Sal Turco: How I Became a Hair Stylist

It’s in my DNA

By Salvatore Turco
HIP Senior Stylist

Coming from a long line of barbers, hair stylists and beauticians, I was always around hair and fashion.

I can remember my Dad bringing me to his barbershop in Lincoln Park as a kid. He worked in what looked like a cockpit — a chair with a bowl on one side for washing the clients’ hair, and the rest was his station where he kept all of his tools, clippers and razors. Don’t forget the leather strap on the side of the chair to sharpen his razor. How cool was that!

You know how some people wake up in the morning to the smell of coffee? Well in my house growing up, I woke up on Saturday mornings to the smell of perm solution. My mom did some of the neighbor women’s hair, especially perms! So, of course, I was helping her and seeing how it was done. I learned how each different-sized rod would create unique curls.

Several years later, I was a senior in high school and I knew I needed to do something with my life! I was never a good test-taker, but I decided to try community college to be a police correctional officer. Six months into it, i knew it wasn’t my calling.

My cousin Amedeo (my childhood hero) saw I wasn’t happy and asked me to visit him at the salon where he worked. I talked about it with my parents and they were all for it.

So I took him up on the offer. He showed me around the place. There were lots of fun people everywhere, talking, smiling, laughing, and styling it up.

Then, like the movie “The Blues Brothers,” when John Belushi is in church and suddenly sees the light, it hit me! Being a stylist was my calling! I felt at home in the salon. I felt energized, alive!

BAM! The next thing I knew I was enrolling at Pivot Point Beauty School. I had a blast for nine months and then graduated. After school, I went to work from my cousin, who now was the manager at that salon.

It was surreal, I was interacting with people, learning new hairstyles, learning the life of a STYLIST!!

A few years later it was time to move on. I applied at a place with a really great reputation — Heidi’s Salon in Woodfield Mall. I went in for an interview and got the job the same day. They put me in an advanced hair-cutting program. For two years, I learned from some of the most well-known artistic educators in the business.

The day finally came and I graduated the advanced cutting class. I now was called a Heidi’s stylist and I had my own station. I was so excited everyday to go into work, have fun and meet new people! We did hair shows and fashion shows. We went to different beauty schools to talk about our salon and tell them about departmentalized salons, meaning either you do haircuts/styling/up-dos or your do color/straighteners.

We also showed the students what to expect at a high-end salon, We tried to recruit beauty school girls and guys to work as assistants while they enrolled in our advanced cutting or coloring programs.
That’s when I decided to become an educator and inspire new hairstylists straight out of beauty school. (I had so much fun teaching that I’m still doing it today.)

When Heidi’s general management asked me to become the salon’s manager, I jumped at the chance! It was a challenge and I had a lot to learn about running a franchise. After two years as manager, things started getting complicated with general management. I was beginning to get worried, when one day, during the holidays, we got a letter stating the salon would close at the end of the year. My heart was crushed!

Not long after, Debra Hanaway, the lead educator and artistic director at Heidi’s in Woodfield, asked me to join her at a salon she and Vince Otero, colour director, were opening in Schaumburg. Even though I was her boss at Heidi’s, she was my mentor and friend, and I respected her. I told her I couldn’t be happier to come work for her. I helped her get the new location ready.

We were so excited to get out of Woodfield — it was like working in a place with no windows.

On Feb.10 2005, Hair Innovation Professionals (HIP Salon) opened, and a new chapter in my life started.

We have been doing some exciting stuff: hair fashion photo shoots for magazines, Hair Wars (a competition with other high-end salons), and continuing education classes in New York — which in this business is a must.

Almost 12 years later we are voted the #1 Hair Salon in Schaumburg and still going strong.

I am surrounded by lots of talented and artistic stylists and colourists. I am so proud to be part of an amazing team!! I can finally call

HIP Salon my home, my friends and, of course, my FAMIGLIA!!

I’m constantly learning and trying to find new ways to make my clients/friends happy with their hair.

I’m still an educator and I still love to learn from beginners to senior stylists.

All in all, I’ve been doing this amazing career for 23½ years and I’ve NEVER worked a day in my life because, as they say, IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO, IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE YOU’RE WORKING!!

I am so blessed to do the thing I was called to do as my career. And it’s you, my clients, that give me this awesome, exciting, creative career. I wouldn’t be where I am without you my friends!!

Remember: GET HIP and STAY HIP!!