philosophy as I possibly could……….
    Its a funny thing, you know….and I’m sure you have experienced this too being as truthful and brash as you are…….you look out on the crowd, and usually you see one of two things……either horrified faces who cant believe what they are hearing ((perhaps they dont want to hear the truth)), or, conversely, many heads nodding in total agreement………
    At any rate, I hope our paths cross at one of the trade shows, if indeed we are both schedueled
    there……love to touch base with you in person……..and keep up the great work with what you are
    writing…… is, indeed the truth……
    Best regards Tony Dorso

  9. Hi Michael,

    I have been transitioning my coloured medium brown hair to my natural grey & brown.
    I did highlights over 2 1/2 years in order to strip out the colour. Now it’s growing out and it just looks like I’ve just given up. Plus, I’d like to lighten some of my roots to brighten some of the darker hair but don’t want brassy next to the grey.
    Jack Martin in California, performs a grey transition in a day service. I’ve looked for local stylists that offer this kind of service but have had no luck.
    Is this a service you might pursue and train your team in?


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